August 26, 2008
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.
The Urgency Of Ted Kennedy's Message
All through the summer, members of Ted Kennedy’s committee staff in Washington have been feverishly preparing for an all-out effort to enact universal health care next year. They’ve been meeting with counterparts on other committees and bringing in the key stakeholders--unions, insurers, employers, doctors--to get a sense where everybody stands. They’ve also been looking closely at how Massachusetts lawmakers passed health care reform for their state, on the theory that a similar strategy might work in the U.S. Congress. And, of course, they’ve been keeping their boss in the loop.
August 25, 2008
Let Michelle Be Michelle
In June, US Weekly magazine delivered a bombshell--excuse me, an “EXCLUSIVE” bombshell, as the magazine trumpeted it--about Michelle Obama: “Michelle Is an ‘An Extraordinary Mother.’” The source of this shocking claim was none other than Senator Barack Obama. Also revealed was Michelle’s “struggle to get pregnant,” and how she took her best friend to see the Sex and the City movie.
Smothering the Hatchet
The New Republic has asked me what advice I would give to Senator Obama to improve relations with the Clintons during this convention week.To be clear, I believe both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have done much to heal the rifts endemic to a long primary. Hillary has done more than any runner-up in the history of the Democratic Party to support and campaign for the nominee since her concession. She has traveled the country making campaign appearances for Senator Obama, imploring her supporters to vote for him, and successfully urging her donors to support him financially.
Barack's Big Night
More than any politician in recent history, Barack Obama’s national career began with a speech--his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. On the eve of the convention that caps the journey begun that night, it’s remarkable how little is understood about how he obtained his historic break--and who really deserves credit for it. In his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote, “The process by which I was selected as the keynote speaker remains something of a mystery to me.” Today, the process remains shrouded in competing versions of events.