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State of the Union speech drinking game

As a service to you, the crap-reading public, we here at Letters From Texas Worldwide H.Q. herein present this year’s State of the Union Speech Drinking Game.

When Obama mentions jobs, the economy, or manufacturing: 0.5 shot

drinking gameFor every camera cut-away to an undocumented immigrant in audience: 0.5 shot

For a glimpse of John McCain dozing off: 2 shots

For when you see Ted Nugent scowling: 1.5 shot

For when you see Ted Nugent drawing a weapon: 1 shot

For when you see Ted Nugent escorted out of the Gallery: 2 shots

In case you read a stupid tweet from Steve Stockman: 1 shot

In case  you see that a reporter retweets said stupid tweet from Steve Stockman: 1 shot

If protestor is forcibly removed from House Gallery (besides Ted Nugent): 2 shots

If you see Justice Scalia looking all “I hate me some Obama”: 1 shot

For every person with whom you’re watching who compliments Michelle Obama’s outfit: 1.5 shots

If Louie Gohmert hollers something crazy: 1 shot

When Obama mentions “Afghanistan” or “Korea”: 0.5 shot

For every 5 seconds on camera Sheila Jackson-Lee nabs: 0.5 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he has acid reflux: 1 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he’s had some work done: 1 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he’s had some work done by a taxidermist: 1 shot

This has been your Letters From Texas State of the Union Speech Drinking Game. View responsibly.

Update: apparently, even Marco Rubio played the Letters From Texas State of the Union Drinking Game:

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Veep debate analysis: Obama team still in the game with good field position, and other sports analogies

Debates are, among other things, potentially good political theater. I would only have added the word “potentially” after last week’s snore-fest between President Obama and Governor Romney showed that debates don’t have to interesting at all.

But tonight’s debate between Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan proved to be everything last week’s effort wasn’t. I don’t care who you are, it was a damn good show in which all three people on the stage exceeded expectations.

Biden, to the disappointment of Republicans, was free of major gaffes, and full of passion, spit, and vinegar.

Ryan, to the disappointment of Democrats, didn’t curl up in a tight little sniveling ball of inexperience. He hung in there and held his own, and I applaud his parents, who, in the words of a friend of mine, generously allowed Ryan to stay up late tonight and participate.

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz, who was bound to look pretty good after following such an easy act from last week’s dismal performance by Jim Lehrer, did her job extraordinarily well under tough circumstances.

The toughest circumstance came in a package named Joe Biden, who suited up for the game, left it all on the field, and probably at least four other football metaphors. It was clear that Biden’s memo from his boss was “I screwed up and let Romney get away with every mischaracterization imaginable – it’s your job this week to do my job from last week.”

Republicans will complain that Biden interrupted Ryan too much. Democrats will counter that Biden only interrupted when Ryan’s misrepresentations needed to be pointed out, and as such, Biden cannot be faulted if Ryan cannot utter a single sentence without a misrepresentation. Both complaints have a lot of merit, but Biden’s performance wins out – because Biden made the compelling case for the boss that the boss failed to make last week.

For Ryan’s part, his weakest moments were, admittedly, not his fault. The weak moments came when Raddatz pressed Ryan for the specifics of Romney’s plans. Ryan wasn’t stumped the Ryan is stupid – Ryan was stumped because Romney’s specifics don’t exist. It was most noticeable in the discussion on tax reform, but also quite noticeable in the health care discussion. When the dust settles from tonight’s debate, observant voters may well conclude that Paul Ryan’s biggest shortcoming is Mitt Romney.

But to be sure, it is clear from tonight that Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin. Democrats should consider him armed and dangerous, and should have from the start.

The debate may well not be a net gain for Democrats, but make no mistake – important gains were made nevertheless. Biden stopped much of the bleeding from last week. There will be voters who are undoubtedly turned off by Biden’s aggressive approach. There are other voters who aren’t satisfied, because a President ultimately must make a case for himself, not a case made by his number two. But there will be a lot of voters who will like the fact that Biden’s aggressive approach was in aggressively defending the middle class, in aggressively correcting Republican misrepresentations, and in aggressively making a passionate stand for the policies of the Obama administration.

But much of Obama’s gains from the Veep debate will be Democratic gains. A despondent Democrat is a worthless Democrat, and too many Democrats completely freaked out and irrationally over-reacted to Obama’s listless performance last week. They needed the morale boost of Biden’s performance. Their enthusiasm may not show up immediately, but it will show up, just as their lack of enthusiasm following the last debate showed up in the polls.

While tonight wasn’t a home run for the Obama team, Biden’s clutch performance ensures that the Obama team is still in the game, and in the swing states, remains in good field position.

