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.