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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
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:
First, let me get some disclosures of my own out of the way, so I can earn my seat at the high road table.
The vote fairy won’t be visiting Texas on Tuesday. There will not be a surprise winner in the U.S. Senate race here. There are no big upsets in store in any Texas state Senate race anywhere, except one – the only question mark is the Davis-Shelton race in Fort Worth. There are few state House races up for grabs – if you’re a Democrat who doesn’t live in the maybe 8-10 districts which are in play, your hopes and dreams will be shattered. Only two of Texas’ Congressional seats are in serious question – the ones in which Democrats Nick Lampson and Pete Gallego are running. And wish it as hard as you’d like, but of Texas’ 38 electoral votes, Barack Obama will be earning exactly zero of them on Tuesday.
If you don’t live within some of that prized real estate in Texas I just described and had hoped for a better outcome, sorry to disappoint you. Take solace that miracles – and accidents – do happen. Maybe your beloved candidate will be the recipient of one. Or maybe I’m just full of crap. But I doubt it, and now I’ve said what I honestly believe.
With that unpleasantness out of the way, now that I’ve demonstrated that I’m capable of acknowledging likelihoods even when they aren’t great news for my Party, what the hell is up with the national Republican pundits?
Over the last couple of days we’ve been treated to the most tortured logic I’ve seen in recent years out of them, all with the goal of them maintaining their ability to end their sentence with, “…and that’s why Mitt Romney will win.”
These pundits use “anecdotal evidence.” You know who uses evidence like that? Those who don’t have statistical evidence.
The statistical evidence they do use consists mainly of pulling outliers out of the pile of battleground state polling, using national polling to justify something – anything – specific about a given battleground state, or even isolating single crosstabs from some of the very same well-established polls those same pundits otherwise discount as “hopelessly skewed.” Today I even noticed one Republican using as “a promising trend” an isolated crosstab from a poll taken shortly after Obama’s first, disastrous, debate – when it’s clear from subsequent research that this “trend” reversed itself a week later.
To justify saying that which they already know is so utterly unlikely, they are hedging their bets by mentioning, “…well, but of course, the hurricane might have slowed Romney’s momentum.” Perfect target, that hurricane: it’s a factor beyond the control of any of the Republican pundits – some of whom raised and spent millions of dollars of rich peoples’ money and promised that for their investment they’d get a US Senate majority and the White House – which they can point to after Tuesday night and blame. Rove, late last week, was the first one I noticed using the storm as his big asterisk, but over the weekend I’ve noticed other pundits adopting this adorable little baby as their very own to love and hold as well.
Continuing to lie about what you really think is a lot easier than crediting the President’s team for having an effective message and sticking to it. It’s easier than admitting that the Democrats in targeted states are mopping the floor with Republicans on the ground game. It’s certainly easier than blaming Mitt Romney for embracing a far-right message, or blaming the Tea Party nutjobs who not only forced him there, but are also responsible for knocking more mainstream US Senate candidates off in the primaries, leaving the Republican Party with embarrassing losers.
What Democrats need to do – both in Texas and Nationally – is continue doing what you’re doing: get out the damn Democratic vote. What we should do is pretend we never heard the Republicans lie about what they think will happen, and pretend you never read how I responded. Because the GOTV activity – all of it – counts for something. In some areas of Texas, it counts for just about everything.
But don’t be fooled as the unintended recipient of the Republican pundit machine message – they’re just doing CYA duty for all the rich guys they pried money from. They’re creating the Wednesday morning narrative that starts with “Romney would have won, and we’d have a majority in the Senate, if only [fill in the blank with weather reports, or anything else not in the control of the SuperPAC you just gave millions to].” And their narrative ends with “and that’s why it’s not my fault.”
Democrats, continue to work your hearts out to win every one of these elections; you haven’t developed a narrative that ends that way. Your only remaining choice is to do everything doable to win whatever elections you’re working on.
