Friday, August 29, 2008

More commentary on the Democratic convention

I've been watching and reading about the Democratic National Convention, thinking about what I want to say. For the moment, I'm going to list the major speeches that took place at the Democratic National Convention. And I'm going to start with Barack Obama's acceptance speech:

And here is the transcript.

Barack Obama's acceptance speech was just that incredible. Barack Obama had to accomplish three goals with this speech. The first goal was to introduce himself to the American people. Obama had to show the American people that he was not an out-of-touch elitist that the Republicans have been tarring him for the past month, but rather that he understood the problems that ordinary Americans were faced with over the past eight years of the Bush administration. He gave examples of how he saw his grandfather marching in Patton's Army within the faces of young veterans coming back from Iraq, or that he saw his mother's face, raising himself and his sister, while working long hours and going to school, among a young student "who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift...." Obama saw middle-class Americans facing hard economic challenges, and probably believes that he can help Americans overcome those challenges.

The second goal for Obama was to attack John McCain. This is the start of the general election, and it is time for the Obama campaign to launch their own attack against the McCain campaign for the goal of taking the White House. Consider this:

John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.


Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

That is about as powerful of an attack that you can launch against John McCain. What Obama has done is to combine the argument that a McCain presidency is not only a third Bush term, but also that a President McCain doesn't have a clue as to the problems that middle-class Americans are facing, nor does McCain have the political policies necessary to promote change for America. The Obama campaign will need to slam McCain over and over again on how John McCain doesn't get it.

The final goal for Barack Obama's speech is a combination of presenting his political policies to America if Obama is elected, and the issue of change. The political policies are a mish-mash of big ticket items, like ending the war in Iraq, or health care reform, and smaller ticket items, such as bankruptcy reform or equal pay for equal work. The political policies are somewhat vague, but then John McCain will present his mish-mash of vague political policies next week at the Republican National Convention.

But the change message is much more important. It has been woven throughout Obama's speech. But the change that Obama is addressing is a combination of what Obama calls "Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility." According to Obama:

[We} must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

This is a powerful message that Obama presents. It is a message that individuals must be responsible for their own actions, but that government will be there to help solve the greater problems that America faces. In a sense, Obama is trying to renew the social compact between the individual's freedoms and responsibilities, and the government's role to protect and assist such individuals when they need help. It is a message that resonated deeply within the 80,000 enthusiastic supporters at Mile High Stadium.

Now let us go with the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee Joe Biden's speech. You can view Biden's acceptance speech here:

And the transcript is here.

Joe Biden accomplished two goals in this speech. The first goal was to inform Americans that Barack Obama understood the problems and issues that Americans are facing. According to Biden:

Barack Obama gets it. Like many of us, Barack worked his way up. His is a great American story.

You know, I believe the measure of a man isn’t just the road he’s traveled; it’s the choices he’s made along the way. Barack Obama could have done anything after he graduated from college. With all his talent and promise, he could have written his ticket to Wall Street. But that’s not what he chose to do. He chose to go to Chicago. The South Side. There he met men and women who had lost their jobs. Their neighborhood was devastated when the local steel plant closed. Their dreams deferred. Their dignity shattered. Their self-esteem gone.

And he made their lives the work of his life. That’s what you do when you’ve been raised by a single mom, who worked, went to school and raised two kids on her own. That’s how you come to believe, to the very core of your being, that work is more than a paycheck. It’s dignity. It’s respect. It’s about whether you can look your children in the eye and say: we’re going to be ok.

What is especially interesting here is that Biden discovered a profound respect and admiration of Obama as the two fought each other during the Democratic primaries. Biden debated Obama, saw how Obama reacted under pressure, and learned about Obama's mind and intellect. Biden realized just how Obama tapped into the psyche of the American people with his message of change. These are probably the reason why Biden courted Obama to become his running mate.

And Biden then turned around and showed a profound change with his own relationship with John McCain. Going back to Biden's speech:

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.

This is a powerful pivot that Biden makes. First he shows his admiration and respect for Obama, with who he has gotten to know during the Democratic primaries. Biden supports Obama's message of change. But then Biden pivots and, while acknowledging his friendship with John McCain, and McCain's heroism, completely disagrees with McCain on the direction that McCain will take the country if elected to the White House. Biden then rips McCain in issue after issue, saying that John McCain is wrong and Barack Obama is right. It really shows just how much of an attack dog that Joe Biden will be for the Obama campaign.

Now let us go to Bill Clinton's speech. I will have to admit, I enjoy watching Bill Clinton speak. I've seen him speak twice--once at San Jose State in 1992, when Clinton was running against George H.W. Bush, and the second time when Bill Clinton was stumping for Hillary at the California State Democratic Convention back in March. Whether you agree with him, or not, Bill Clinton is just fun to watch. Here is the video:

When Bill Clinton stepped out on stage, he was given a three minute standing ovation from the crowd. You could almost expect Bill Clinton to be accepting the Democratic nomination, considering the enthusiasm that rocked the place. And Bill Clinton was the warm-up act for Joe Biden. Clinton threw his support for Barack Obama with this speech. He even adapted part of his stump speech for supporting Hillary Clinton's candidacy to supporting Barack Obama's candidacy--mainly with attacking the Republican economic policies and foreign policies as being "more of the same." But the real interesting detail in Bill Clinton's speech was how Clinton linked his administration's peace and prosperity with a future Barack Obama administration:

My fellow Democrats, sixteen years ago, you gave me the profound honor to lead our party to victory and to lead our nation to a new era of peace and broadly shared prosperity.

Together, we prevailed in a campaign in which the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? It didn’t work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won’t work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history.

The Big Dog hath spoken.

Finally, I should say a few words about Hillary Clinton's speech. Hillary Clinton had one major goal to achieve in her speech at the Democratic National Convention. And that goal was to unify the party and bring her supporters into the Obama campaign. Here is the video of her speech:

And here is the transcript.

Hillary Clinton received a huge standing ovation when she stepped out on the stage. Clinton told her supporters, who she called, "my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits," that "the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines." Clinton also told her supporters that they "haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership." That was the theme of Clinton's speech here. Clinton asked her supporters, "Were you in this campaign just for me?" Or were her supporters in Clinton's campaign for Americans suffering from the problems the country faced under eight years of the Bush administration, and the potential four more years of a McCain administration. As historic as Clinton's campaign was, Clinton argued that it was time to unify the party behind Obama, to remove the Republicans out of the White House--"No way. No how. No McCain."

Hillary Clinton rocked the convention that night.

Will her supporters accept Clinton's argument at the convention? I'm not going to say that every Clinton supporter will go out and vote for Obama. But Hillary Clinton did make a compelling argument to look beyond the Democratic primary squabble, and concentrate on the bigger prize of the White House. One of the most chilling parts of Clinton's speech was this:

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

How do we give this country back to them?

By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

If there was ever an example as to why Democrats should "keep going" in supporting Barack Obama over the continuing nightmare that could be the Bush-McCain administration, Clinton nailed it here. The choice is before Americans as to whether to return our country back to the law, and the liberties and freedoms that Americans have an unalienable right to, or to continue down the dark path of dogs, torches, and angry shouts of this totalitarian presidency of King George The Deciderer, and his aristocratic prince, John McCain.

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.

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