August 27, 2008
Angels and Demons
The unlikely presidential nominee grew up without knowing his biological father. He was raised by a single mom and, when she was away, by his grandparents. As an adolescent, he memorized speeches by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King and made a point of making friends from other ethnic backgrounds. As a youngster, he was known by a different name, and, as a presidential candidate, he had to remind the voters that he was not from a privileged background.
DENVER --Though Hillary Clinton gave an extraordinary address yesterday night--relaxed and emotive and far more impassioned than at the fine auto-eulogy I saw her deliver in June--I'd like to declare Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer the MVP of Tuesday night. Not only was Schweitzer's delivery emphatic and simple--his mien was entirely genuine, a reality only enhanced by his bolo tie.
The Democrats Strike Back
David Kusnet was chief speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton from 1992 through 1994. He is the author of Love the Work, Hate the Job: Why America's Best Workers Are Unhappier than Ever. Before the 2004 Democratic convention, I drafted a speech for a client. Intent on running a "positive" campaign, John Kerry's message-meisters scrubbed the speech of even the mildest and most factual criticisms of the Bush Administration's record.
August 26, 2008
The TNR Q&A: James Clyburn
During the Democratic primary season, Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina was the man to talk to about identity politics. As the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns hurled suggestive and sometimes ugly statements at each other, Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress, spoke personally with the candidates and appeared on television numerous times to insist that cooler heads prevail, lest the Democrats lose their chance to take the White House.
The Semiotics Of Convention Fashion
Political conventions are a four-day triumph of form over content. While the candidates' sartorial choices might seem trivial at a moment of war and economic insecurity, the masterminds behind such political events place a very fine point on the stagecraft--what one CNN commentator called "the visuals." For every public event, but for this whale of one in particular, as much thought and effort is spent on a speaker's clothing (and the image it will project) as on his or her speech.
Hillary Clinton obviously doesn't like Barack Obama, and she's clearly hesitant about the prospect of him as president--either because she doesn't trust him, because his victory would probably bar her path to the presidency, or because she's convinced herself of the former in service of the latter. But she delivered the best speech she could honestly give for him.The key passage came when, after describing some people she had met and was looking to defend, Clinton said: "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?
A Rising Star?
Other than Michelle Obama and Ted Kennedy, the most compelling speaker at the Democratic convention so far has been Lilly Ledbetter. The victim of discrimination at a Goodyear plant, Ledbettter won her case before a jury before losing it in the Supreme Court. On paper, she is the best the best personification in years of why the Court matters to ordinary people. She's even better in person.
Obviously some of it comes from the odd comment by the likes of James Carville. But what about the blind quotes in stories, like today's WaPo front-pager, about all the indignities Hillary has suffered? My theory: A lot of them come from bitter Clinton moneymen. These are people who joined up early so a future Clinton White House would be sufficiently grateful (and reciprocate with ambassadorships and seats on federal boards and commissions). They made significant investments of time and money. And once their investments fizzled, they were basically left with nothing.
As The Clintons Turn
More leakage from Clintonland about her relationship with Obama and the veep process. Will it never end? This is starting to feel like some long-running soap opera where every character has married, betrayed and divorced the other. It really is time to get over it; the primary was what it was but the Obamanauts have been more than respectful since then. If Obama loses for the reasons they envisioned, then the Clintonites will have their chance to crow in November. What can Hillary do in her speech tonight? Probably nothing to satisfy the true dead-enders.
Suppose Barack Obama actually wins this interminable election and decides to start wrestling carbon-dioxide emissions to the ground. He gives a pretty State of the Union address and implores Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill, but the darn thing dies in the Senate quicksand. Does that mean game over? Not necessarily, according to The Wall Street Journal: The Obama camp also believes it has a regulatory stick to force congressional action. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.