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My brother’s dailiy blog from inside the hall.
President Carter addressed the Georgia delegation this morning. Recently, he said, he’d been interviewed by the editor of the British newspaper “The Guardian” and had been asked whether a President Obama could change America’s reputation in the world in his first 100 days in office. Replied Carter, “He can change America’s reputation in his first ten minutes in office.” The editor was incredulous., but Carter went on to explain. A President Obama, he said, could in his inaugural address, moments after being sworn in, renounce American involvement in torture, commit American to leading on environmental issues, renounce wars of choice and not of necessity, and promise that America wouldn’t pass further tax laws designed to benefit only the top one percent of our citizens.
The structure of the Convention came into full view tonight. The first night was about introducing Michelle Obama, the second about Hillary and unity, the third about clearly laying out who John McCain really is and what Barack Obama stands for in contrast. Thursday night will be for Barack to reiterate all of these messages, layout his plan for America and his vision for us all.
In reflecting on Hillary’s speech the night before, the heart of it to me was how presidential it felt. She simply had a gravitas, depth, presence that none of the other even national figures preceding her on the podium that evening could muster. It was a reminder of why she has come so far and why so many do and will continue to look up to her.
I continue to get asked about the state of party unity. President Carter raised the issue this morning. Carter declared himself an expert on party disunity, and went on to explain that it was the split between the Ford and Reagan Republican factions in 1976 that created the opening that helped him win the presidency, and it was the split between the Carter and Kennedy camps four years later that contributed to his loss. This party this time, he declared, was clearly unified.
The one real responsibility of the delegates is to cast their ballot for the nomination. All delegates and alternates had to be in their seats today by 3:30, half an hour after the opening gavel. Delegates’ names are printed in a list on a sheet of paper with columns for the candidates and for signatures. The delegates find their name, cast their vote and sign their name.
As you’ll recall, the super delegates are uncommitted and can vote for whomever they choose. The remaining delegates are committed to their candidate based on the results of the primary, but they are committed for only the first ballot. Should we have had a contested convention, the delegates would be free after the first ballot to vote their conscience. As things unfolded, there was a midday gathering today of all the Hillary delegates at which we she addressed the group and “released” them to vote as they saw fit. For those into the arcane world of party politics, this was an important step in the cause of unity.
After the roll call and the official steps of nominating both Obama and Biden, the next round of speeches began. One of the odd things about a convention is that there is always someone speaking on the podium; there isn’t always anyone paying attention! During major speeches the house is quiet, the volume is up and crowd is engaged. But for most of the hours everyone on the floor is talking, the volume on the podium mike is down and the crowd couldn’t pay attention if they wanted. One person asked what I thought of Deval Patrick’s speech. Short answer: I couldn’t hear it!
But tonight was special. The charge for the night was to layout the difference between McCain the myth and McCain the reality, and to put to rest the myths about Barack Obama and to bolster the reality. It will be up to Obama to complete these tasks Thursday evening, but unlike the past two conventions the candidate will be building on a strong foundation.
I felt that Bill Clinton’s speech was the finest of the night. It was classic Bill Clinton… clear, clever with a beautifully crafted argument expressed with passion and conviction. We got tonight a reminder of Bill Clinton at his finest.
And finally Joe Biden. The speech was extraordinary for it’s tone. We associate these types of speeches with stirring rhetoric, rising voices and flowing gestures. By contrast, Biden’s demeanor was almost conversation. In a firm but calm voice, he told his story, laid out his indictment of Bush and McCain but did it in a tone that made you feel like you were sitting with him in your living room or sharing a beer at a bar. It was really unusual – particularly if you’re familiar with Biden’s capacity for bombast — but I thought it was incredibly effective.
Emotionally highlights… Kerry pointing out Obama’s great uncle, who fought in World War II, in the box next to Michelle,. And Obama’s appearance on the floor after Biden. Onto the big night and Obama’s swing for the fences!