I've never been a huge fan of "change" as a campaign slogan, just because it's so unspecific. What kind of change? On whose behalf? And while I think the slogan worked well enough in the Democratic primaries, that's because Obama was running against an opponent whom so many voters already identified the past (for better and for worse). The trouble with "change" as a general election theme is that John McCain can lay claim to that mantle, too.
How did it play politically? Will it energize the base? Will it make swing voters swoon? As usual, your guess is as good as mine--or any of the pundits you see yapping on the television right now. Until the focus groups and polls come in, we're all just speculating. But I can register a verdict on substance. If this was McCain's answer to voter anxiety about the economy, it wasn't too impressive. As you've been reading--or, perhaps, as you've noticed on your own--economic policy has not been a big theme this week in Minneapolis.
John McCain, moments ago: I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center, last week: The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers (see Figure 2). By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.
Mitt Romney just opened his speech by attacking East Coast elites. That would be the same Mitt Romney who holds two degrees from Harvard, ran a top East Coast consulting firm, served as governor of Massachusetts, and makes his (primary) home in the wealthy Boston suburb of Belmont. Seriously, though, I still have a soft spot for Romney. Yes, he's one of the most transparently calculating politicians of his generation. And, yes, to the extent he holds ideological principles I oppose them strongly. But I respect what he's accomplished, both in the private sector and in government.
The speeches sound lovely and the cocktail parties, I'm sure, are great fun. But what does the Republican Party actually believe? If last night was indicative, we won't be getting a satisfactory answer to that question in the next few days--or maybe even in the weeks after that. John McCain's campaign manager has already said he thinks this election is "not about the issues." Fortunately, the Republicans did take the time to write a party platform--and, over at ThinkProgress, Matthew Yglesias has been reading it.
Early on in the long, contentious Democratic primaries, Barack Obama was guilty of running a campaign based too heavily on biography and vague promises of breaking through partisan gridlock. It worked well enough initially, since Obama's story really was compelling and his credentials as a bipartisan reformer seemed legitimate. But it was only after Obama started peddling a more substantive message, focused on the actual policies he'd deliver, that he was able to secure the nomination.
Barack Obama and the rest of the Democrats never fail to say they honor John McCain's wartime service. It's good that they do so, but it's become such a predictable incantation that it's virtually lost its meaning. Since Fred Thompson just finished recounting this episode of McCain's life, I think I'll take this opportunity to say I admire him, too. I know the story of his time as a prisoner of war is well-known by now, but it doesn't get less poignant with all the retellings.
Senator Fred Thompson just mentioned that Sarah Palin is governor of the "largest state in the union"--something I've heard other Republicans say today. I guess it's on the talking points. I can't believe I have to make this argument, but here goes. Yes, Alaska is the largest state of the union if you go by size. It's really, really big. But when it comes to governing experience, surely the number of people over which you've presided matters more than the square acreage. Alaska, whose population numbers less than 700,000, ranks 47th out of the 50 states.
Republicans are still making the argument that Sarah Palin has the necessary experience to serve as vice president she has spent less than two years as governor of Alaska--er, sorry, I mean Commander-in-Chief of the Alaska National Guard. After careful consideration, I've decided not to rebut this argument, lest I lend it even a shred of credibilty. Instead, I'd like to dwell on why experience matters in a vice presidential candidate, perhaps even more than it matters in a presidential candidate.
Four years ago in Boston, I watched Barack Obama deliver perhaps the most perfect speech I’ll ever see. It was full of soaring imagery and lyrical prose. If offered up a searing, passionate indictment of modern politics. And it was delivered with an eloquence no politician in my lifetime had shown before.Tonight, on television, I watched Barack Obama give a rather different piece of oratory. Although delivered with equal skill, its content struck me as more unwieldy and, at times, more pedestrian.