Pick a Woman, Any One Will Do…

I have yet to comment on Barack Obama’s brilliant speech last night, but I need to comment first on John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate.

I don’t ever want to hear another word from the McCain camp about Obama’s supposed “lack of experience,” because it has now placed on the ticket, one heartbeat away from the presidency (should McCain be elected *shudder*), a woman who is 44 years old and who has not even completed one term as Governor of Alaska.

Before serving a couple years as Governor, Palin was mayor of the town of Wasilla City, AK, which has a population of under ten thousand people. That’s smaller than the town I grew up in, and boy did I grow up in a small town.

Is this the experience that John McCain, a man of 72 years who has had four bouts with skin cancer and who has other possibly undiagnosed issues of mild dimensia (how else do you explain his flip-flops on so many topics, sometimes mere months between) would want conservatives to feel comfortable with as a VP?

If he wanted to pick a woman, perhaps unaware that the rest of the world would see right through this blatant attempt at pandering to the PUMA crowd, did he really expect anyone to believe that there was no better choice — that no other woman in the United States was better qualified to be next in line should something happen to McCain? Has no other woman worked her whole life hitting the glass ceiling and attempting to push through, possibly imagining some day she might hold the highest office in the land? Was there no one better than a forty-four year old ex-mayor who has not even served one term in a statewide office?

What the hell was he thinking? “Well, I can’t pick Romney, because he said so many horrible things about me, and if I pick Giuliani, I lose the die-hard conservatives.” What about Kay Bailey Hutchinson of good ol’ TEXAS? She has voted with the GOP over 89% of the time in the Senate. Not good enough for the conservatives in your party, John?

Where did she break with the GOP? Well, the first place is that pesky expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP for short. We can’t have that now, can we. Giving health insurance to the children? My god, next thing you know everyone will want health insurance! And then us folks will have to stand in line for it!

And ooh, here’s the biggie. Stem cell research. Yeah, the Christianists don’t like that stuff. You know, once you fertilize an egg, it doesn’t matter if it’s only a clump of ten or a hundred or a thousand cells, it’s LIFE.

Interestingly enough, I heard on the radio the other day that some 30% of eggs that are fertilized never make it through even a few months, mostly for unknown reasons. That would mean that god is the biggest abortionist of them all. That certainly gave me something to think about. But I digress.

Anyway, it looks like stem cell research was the killer there. Sorry Mrs. Hutchinson. The McCain camp has plans to appease conservatives by announcing that there should be NO stem cell research, if they have not already announced that. I’ll have to check into it.

Perhaps the best reason for McCain picking Mrs. Palin to be his running mate is the fact that her views are generally unknown on just about every issue under the sun. Perfect. What could be better than a blank slate onto which you can project everything you want? We know she’s a pro-NRA hunter, is fiercely anti-abortion and actually has a child with Downs’ Syndrome which she says she decided not to terminate, even though she found out way before the child was born. That’s about all we know.

Despite Mrs. Palin’s not quite two years holding statewide office, my guess is we still haven’t seen the last of the “inexperienced” charge toward Obama from the GOP.

Some “maverick” John McCain is. He’s taking the old playbook of accusing, attacking, and discrediting, while at the same time being guilty of the very thing he’s speaking against.

To quote a phrase, “That’s not change, that’s more of the same.”

What a maverick.

Oh yeah, and did I mention there’s a little ethics issue with Mrs. Palin? Yep. She’s under investigation.

Former Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan on Friday said that since Gov. Sarah Palin took office, members of her administration and family pressured him to fire a Palmer Alaska State Trooper to whom her sister was involved in a bitter child custody battle.

Well, she should have a lot to talk about with anyone in the GOP-based Justice Department.

Democratic National Convention – Day Three

Last night went pretty much as I expected it to. President Bill Clinton came out and fully supported Barack Obama, just as his wife had done the night before. He didn’t outshine her, but he got the job done, and made the case that Obama has the judgement to lead the country:

Everything I learned in my eight years as President and in the work I’ve done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.

He has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful President needs. His policies on the economy, taxes, health care and energy are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of our foreign policy and national security challenges, and a firm commitment to repair our badly strained military. His family heritage and life experiences have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation and to restore our leadership in an ever more interdependent world. The long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.

With Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, insight, and good instincts, America will have the national security leadership we need.

Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world. Ready to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States.

I also think the former president got in one of the best lines of the convention so far when he said, “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” Stellar.