I had feared going into tonight’s debate on foreign policy that the President might fare as poorly as a draw, because even as he was winning in the second debate last week, he didn’t do a particularly great job explaining himself when the topic turned to foreign policy then. It was mostly because of Governor Romney’s blunder on precisely when Obama first termed the attack in Libya “terrorism,” and moderator Candy Crowley’s assist on that question, that people weren’t talking about it later. Instead, they were talking about Romney being wrong. Again.
But my fears of a draw were for nothing, because Obama came loaded for bear, hitting Romney again and again on Romney’s incoherent positions, leaving Romney reeling on his heels for the first full 30 minutes of the 90 minute debate. Obama was not only more in command, but he had the lion’s share of the memorable dingers certain to be re-played over the next few days.
Obama was also first out of the chute to turn a debate slated to be 100 percent foreign policy into a discussion about domestic policy, which was admittedly just fine with Romney. But on that front as well, Obama edged out Romney with his command of the issues and the agressiveness of his attacks on Romney’s ever-varying positions.
The most puzzling thing about the debate is why the exact same Mitt Romney showed up this week as the Mitt Romney who showed up last week. Romney lost that debate, and this week’s performance should have been an opportunity for course corrections.
It would be difficult to over-state the importance of Obama winning this last debate. Obama losing the first of the three proved how damaging it is for an incumbent President to be caught napping – nobody was ever even talking about this being a serious race until Romney bested him their first time out. But Democrats breathed a sigh of relief when the Obama who showed up tonight was the same Obama who showed up last week. He was eager to very forcefully defend his policies, and equally eager to define Romney’s lack of consistency before Romney could innoculate himself against the charge.
More local to Texas, guess who else is breathing a little easier now? Democrats on the same ballot running in tough real estate. Wendy Davis in the Senate. State House members like Craig Eiland in Galveston, Joe Moody in El Paso, or Donna Howard in Austin. Congressional candidates like Pete Gallego or Nick Lampson. Those Dems don’t need Obama to win in their districts, and in some of those examples, Obama certainly won’t. But what those down-ballot Democrats can’t have is Obama getting creamed in their districts, creating such a drag on their own races that voters don’t even consider the individual Democrats running down-ballot. That’s what happened across the state two years ago, which was key to creating the Republican supermajority in the state House. And Obama besting Romney in the last two of their three debates probably swings hundreds of state legislative districts across the country, including some in Texas.
Tonight’s debate moderator Bob Schieffer is probably breathing easier as well, since he may have become the only moderator in the 2012 debate season who is all-but-unassailable in his performance tonight. He kept complete command of the event, and neither played it safe nor strayed into territory which partisans on either side could credibly criticize as rationale for why their little perfect angel of a candidate “would have” won.
There’s no doubt that it was the Obama’s night, and the President very much needed another one, like the one he had last week. Even after Romney’s first debate win created a Romney bump, the electoral map still looked daunting for the Republicans – but at least they could see a glimmer of hope.
But since this debate was the last opportunity for Romney to fuel a surge for his campaign (barring breaking news neither campaign can control), things may start returning to the bleakness Republicans were beginning to feel before the debate season.
All-in-all, it was a bad night for Romney, at the worst possible timing. Looking forward, watch out of wild-ass charges coming from Republicans aimed at Obama. It may well be the only play they have left to make.
I have to hand it to Mitt Romney – he had a very spirited first half of a debate tonight. Unfortunately for him, he had it with moderator Candy Crowley.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama ran the table, seemingly without Romney noticing.
Obama showed up to tonight’s town hall-style debate clear about what he needed to accomplish. He was determined to not let pass any moment during which Romney misrepresented either his own or Obama’s positions or record. On this front alone, Obama would have won the debate.
But, especially in the first half, Obama didn’t just win, he mopped the floor with Romney. He showed all the spirit he was lacking in the first debate. He held Romney’s feet to the fire in all the ways his campaign wished he had in the first debate. And he dominated, without seeming domineering, like he should have in the first debate.
It’s not that the second half of tonight’s town hall was much better for Romney. It was, however, more scary for Obama supporters. Obama got a bit wild-eyed toward the end, and Obama voters could be forgiven for being tempted to want to reach through the TV and push him back just a bit. But he always pulled himself back just in time.
