August 27, 2008
War of the Words
Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, Georgia "Everybody out. You have 20 minutes to inspect this damage," barks Alexander Machevsky, shock-trooper of the Kremlin’s propaganda war in Georgia, as he tries to shepherd 25 Western journalists out the open back of a military truck. Machevsky is not having a good day.
Back on Track
Walking into the Pepsi Center this afternoon, I ran into a prominent elected official who’s also a strong Obama supporter. What did he think of the convention so far? Not much, it seemed. The Democrats’ message to date felt muddled, he said. He was looking forward to Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama “breaking through” with their respective addresses. This muddle was partly a matter of necessity. Saluting Ted Kennedy, putting a warmer face on Michelle Obama, and granting Hillary Clinton her moment were things that simply had to be done.
Not To Be Forgotten
When Tammy Duckworth takes the stage tonight for the DNC tribute to veterans, she’ll be representing not only veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also those from peacetime and all of America’s conflicts. Duckworth is an Iraq War double amputee from Illinois who in 2006 made a spirited but unsuccessful bid for Congress and is currently director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The theme for the day is “Securing America’s Future,” and Duckworth joins a roster of heavyweight Democratic voices speaking that day, Bill Clinton and V.P.
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.