As for Joe Biden, he gave the DNC crowd the red meat they wanted, all tidied up in a tender bacon-wrap of middle-class clout. If you missed the Biden speech, I strongly urge you to watch it at C-Span (real media plugin required). I’m starting to think the Biden pick was definitely the right one. He’ll give the everyday joe and mary all the reasons they need to pull the lever for Obama this November. His humble roots and commitment to family and small-town America are unquestionable. No one will ever convince him of being an “elitist,” and adding him to the ticket is sure to give Obama some of those independent voters who still have an open mind and who will be swayed by Biden’s no-nonsense style of speaking. He’ll be able to reassure any middle-class voter that McCain is out of touch, while Obama will continue his life’s work of making sure everyone has a fair shot in post-Bush America.

From Biden’s speech last night:

My parents taught us to live our faith, and treasure our family. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they try.That was America’s promise. For those of us who grew up in middle-class neighborhoods like Scranton and Wilmington, that was the American dream and we knew it.

But today that American dream feels as if it’s slowly slipping away. I don’t need to tell you that. You feel it every single day in your own lives.

I’ve never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them get back up. Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I look out the window at the homes we pass, I can almost hear what they’re talking about at the kitchen table after they put the kids to bed.

Like millions of Americans, they’re asking questions as profound as they are ordinary. Questions they never thought they would have to ask:

  • Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone?
  • Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars to fill up the car?
  • Winter’s coming. How we gonna pay the heating bills?
  • Another year and no raise?
  • Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care?
  • Now, we owe more on the house than it’s worth. How are we going to send the kids to college?
  • How are we gonna be able to retire?

That’s the America that George Bush has left us, and that’s the future John McCain will give us. These are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who worked hard and played by the rules on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.

That promise is the bedrock of America. It defines who we are as a people. And now it’s in jeopardy. I know it. You know it. But John McCain doesn’t get it.

Biden’s so in touch with what’s going on in America today. I ask those same questions every single day. All of them. My neighbors talk about it whenever we get together for a barbeque, or whenever we see each other in our backyards and decide to chat for a few moments.

It wasn’t long after he connected with the audience that he started defining the John McCain he knows, someone who has been his friend and who has served with him many many years in the Senate:

John McCain is my friend. We’ve known each other for three decades. We’ve traveled the world together. It’s a friendship that goes beyond politics. And the personal courage and heroism John demonstrated still amaze me.But I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country. For example,

John thinks that during the Bush years “we’ve made great progress economically.” I think it’s been abysmal.

And in the Senate, John sided with President Bush 95 percent of the time. Give me a break. When John McCain proposes $200 billion in new tax breaks for corporate America, $1 billion alone for just eight of the largest companies, but no relief for 100 million American families, that’s not change; that’s more of the same.

Even today, as oil companies post the biggest profits in history—a half trillion dollars in the last five years—he wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks. But he voted time and again against incentives for renewable energy: solar, wind, biofuels. That’s not change; that’s more of the same.

Millions of jobs have left our shores, yet John continues to support tax breaks for corporations that send them there. That’s not change; that’s more of the same.

He voted 19 times against raising the minimum wage. For people who are struggling just to get to the next day, that’s not change; that’s more of the same.

And when he says he will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq when Iraq is sitting on a surplus of nearly $80 billion, that’s not change; that’s more of the same.

The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader, a leader who can deliver change—the change everybody knows we need.

I think that last sentence is the perfect way to respect John McCain’s service to America, yet state in no uncertain terms that he does not have the judgement to lead. “These times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader.”

Biden then went on to detail what Obama’s foreign policy views have been over the years, and how the Bush administration (and McCain) is just starting to come around to those views, but only after significant loss of time, money, and life.

I can’t wait to see Biden stump for Obama, and I can’t wait until the night of October 2nd, when he’ll sit down face-to-face with McCain’s running mate and blows him (or her) out of the water. Hmmm. Perhaps McCain will choose a woman for this very reason? Biden is sure to rip into any candidate, but would he do the same if that candidate was a woman?

One of the other highlights for me was John Kerry’s speech, where he detailed the differences between what John McCain used to stand for, and what he stands for now:

I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.

Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same “Rove” tactics and the same “Rove” staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.