Incidentally, I read the memorandum of understanding between the two campaigns earlier today, and everybody involved – including Crowley – broke the agreed-to rules, big-time. But it was already clear before tonight that debate rules were meant to be broken, and it didn’t detract from this information flow. Mostly it was amusing.
Crowley, for her part, showed up determined not to be Lehrer’ed, and she succeeded. On the other hand, calling on a voter to ask a question about guns, before you had ever called on anybody to ask about public education, when you’re running out of time? Seriously?
I was in the studio at YNN Austin, watching the debate on the set with Republican frequent partner-in-crime Ted Delisi, and Ted had an interesting observation I completely agree with: the Presidential Debate Commission never picks Texas as a debate site. I think Ted’s onto something, especially watching the white people-fest that passes for “a diverse group of undecided voters” in New York. Let’s face it: those yankees were annoying the crap out of me. What about a town hall debate in San Antonio next time, Commissioners? We’ll show you diverse, and we promise that not all the questions will be about taking our guns away.
What now? I think the President gets his solid momentum back, that’s what now. I think the big gender gap in which an overwhelming majority of women support Obama is reinforced. I think serious doubts about Mitt Romney among a lot of swing voters in key states returns. And I think in the few days we’ll begin to see the polling swing back Obama’s way, with him gaining back a lot of ground lost two weeks ago after his weak debate performance then.
And I think Democrats can afford exactly one-half of a sigh of relief. Because the bottom line is, this will still be a very close race and Democrats have a lot of work left to do to win it.
Tonight is Barack Obama’s big chance.
Two weeks ago, Mitt Romney was able to reverse much of weeks, if not months, of a Bataan death march of a campaign because of the President’s lackluster debate performance. It showed in a reversal of the national polls, most of which showed Romney in the lead after the first debate, and in key state polls which showed at least a bump for the Massachusetts Governor. There’s little doubt that the first debate, for the first time in months, made Mitt Romney at contender.
Last week, Vice President Biden stopped the bleeding, in his own debate performance against Paul Ryan. Biden didn’t hit a home run, but he got a solid base hit and fired up the team. (again with the sports analogies)
But ultimately, incumbent Presidents have to make a case for themselves to win re-election. It helps when a former President like Bill Clinton makes a strong case for Obama, as Clinton did at the Democrats’ national convention. It helps when Joe Biden makes a strong case for Obama, as he did last week. Now it’s time for the President to make a strong case for himself.
If the President can do it tonight, he’ll be back in a commanding position in the election. And if he can’t, we’ll have a real race on our hands. No pressure there, huh?
Complicating Obama’s job is the format. Town hall meetings mean the candidates are talking to real live undecided voters, in person. In order to connect with the voters across the country who count the most – undecided voters in the swing states – Obama must first connect with the undecided voter in the room tonight asking the question. He can’t just score points in skirmishes with his opponent, or moderator Candy Crowley.
Crowley herself is another factor. Arguably, she’ll be the moderator this election most inclined toward sharp challenges to a questionable claim either candidate makes. This is certainly something that Mr. Romney will have to take into account, since Crowley is unlikely to let slide Romney’s ever-shifting policy positions. But Crowley is certain not to fail to take the President to the woodshed any time she thinks he’s weaseling on.
This is the second time the two candidates have met, and second debates are always about course corrections for the loser of the first debate. It is a certainty that we will see a very different Barack Obama tonight than we saw two weeks ago. The real question is, will the Obama we see tonight perform more effectively than the one we saw two weeks ago? My guess is that he’ll get his groove back tonight, if only because he’s shown himself to be at his best when his back is against the wall.
Here’s what I said about it on Fox News in Austin last night. Frequent Republican partner-in-crime Ted Delisi and I will be on the pre-game show, and post-game analysis, on YNN Austin this evening, beginning at 7:45 Central.
Remember what I said earlier this week, in the piece below this one, about what President Obama and Governor Romney needed to do, and needed to avoid tonight? None of that happened.