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Democratic National Convention day 3 recap: getting the job done

I loved Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night. I thought it was among the best of his life, and it came at the exact right time to stop the minor bleeding of the Democratic convention’s only mistake all week, the platform dust-up.

But I loved his speech so much that I worried then that he might over-shadow President Obama’s speech last night. I also loved Clinton’s speech so much that I wished he’d written it for Obama.

Obama’s performance last night indicated that I should have worried, because it was a close call. But I think Obama’s speech ultimately delivered what it needed to, when it needed to do it, and I think the convention ultimately did the job.

But let’s define “the job.”

The Democratic convention as a whole presented a well-rounded portrait of a Presidential man. The Republican convention presented a man who is certainly competent, but no presidential-level superstar – which only echoes the concerns Republican primary voters have had all year. For a major American political party to present a Presidential nominee  with little mention of foreign policy, with little respect for America’s military, and with scant appreciation for the country’s veterans, borders on political malfeasance.

The Romney camp is so desperate to have an election in which the sole issue is the economy that they forgot that, for any President, there’s a whole country to lead.

The contrast between the two conventions is especially stark for various key voting blocs.

For military veterans, they will not quickly forget that in the same time slot in which the Democrats opted to air their very moving tribute to them this week, the Republicans were cracking jokes about empty chairs last week.

For women, speaker after speaker this week pounded on the Republicans’ lack of respect for their rights. Certainly the Republicans excited the pro-life crowd, but did little to gain back any support which would begin to ease the gender gap of which Romney and Ryan appear very likely to be victims.

For seniors, I don’t think the Democrats ever let a full half-hour pass all week without somebody on the podium reminding Americans that the Romney camp is misleading voters on Obama’s Medicare proposals, and returning to the message that the Romney-Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. The biggest problem for Republicans on this front? Romney-Ryan ending Medicare as we know it isn’t a message originated by the Democrats – it’s a message presented by the Wall Street Journal.

For voters watching both conventions, the Democrats were clearly more persuasive than the Republicans. No honest analyst of any ilk could credibly dispute that. The Republicans’ convention was competent – even very competent – but nothing more. The Democrats’ convention was enthusiastic, inspiring, and took the fight to the Republicans – and nothing less. To be fair, however, I bet only a small percentage of voters watched both conventions.

But at its heart, what’s the definition of “getting the job done” at a convention? These days it is solidifying the support among your own party’s voters, while attracting more than your share of undecided voters. The reason I believe the Democrats had the only convention that did that job is because the Republicans quit after the first step.

Having Ann Romney give a good speech will not get women voters back, especially when a week later Michelle Obama gives a speech worthy of blasting off into space – articulating policies which resonate with women will. The Democrats did that, and the Republicans didn’t.

Highlighting Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will not give you a leg up among Latino voters – sharing values and priorities of interest to Latinos will. That the Republicans failed to give more than a passing mention to the military and to veterans probably put them behind the 8-ball on that, and Latinos just glancing at the Republican crowd shots undoubtedly made eyes roll nation-wide. And that’s before one even gets to the policy proposals.

Women and Latinos were the two most likely groups from which the Republicans could have cherry-picked additional support, and when the post-convention polling results are announced in the coming days, I believe they will show that their token attempts to do so failed.

But the Democrats’ passion and spunk showed that they mean it – among an electorate undoubtedly wondering if Obama and the Democrats really mean it. Vice President Biden was Republicans’ last best hope to have something to seize upon, but his stem-winder was unassailable too. And, where did THAT John Kerry come from – I never met that guy before last night?

Some conventions do not result in a significant momentum shift for a nominee or a party. Neither Obama nor McCain left their 2008 conventions with a significant bump. John Kerry even left his nominating convention with a negative bump. Ronald Reagan had a big bump, as did Bill Clinton in ’92.

The Democratic National Convention felt more like 1992 to me, so it wouldn’t surprise me if polling in the coming days shows a significant momentum advantage for Obama.

But even if I’m wrong about that, two things are clear. First, we already know that Mr. Romney’s support was flat after the conclusion of his convention – the poll results are already in. And second, it’s clear, at least to me, that Mr. Obama will leave this convention, at the very least, with a momentum surpassing Romney’s – having succeeded in reminding Americans that he’s serious about it, passionate about it, and razor-focused on it.

And that’s a pretty good deal.

Here’s what I said about all this on Fox TV in Austin last night immediately following the President’s remarks.

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Democratic National Convention, day 1 recap

What the hell happened to the Democrats?

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Actually, I’m sure the Obama White House planned it all out, but I certainly didn’t expect the electric night to which Americans were treated last night.