Wow. Talk about red meat. The Democrats really need to hammer this message home during the next couple months as we get closer to the election. They need to show that 2008 McCain is not the same as 2000 McCain. When the American public stops being fed the “Maverick” tale from the MSM, perhaps they’ll really find out who this guy is. If they do, you can be sure we’ll be inaugurating Barack Obama within a couple days of my fortieth birthday. Best present I could ever get.

Hillary, Bill and Biden

With just one speech, Hillary Clinton effectively dismissed any claims by Republican operatives that she’s only out for her own interests and doesn’t care about party unity. Last night, Senator Clinton gave the speech of her life, conveying emphatically that she is a Democrat above all else, and urging that her supporters get on board with the Obama campaign.

I don’t care what the right-wing talking heads say. There is no way any true Clinton supporter listened to that speech and decided that they still plan to vote for McCain in November. If they heard Mrs. Clinton exclaim, “We don’t have a moment to lose or a vote to spare. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance,” and decided that this was a throw-away speech that meant nothing, that she really didn’t mean what she was saying, there’s not much you could ever do to convince them that a vote for McCain is a vote to sink this great country of ours. “Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance.” You absolutely can not put things in more black-and-white terms than that. There is no nuance there. It’s pretty clear. You cannot get clearer.

Any remaining Clinton holdouts are either members of Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos,” or they’re merely out for any attention they can get in the press, and they are only out for themselves. Let them go to the other side, because they are not advancing the ideals of the party, nor are they advancing the ideals of America as determined by the Founding Fathers.

Mrs. Clinton also offered,

I haven’t spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women’s rights here at home and around the world, to see another Republican in the White House squander our promise of a country that really fulfills the hopes of our people. And you haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months or endured the last eight years to suffer through more failed leadership.No way, no how, no McCain.

But perhaps the most important statement the Senator made to her supporters was when she asked them, specifically,

…were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that young boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

That passage alone clearly reveals a former presidential candidate who believes that what is at stake here is more than her own personal ambition.

We need to elect Barack Obama because we need a president who understands that America can’t compete in the global economy by padding the pockets of energy speculators while ignoring the workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. We need a president who understands we can’t solve the problems of global warming by giving windfall profits to the oil companies while ignoring the opportunities to invest in the new technologies that will build a green economy. We need a president who understands that the genius of America has always depended on the strength and vitality of the middle class.Barack Obama began his career fighting for workers displaced by the global economy. He built his campaign on a fundamental belief that change in this country must start from the ground up, not the top down. (Cheers, applause.) And he knows that government must be about we the people, not we the favored few.

Last night, Hillary Clinton effectively handed her supporters over to Barack Obama in the most crystal clear terms. There was no equivocation, no hesitation. She did what she needed to do, and then some. Bill Clinton, watching from the convention floor, seemed full of pride as he watched his wife give that speech, and I have little doubt at this point that he will wholeheartedly join her cause and make it clear to the nation tonight why it needs to elect a Democratic president this year.

Joe Biden also speaks tonight, and it’s going to be tough for him to equal or surpass what Hillary accomplished last night with her speech. Many will surely be asking, “why is he on the ticket and not her, especially after a speech like that?” Biden’s opportunity to show his stuff tonight will revolve around how effective he can be at “straight-talking” with the American people. He surely cannot equal Senator Clinton’s eloquence, so he will have to take a different route to endear himself with Democrats and Independents. My guess is that he will launch a blistering attack on the Bush/Cheney/McCain administration, and give the Democrats on the floor the “red meat” they have been looking for the past two nights. If McCain is perceived by Americans as a “straight-shooter,” then Biden is his equal in that department. Everyone knows that Biden tells it like it is, in very clear-cut, blue-collar terms. My guess is he will very effectively be reminding America tonight of how eight years of Republican rule has resulted in massive debt, windfall profits for gas and oil companies, a credit crisis, the disasterous Katrina aftermath, people losing their homes, 47 million people one major health care issue away from total destitution, over 4000 of our soldiers dead in a war of choice not necessity, and the list goes on.

As for the former President, I imagine he will be a perfect reminder of how this administration was handed a nation at peace, with budget surpluses, an expanding middle class, and elite status in the world, and how they totally squandered that and then plundered America’s wealth to line their own pockets and the pockets of their campaign contributors and friends.

It’s not going to be a pretty night, but it will be a necessary reminder of where we where, where we are now, and where we could be again if we elect the right candidate.