When I wrote the piece below, about how Romney could win tonight’s debate, it undoubtedly wasn’t what my favorite Democratic friends wanted to hear. Neither will this piece.
I said in the debate preview that Romney needed to change the game, since he’s the guy who’s behind. Romney failed to do it.
I also said in the preview that Obama needed to avoid getting to explainy, and he failed to avoid it spectacularly. I also said he needed to connect with voters at an emotional level, and he didn’t do that either.
Luckily for the President, Romney matched Obama explainy-for-explainy, and together, arm-in-arm, both candidates happily dove, over the decomposing corpse of moderator Jim Lehrer, right off the explanation cliff.
I’ll be blunt: this was the most boring, and least effectively moderated, Presidential debate ever.
Obama’s objective was clearly to put Romney on the defensive, and Obama succeeded – the entire night was essentially about Romney. But Romney comported himself well enough, and in hindsight his ability to do so was entirely predictable. Obama’s strategy put Romney right into Romney’s comfort zone, where he has the most experience: debating on defense. He got that experience during the approximately 1,348,499 debates held during the Republican nominating process. Since he was the perceived frontrunner during most of those debates, he got accustomed to debates being a referrendum on Romney’s proposals.
To be fair, Obama’s strategy might have been more effective if Lehrer, the moderator, had managed not to doze off along with the rest of America. From Obama supporters’ perspective, whoppers were being hooked, but not reeled in. One need look no farther than the first excruciating 15 minutes of the debate, in which an extended discussion of Romney’s tax plan was batted around. It became more apparent than ever that the answer to the core question – does Romney’s tax plan balance, or not – is dependent on the component of the plan Romney has steadfastly declined to clarify: which tax deductions will he eliminate?
This would have been a perfect time for Mr. Lehrer to return from the restroom where he was taking a leak and simply press Romney for an answer about which tax deductions would get axed. If Romney had declined to answer, that would have been big news. If Romney had finally given a straight answer, that would have been even bigger news, and a pretty neat thing for Americans to know, I’m guessing. Or so you’d think. Lehrer also let Romney run away from his own tax plan without significant challenge.
You’d also think that in a 90 minute debate exclusively about domestic issues, Lehrer might have encouraged the candidates to devote a good 10-15 seconds or so on women. But if there was any discussion whatsoever on the issues associated with the largest gender gap for Republicans in recent political memory, I must have missed it…which would have been understandable since it was a challenge to stay awake.
I will say this for the President: he did lay out a clear-eyed, sober, level-headed case for himself, while Governor Romney was busy defending his proposals. But because both men said way too little and took way too much time saying it, the message was lost to television viewership which was undoubtedly plummeting by the minute as the boredom set in.
Make no mistake – I don’t believe this debate changed the game, so on that score Obama won, because he’s the man in the lead. But a man as gifted as Obama should have connected better, and wonked less. A journalist with the stature of Jim Lehrer shouldn’t have let both candidates muck around in the weeds without either of them covering any significant new ground. And on points that probably don’t change a thing, Romney did well tonight.
This is the week journalists will be asking everybody in sight how Romney can change the game by winning the debate Wednesday (spoiler alert – they already are). And the mere fact that they’re asking how Romney can change the game is the clearest indication yet that Romney is losing.
Fact is, my Democratic friends who claim this election is over – Obama’s already won it – are engaged in wishful thinking. Debates can change the election mood. So can 36 remaining days worth of world events, economic reports, and potential gaffes by one candidate or another, even aside from debates.
The odds are overwhelming that the President will emerge from this and the other two Presidential debates just fine. After all, it is, indeed, Mitt Romney who must change the game, not Barack Obama. Obama must only prevent Romney from presenting such a compelling case that voters change their minds and decide to fire the President.