There’s a good reason I chose not to attend the Democratic National Convention this year. It’s because of the 1996 convention in Chicago. Following up on the best time I ever had in politics, the 1992 convention in New York – President Clinton’s nominating convention – I was giddy as I disembarked the airplane to attend the 1996 convention four years later in Chicago – Clinton’s re-election convention. And I very promptly had the worst time I’d ever had in politics. Chicago was so utterly not-fun that subsequent National conventions were attended only hesitantly, until Obama’s nominating convention in Denver in 2008 – the other best time I ever had in politics.

I concluded from the 1996 experience that Democratic incumbent re-election conventions are dreary, and can never quite match the innocence and enthusiasm of the original nomination of a bright and shiny new Democratic object of our Democratic desires. 1992 and 2008 taught me that nominating conventions are like political porn. The 1996 experience taught me that re-election conventions are all about keeping the lid on it, approaching things timidly to avoid gaffe-inducing mistakes, and playing it safe to avoid giving the other side ammo. This all comes at the expense of any enthusiasm whatsoever, of course.

In that context, I ask again: what the hell happened to the Democrats? They broke the rules. They were full of passion. And spit. And vinegar. And…dare I say it…audacity.

Also, somebody lost the leash. My fellow Democrats know what I’m talking about – that unspoken public filter. The one that dictates that, while most Democrats are going to be for marriage equality, we’re going to keep that crazy talk out of prime time while company’s in the living room. That filter that encourages Democrats to support the notion that women’s choices should be their own, not the government’s – but that we’re only going to cleverly allude to it a few times, maybe, and otherwise speak about it only among consenting adults. And the health care reform filter, in which the lion’s share of Democrats absolutely know the President did the right thing, but also that the ferocity of the opposition might dictate a certain impoliteness in openly discussing how the President saved countless lives in doing it.

Aren’t we supposed to be the measured, boring ones? What of our long and proud history of walking confidently to the podium and explaining government to people, stuffing facts and statistics into the eardrums of America against their will and until we detect that they’ve lost the will to live?

Well there was none of that crap. Even the speakers not scheduled for primetime were electrifying. The Democrats were finally allowed to be who we are. The crowd in the hall loved it, and so will general election voters watching on TV, mulling over their choices in November.

Speaker-after-speaker, the unified message was bluntly clear: “Tea Party: take your voters; you can have ’em. And we’ll welcome everybody else.”

Here’s how good it was: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was the weak link. And he’s supposed to be good. But he never had a chance, bookended all night by speakers full of passionate spit and vinegar.

The night’s winners? Everybody else. Newark Mayor Cory Booker electrified a crowd who hadn’t even planned to start paying attention for another hour or so. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland was outstanding.

But the night belonged to both Julian Castro and Michelle Obama. Castro, the least-known keynote speaker since Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards in 1988, became the most-loved keynote speaker since Ann Richards in 1988 – and that includes the convention speeches of a certain Governor of a small Southern state named Bill Clinton in 1988, and the convention keynote of an unknown guy named Barack-something in 2004.

Ms. Obama, in her performance last night, became the best-loved object in the solar system, easily passing up the Mars Rover in the first half of her speech. By the time she concluded her remarks, many Americans probably wished they were Barack Obama, if only because he gets to hang out with her more than anybody else.

Last night, the Democrats had one of the best nights in political convention history, and easily passed up the Republicans’ entire convention as if Romney’s crew had been screwing around changing a flat tire in the service lane. Americans watching the Republicans last week had to look hard for something to love. Those watching the Democrats last night had to look hard for something not to love.

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up. But on the other hand, maybe Republicans should start worrying, because tonight is Bill Clinton’s night, and he’s been known to change worldwide opinion just by thinking about giving a speech. And Thursday night, it’s Obama’s turn – and after Michelle’s performance last night, he’ll have to bring his A-game just to avoid being called “the second smartest Obama.”

So basically, Republicans, you’re going to have to pin your hopes on Joe Biden. At least you’ve still got that going for you.

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Headline of the day so far

Apparently Joe Biden thinks this, too, is a big effin deal.

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Dear Joe Biden:

After years of deeply admiring your life story, your triumph over personal adversity, your leadership in the U.S. Senate, and your victory in the 2008 elections, I must reluctantly conclude that your performance as Vice President of the United States is, in plain language, falling short.

Pictured (from left): Obama, unidentified rodent

I can think of no greater example of this than this incident.

Dick Cheney would have quickly and decisively taken care of this situation, While true that he might have winged 3 reporters, 2 sound techs, and a White House butler in the process, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

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And the winner…

…of the “Most Endearing Expletive Uttered By A Vice President of the United States In The Last Eight Years” award goes to: Joe Biden.

Congratulations, Mr. Vice President, you win a break. What you and your wife choose to do with it is none of our business.

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