Republican Plans for the Future

I always get a little ticked off when the right-wing radio hatemongers talk about how the Democrats will do this or that when they get in, with no real proof to back it up. Basically, the idea is to just spread general fear that we’ll all be living in some kind of free-love state where everyone gets welfare checks, abortion is the only form of birth control, and everyone is in a 90% tax bracket.

So I’m reluctant to bring up Glenn Greenwald’s latest column from Salon.com, if only because he tries to lay out just what the Republicans would like to do if they regain power. Greenwald’s hypothesis is not based on pure conjecture, mind you, but on the words of Joe Liebermann and Lindsey Graham, who wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal today, along with neo-con Fred Hiatt. Links to these pieces can be found at the article linked to above. So here’s what we can expect from the Republicans, according to Greenwald, based on the writings of certain key neo-cons:

To recap: the U.S. is going to impede Russian aggression, re-build and protect Georgia, revitalize the military strength of NATO, and restore peace and order to Europe. We’re going to stare down the Hitlers of Iran. We’re going to re-build, occupy and safeguard Iraq for decades if necessary. We will single-handedly promote Israel’s interests and view each of its enemies and its wars as our own. We’re also going to get much tougher on China, just like Russia….

And we’re going to do all that while cutting taxes further.

So I ask you. In what fantasyland are these guys living? We’re going to take on all the world’s challenges, we’re going to militarily confront every administration with which we disagree? I guess when John McCain says, “I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be more wars,” that’s at least part of his plan for America. Oh yeah, and he’s going to do all that while making sure the richest Americans pay even less taxes than they are now, meaning the middle class will once again shoulder the greatest load for these excursions in foolishness.

Speaking of Liebermann, there are rumors swirling that McCain might actually announce that the Connecticut Senator will be his running mate. These rumors are valid enough apparently that Robert Novak came out of his recovery from a brain tumor to write an article explaining why a Liebermann VP choice would mean certain doom for the McCain campaign. And not only might McCain choose Liebermann as his running mate, but he might also announce this news on Thursday night, for the sole purpose of taking away any thunder from Obama’s Democratic Nomination acceptance speech also schedule for Thursday. Nice guy, that McCain. Every time Obama gets some press, the McCain camp whines and complains. Never mind Oh yeah, and he’s going to do all that while making sure the richest Americans pay even less taxes than they are now, meaning the middle class will once again shoulder the greatest load for these excursions in foolishness.

Speaking of Liebermann, there are rumors swirling that McCain might actually announce that the Connecticut Senator will be his running mate. These rumors are valid enough apparently that Robert Novak came out of his recovery from a brain tumor to write an article explaining why a Liebermann VP choice would mean certain doom for the McCain campaign. And not only might McCain choose Liebermann as his running mate, but he might also announce this news on Thursday night (according to a McCain campaign aide), for the sole purpose of taking away any thunder from Obama’s Democratic Nomination acceptance speech also scheduled for Thursday.

Nice guy, that McCain. Every time Obama gets some press, the McCain camp whines and complains. Never mind that this is the Democratic National Convention, and the GOP will have its own day in the sun next week. You’re supposed to wait your turn. The media covers each event, John. You’ll have your say in due time. Is this your hotheadedness showing through? Impatience? Can’t wait your turn? Those aren’t qualities that we really need in a president, John. I’d think you’d be on your best behavior, but recently you’ve just shown what a mean, jealous, hotheaded guy you are. I never thought I’d be more scared for America than when George Dubya was sworn in, but now I see it can get worse. Much worse. If Greenwald is right, I shudder to think what will happen to our great country if McCain is elected.

Honestly, I hope that McCain does select the pro-choice Liebermann as his VP, and I hope he does announce this on Thursday. If this happens, not only will this VP choice not get the attention McCain thinks it will, since everyone will be talking about Obama’s acceptance speech, but it will increase the chances of him losing the election altogether due to so many pro-lifers staying home in November. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot — twice.

Democratic Convention – Day One

For years I’ve heard people call CNN the “Clinton News Network,” and last night I finally had to admit that it’s true. Not because it was too liberal in last night’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention opener, but because all the hosts could seem to talk about was this supposed “rift” in the party between the Obama supporters and the Clinton supporters. They grabbed some naive nineteen year old delegate from California who was there to vote for Clinton and who said he was just representing his district, never mind the fact that Hillary will have released all her delegates to Obama and IS NO LONGER RUNNING FOR THE PRESIDENCY. Why not vote for Al Gore? Why not vote for Dennis Kucinich or Bill Richarson? Why not vote for Bugs Bunny for crying out loud? What is the point of voting for someone who isn’t running for the position any more?