But lest we forget: Ronald Reagan was still trailing Jimmy Carter until after a strong debate showing. Rick Perry was still considered a formidable candidate until the debates. George H.W. Bush was still solidly in “incumbent advantage” mode until he impatiently and ineptly kept glancing at his watch to see how many more minutes he had left to endure the pipsqueak Bill Clinton, until the debates. Some Texans were still under the impression that Kinky Friedman was something more than a second rate jokester until a gubernatorial debate clearly showed that he was actually a third rate one. Debates can, indeed, change the tone.
Here are five ways the election can be re-set to Mitt Romney’ advantage this Wednesday night:
1. Obama, who can get very explainy, can be inordinately explainy this Wednesday. The only politician alive who can get away with explaining government to people is Bill Clinton. The efforts of everybody else to do so is the fastest way known to man to make voters’ eyes glaze over. Obama needs to communicate values and priorities – not assault voters’ ear drums with facts and figures, which in an incumbent protection election sound like excuses. If Obama gets stuck in those weeds, Romney will win the debate.
2. The President must connect to people at an emotional level. Letting his personal annoyance with Romney show through isn’t a good way to do it – it’s more of a way to give voters the impression that Obama is arrogant. The “I deeply care about the future of this country” message Obama needs to convey could well be interrupted by the competing “Mitt, you really annoy the crap out of me and I’d like to squash you like the mosquito you are” negative message Obama will convey if he’s not careful.
3. Mr. Romney could, at long last, focus on the economy in such a compelling way that it captures voters’ attention. Yes, we got to #3 before even approaching a possibility that Romney can control – one of the big problems with the Romney campaign – but the possibility exists. Romney’s camp has said all year that he wants the election to be about the economy, and all year long Romney has instead been veering off chasing pretty butterflies instead. If Romney makes this Wednesday’s debate about the economy, and treats it like the beginning of a continuing process lasting for the duration of the election, instead of treating it like a sound byte he visits from time to time, in between pointless Obama-dinging on other issues, Romney could change the game.
4. Romney could surprise everybody by getting specific about what a Romney administration would look like; he could answer the nagging questions that have been holding back his candidacy. Does his tax plan balance – without doing away with the most popular deductions? Can he actually answer the health care reform question in a way in which he doesn’t appear to be on all sides of the issue? Can he explain why, if he’s blaming Obama on not fixing the economy in 3 years, why he insists it will take him two terms to fix it if he’s elected? Can he explain Medicare and Social Security such that it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of seniors? Personally I think the answer to all these questions is “no, he can’t,” but if he somehow finds a way to do so, it would change the game.
5. Obama could just flat-out screw something up. Obama is not gaffe-free, which is a factor people tend to forget since Romney is a gaffe machine.
But now, after the above five factors are giving Obama voters nightmares, here is the good news: none of the above is likely to happen.
The President knows what’s at stake, and he’s unlikely to seriously misstep. But even if he does, Mr. Romney has had week after week of bad news, and it may well be the case that voters no longer consider him a credible messenger, to the extent that no matter what he says and does, voters could respond with “that makes sense – too bad that guy is full of crap.”
Mitt Romney has invested the last eight years showing voters that he’s still not quite ready for prime time. His history shows that he probably doesn’t have the sheer talent to press the reset button on all those years with one good night this Wednesday.
And that assumption by voters makes it a little more likely that he’ll be able to do it. But only a little.
Here’s the TV schedule this week: I’ll be on Fox News in Austin tomorrow night at 9 pm with a debate preview. Then on Austin’s YNN Wednesday, I’ll be on both before and after the debate with predictions and analysis. And, as always, I’ll be on YNN’s Capital Tonight Thursday night at 7 pm with the whole wrap-up, plus discussion about Jay Root’s new book about Rick Perry.
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.
Was it just yesterday, after a picture-perfect first day, when I said this?
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.
Why yes, yes it was indeed just yesterday when I said that. And then the Democrats screwed something up. But Bill Clinton made sure it won’t matter, and Cecile Richards made me proud. Here’s what happened:
Bad Democrats: platform stupid human tricks
The first night of the convention was so utterly picture-perfect the Republicans could find little to moan and groan about. But since it is their sworn duty to moan and groan, they were forced to do a little reading before they went to bed, and they found two things in the party platform to complain about: God and Jerusalem.
