Day one of the Democratic National Convention in Denver is in the books. The day seemed wasted for the Democrats in some ways, but it was not a disaester. There were mixed messages.
First, stories continue to come out about how the Clintons are not really in sync with the Obama operation. McCain seized on that and ran two different ads, one with a former Clinton delegate now for McCain. McCain also did the Tonight Show, forgoing what was once a gentleman's agreement that the opposing candidate drop out of sight during his opponents convention. Those days are gone.
New York's delegation was advised by state party officials not to drink too much at the convention. Hmmm...considering the first "star" speaker....
The night's first "star" guest was Jimmy Carter. He did not speak at the convention, but appeared before prime time in most parts of the nation in a video about the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Carter then had a brief moment with his wife waving to the crowd. That was a good way to not disrespect Carter, but make sure the viewers did not tie him to Obama.
However, tying Carter to Katrina was puzzling. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hit President Bush and the GOP hard, tying that to a first night appearance by Jimmy Carter seemed a bit inept. Sure, Carter is better known for his charity work now than his failed Presidency, but Carter's video made me think that, like Carter with the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, Senator Barack Obama was powerless in helping the victims of Katrina. If Barack Obama has such powers of persuasion and is above the fray and can bring people together, why did he not use that talent to bring more help to New Orleans?
The next "star" was Teddy Kennedy. I disagree with Senator Kennedy and most of what he believes in. However, I admire the man for his personal courage. Recovering from brain surgery, dealing with chemotherapy and the altitude of Denver, his speech was was an inspiration in personal courage. Note personal courage. I am not contending that his agenda is correct, I merely state that we Republicans should recognize the personal courage of the man to be there. It was in all likelihood the last major speech by a man who has been on the political scene for over forty years. It was clearly the most emotional speech of the night for anyone with any feeling for fellow human beings, whether you like Kennedy or not.
Michelle Obama had a tough act to follow. It is odd that we now have sort of a tradition where the Presidential candidate's spouse has to give a speech at the national convention. We Republicans are the blame for that one. It started in earnest in 1992, when the Republicans had Barbara Bush, who was more popular than her husband, speak at the convention. I don't care for the practice. Suppose your husband or wife is interviewing for a job, should the potential employer call you in for an interview as well? It is a given that most people confide in and seek advice from their spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, whatever, but it is also true that most people can take that advice and make an independent decision on their job. It is true of every political office other than President. Take for example the presence of Maria Shriver at the Democratic Convention. Many Congressional spouses are rarely seen or heard from. I digress.
Michelle Obama's speech was technically sound, and her delivery was sound as well. There were a couple of things that were clear in her speech. Success in the private sector is not really something she cares about. She had only a hand full of words about those who serve in the military. Her biggest applause line was when she mentioned Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Obama did do well in making Senator Obama appear to be more human. His daughters helped in that as well, with their "hey daddy" comments when Obama appeared via video. That was good tv for sure, but it confused the message. Is Barack Obama this extraordinary political figure who comes only once a few generations or is he the guy down the street who happened to stumble into the nomination for President? The next few days will tell how the Democrats portray him for the fall campaign.
Overall, it was a neutral night for the Democrats. To me, the story of the night was the personal courage and determination of Teddy Kennedy, not the love Michelle Obama has for her husband and this country. The message was muddled.