But I digress.

We have two HD news channels in our cable lineup — CNN and FOX. I certainly wasn’t going to watch FAUX News for my convention coverage. Last time I did that was in 1999 and all Brit Hume could talk about was Al Gore’s cufflinks or how his suit fit (or didn’t fit). Real solid reporting there, Brit. So I reluctantly tuned to MSNBC, even though I generally can’t stand Chris Matthews. As soon as I switched the channel, Matthews was going off on some “crackpot” who had claimed that Obama was a “certified Muslim,” and how she couldn’t answer any solid questions he had asked about where she obtained that information. Interesting. Finally, someone in the media taking some time to dispel myths about Obama. We’re off to a good start.

As the night progressed, I became very glad that I had tuned to MSNBC because I found out one of their “panelists” was Rachel Maddow, who is probably the only true liberal voice on television apart from the always fantastic Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, who appears on the McLaughlin Group most weekends. I recently heard that Maddow has been given her own show on MSNBC and the right-wing has been up in arms talking about how that outlet has now proven its completely liberal stance by hiring her, and that it’s terrible that someone with views as radical as hers could be given a show on a national news channel. Meanwhile, it’s fine when guys with totally extreme right-wing views like Sean Hannity can have a couple shows on a rival news channel. I mean, that’s OK, right? And Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage and the others have been free to spout their radical extreme-right propaganda on radio for years now. Somehow that’s OK. But when someone is given a show and finally represents all us progressives, who for so long now haven’t had a voice in the media, everyone is pissed off about it? Gimme a break.

So the panel moderator starts asking Maddow about the McCain “unknown number of houses” flap and mentions that when Jay Leno asked McCain about this question on The Tonight Show, McCain’s answer was that he had been in a POW camp for five years and didn’t have a house, didn’t have a table, etc.

Maddow asked how many times does he get to answer a question with that response? So far he’s pulled the POW card to questions about healthcare, questions about whether or not he cheated at the Saddleback debate by knowing the questions in advance, and now he’s using it as an answer to the “how many houses you got mon” question. No one is questioning what McCain went through in Vietnam. No one is trying to take that away from him or saying he is anything less than a war hero. But what does that have to do with how you’re going to run the country? Why should that be a credible answer where people just nod their heads and say, “oh yeah… the POW camp…” Are we really going to let McCain dodge key questions with the answer that he was a prisoner in Vietnam?

One of the panelists said that the houses issue must be hurting McCain, because how many times do you want to go to that well? There is limited capital there, but Pat Buchanan argued that McCain could probably go there as many times as he wanted because it was “working.” Then Olbermann pulled out a new poll that showed Obama’s lead opening up on McCain, so he wasn’t really sure what Buchanan was talking about.

In any case, it was great to finally hear that aspect of McCain’s campaign challenged — that you can’t ask questions of McCain because he’s a war hero and ex-POW.

Just another note about McCain on the Tonight Show. Leno asked about all the negative advertising, and McCain replied,

Well, we all don’t like negative ads, and I thought that the ads we put up were an attempt to be humerous, but also — and I thought they were very funny, and put up — and also differentiate between my positions and of Senator Obama.

Oh, so they were trying to be FUNNY. I guess I just didn’t get that part of it. Like when McCain “approved the message” that said, “[Obama] made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras.” Oh man, yeah, I see it now. Hilarious. My friends, I think this is just more proof that conservatives just can’t be funny on television. Liberals, sure. Lots of liberals are either comedians or have successful shows like Stewart, Colbert, etc. But when FOX News tries out some conservative-brand comedy with its “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” it fails miserably. I’d advise the McCain team that perhaps they should just stick to the issues and leave the humor to those who know how to do it properly.

With the McCain campaign trying to label Obama as some bigtime celebrity, its also interesting that McCain seemed so proud to be able to say this was his THIRTEENTH appearance on the Tonight Show. I’m sure there are a few movie stars that have been on Leno’s show more than thirteen times, but could you guess who they might be? Probably only the most famous celebrities I’d think. Perhaps, um… Well, I can’t think of a celebrity that would have been on Leno more often. DeNiro doesn’t do many interviews. Maybe Mel Gibson? I don’t know.

So back to the convention.

The primetime convention opener featured Caroline Kennedy talking lovingly about “Uncle Ted,” followed by a fantastic short tribute documentary on the Senator by Ken Burns. I was pretty shocked when none other than Ted Kennedy himself, currently battling a brain tumor, stepped up to the podium and gave what will be known as the second most notable speech of his life. Folks on the convention floor went wild as Kennedy promised he’ll be on the Senate floor in January after Obama is inaugurated to pass a healthcare bill that will ensure that FINALLY every man, woman and child in this country will have basic healthcare as a RIGHT, not a PRIVILEGE. Commentators talk the rest of the night about how this will be one of the moments that will be remembered from this convention, along with Obama’s speech at the football field.

Not long after that, Michelle Obama erased any doubts about her humble roots, or how much she loved America, by giving what could only be called the perfect speech. It was passionate, heartfelt, and no one could claim it was an over-the-top sales pitch. She spoke of her mother and father, life in the South Side of Chicago, meeting Obama, and how much community service had always been part of the Robinson and Obama households. Michelle spoke about women’s rights, about civil rights, about justice. She also gave a nod to Hillary Clinton, saying that she had put “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.” Many of the women in the audience were moved to tears by Michelle Obama’s speech, and throughout she was dignified, charming, eloquent, and gave not even a hint of the caricatures that we’ve seen and heard the GOP reference. I don’t know if anyone who actively hated the Obamas would be persuaded by her speech, but I can certainly say that anyone who didn’t know them, or who had an open mind about them before the speech would certainly be convinced that this family was the “real deal.”

And you might call me a softie, but the part that really really struck me was this:

And as I tuck that little girl in and her little sister into bed at night, You see I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they — and your sons and daughters — will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, how this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country — where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House — that we committed ourselves, we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

“The world as it *should* be.” I don’t know why people are so afraid to vote for hope. I don’t know why people vote fear and negativity. Why is it so hard to believe that America could be great again, and could do great things, and why are so many people on the radio and television trying to tear this guy down? I just don’t get it. But I really do hope that this time, we really are ready to do something big. It just feels right, like this is the time that big things could happen again in America, that the opportunity is there for the taking. I just hope we all make the right decision.

Most commentators also talked about Obama’s daughters, who saw their daddy on the big screen after their mom’s speech, grabbed the microphone and said, “Hi daddy! What town are you in tonight?” Perfect, unscripted moment from the podium. It showed this was a regular family, just like any other in America, and a family that had been proud to have an opportunity to actually live out the promise of the American dream.

I was actually quite impressed by Chris Matthews questioning of Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, who was one of the invited commentators for MSNBC. The two explored the question of how could anyone possibly say Michelle Obama wasn’t proud of America when she, in fact, completely represented the promise of the American dream? She was essentially a descendant of slaves who had now reached one of the highest representations of success in America. She was living it. She was helping to make it happen for others in her hometown.

Matthews also asked why in Hollywood was the South considered so noble, so honourable, when it was on the wrong side of the equation and it was the NORTH that had to fight a war where 600,000 people died to free America from slavery? It was a bit of a diversion, but it was an interesting question, and the Reverend answered, “God Bless the North!”

At the end of it all, the McCain camp’s rapid response team noted that their guy hadn’t been hit really by anything that happened. I didn’t hear one commentator note that opening night at the Democratic National Convention is usually “base” night, where the base gets fired up. The attacks against the GOP nominee should begin in earnest tonight with Hillary and Bill.

Which brings me to another point. Bill Clinton has lost a lot of capital with me, after his attempts to strongarm superdelegates and all his finger waving and his whole “fairy tale” bit about Obama’s candidacy.

There cannot be one hint of ambiguity in Hillary Clinton’s support of Obama tonight, and none in Bill’s speech tomorrow night. Not one bit. They must not give the GOP and FAUX News and anyone else ANY ammunition to use for a story. After the speeches tonight and tomorrow, I don’t want the right-wing mainstream media to be able to use ANY Clinton quotes as an argument that the party is not unified.

This is Bill’s last chance as far as I’m concerned to redeem himself in the eyes of most Democrats. Is he on board with what is an obvious changing of the guard in the Democratic party that Ted Kennedy spoke of? I’m pretty sure Hillary will throw all her support to Obama, even if her delegates do not. It’s Bill I’m worried about, and I’m actually pretty surprised that I’m worried about the possibility that he’ll use this as a platform for the Clintons instead of Obama.

There can be no ambiguity. There can be no stories of continuing division in the party, and Bill and Hillary Clinton have a tremendous opportunity to prove to the naysayers that the Clintons are not just out for themselves and their own power and ego, but are truly dedicated to working toward what is best for the party, and what is best for America. For years, people who have been drinking the right-wing Kool-Aid have told me that the Clintons would do anything to keep power for themselves, and for years I have argued that isn’t the case, that they are public servants who worked for people and America and who didn’t even have any real money until Bill left office.

We’ll see very soon whether or not I was correct. Don’t let me down, Mr. President.

A Warning for Obama

By now you’ve heard all about the Zogby poll showing the race between Obama and McCain tightening up. Well, actually, it shows McCain ahead by five percentage points. How can America be so stupid? I mean, particularly in light of all of John McCain’s ties to lobbyists, his numerous flip-flops, outright lies, inability to figure out how many houses he owns, etc.

Could it be that once Obama snagged the Democratic nomination, he went straight for the strategy that has cost two Democratic nominees the presidency? You know, that old strategy of talking like a Republican because you think that’s what the nation wants to hear? You know… Talk about how you might consider offshore drilling. I know, I know, you said it would have to be part of a broader package, and I know that a majority of Americans support it.

But America in general, particuarly the Americans you need to swing to your side, DO NOT UNDERSTAND NUANCE.

When you’re debating John McCain at a function where you should not even have attended because you know the religious zealots are going to hand you your ass on the way out, and you’re asked when does a baby get human rights, the correct answer is not “that’s above my pay grade.” You go to a religious gathering and you don’t have a better answer prepared for that?

John McCain had a simple answer. Conception. Life begins at conception. Anyone who has had even remote contact with a southern Baptist fundamentalist knows that. If you can’t answer that question you have no right entering their church. And if you do have an answer, you better make sure you can state your position in six words or less, because it’s hard for these people to understand anything but pure black-and-white concepts. Start explaining your position and their eyes will glaze over faster than you can say “my cousin sure is lookin’ cute these days.”

While these middle-country and southern folk might not be much for seeking out and understanding the finer points of McCain and Obama’s policy proposals, the one thing they can tell is when someone is not giving them the straight dope. Since gaining the party’s nomination, Obama has changed his position on offshore drilling, the length of time before troops will be out of Iraq, immunity and broader powers to telecoms for domestic spying, the right to bear arms, public campaign financing, faith-based initiatives.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell him apart from John McCain. And we know what happens when the general public says, they “couldn’t tell the difference between the candidates.” As Kerry once put it, “you end up in Iraq.”

This is just a warning, Senator Obama. You better start talking and acting like a progressive, or you risk losing it all before a single vote is cast. There is a reason we haven’t had a Democrat in the White House for eight years now. There is a reason why congressional approval ratings are so low right now. There is a reason people are looking at a third Bush term in John McCain when there should be no rational reason for them to do so. It’s because when Democrats don’t show a spine — when they don’t show a backbone on positions that mean something to them, the public votes Republican. Happens every time. And I fear it’s about to happen again.

Please, for your country’s sake, for the world’s sake — heed my warning.

Stand up for progressive values. The country is with you. It’s why they were excited about the possibility of your presidency. It’s why they registered to vote in massive numbers. It’s why your candidacy was so heavily favored over your rivals. You gave us hope that America could once again be what Ronald Reagan called, “a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Of course, America has not been that example recently. It would be a shame for our country to continue down the dark road it has traveled for the past eight years. People want to see someone standing up for what they believe in. Remember when you said the gasoline tax repeal was a gimmick? That didn’t hurt your numbers. Why? People felt you were taking a reasonable stand. They don’t necessarily have to agree with every policy position. You’ve already lost the anti-choice crusaders. Why court them? You don’t need them to get elected. The moment you start wavering, caving, moving to what you perceive to be as the “middle,” you may as well just hand the race to John McCain, who has given no one any reason to vote for him.

This is a referendum on you, Senator Obama. It’s time you started distinguishing yourself from McCain and started standing up for true progressive values. If the voters feel that there is no distinction, no difference between you and McCain, they will take what feels “safe” every time. To them, “safe” is McCain, even though it definitely is not a safe choice for us, or for the rest of the world.

For the sake of our kids, and the world, I’m asking you, please — no more moving to the center. The earth, the world cannot stand to have another Republican in the White House for four, let alone eight years. America cannot stand it, our sons and daughters cannot stand it, and the environment cannot stand it.