Say what? Glad you asked. Apparently when comparing this year’s platform to the previous one, the new platform omitted the word “God.” Never mind that people who are experts on, and rather fond of God were not complaining about this. Also, never mind that the mention of God in the previous platform had nothing to do with religion, but in context was a reference to growing the middle class. And finally, never mind that the new platform has an entire section on faith. They complained. It’s their job.
The new platform also omitted a previous plank regarding support for Jerusalem being the capitol of Israel. Similar to the God thing above, never mind that pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli groups didn’t seem to be complaining about this. Also, never mind that those groups participated in the two public hearings the convention’s platform draft committee had held, and had never brought it up, despite sharing input on several other Israel-related planks of the platform. And never mind that as this dust-up gained steam, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States declined to say much about it beyond, “…bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.” Also, never mind that no matter what the platform says, it is simply a matter of fact and record that it is, indeed, President Obama’s stated policy that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. And finally, never mind that it is Republican President George Bush, not the Democrats, who resisted Congressional attempts to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Never mind all that stuff. Complaints must be made, and the platform dust-up dominated convention coverage all day. The whole thing floors me, since the party platform is among the most manageable departments associated with a national convention – that Democrats were clumsy enough to give the Republicans ammo is bad enough. But when the President weighed in and directed the convention to fix the platform, the Democrats got even more clumsy.
Oh, they fixed the platform alright. Except that they forgot to mention this big plan to anybody who would vote on the fix, and when they gaveled the convention in yesterday afternoon and immediately voted to fix it, confusion reigned supreme. It looked like amateur hour.
God remained unavailable for comment regarding either platform screw-up. But Republicans, always eager to explain to us what God thinks, were in abundant supply.
Did the Republican attack work? Well, we’re discussing it here, aren’t we? It was a dumb unforced error.
Good Democrats: Big Dawg to the rescue
Clinton is the only man alive who can get away with explaining facts and figures to people and still make it interesting. He became a one-man Politifact-esque wrecking ball, and utterly demolished every major charge the Republicans leveled against President Obama at their gathering last week in Tampa. He explained the economic recovery. He explained Obama’s health care reform act. He explained why the Republicans’ proposals don’t add up. He explained the national debt. And yes, while all that all sounds pretty boring as convention fodder, he did it all so well that he had trouble getting the delegates to stop partying their asses off and laughing with him at the Republicans.
By the time Clinton finished dismembering the Republicans 48 minutes later, even the conservative talking heads on the nets were throwing in the towel.
While there were many speakers on last night’s schedule who moved delegates and TV viewers, there is no doubt that Democrats fully intended for Clinton to dominate the news cycle, and he did. Of all the national conventions I have watched or attended over the years, there are, maybe, five to eight game-changing speeches I remember. Bill Clinton’s speech last night takes its rightful place among them, and if President Obama wins re-election this fall, Clinton’s speech last night may be one reason why he does.
…and a point of personal privilege: Cecile Richards
I have known Cecile Richards for more than 20 years. I worked for her mother. I worked with her husband. Her dad – the world’s oldest practicing lawyer – and I have been, and remain, BFFs. Her oldest daughter Lily used to draw me pictures back in the day when she was a little girl, and those pictures lived on my refrigerator door and made me smile.
To sum it up, Cecile and I are acquainted.
Cecile, now the President of Planned Parenthood, showed any few remaining doubters last night that she lives in nobody’s shadow. She very articulately explained why women are, and should be, insulted by Republican efforts to go back on reproductive rights, economic or personal freedoms, and just by-God basic issues of fundamental respect. She laid out the case for the Democrats, and did it well.
I’ve spent my entire adult life being proud of, and fond of, folks in the Richards family. And I’ve never been more proud than after watching Cecile’s performance last night. Job well done, my friend.
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.
Remember back before Obama released his long-form birth certificate, and 15 percent of Americans didn’t believe he was born in the United States?
Yeah. Well now it’s 20 percent.
Rock on, brainiacs.
Apparently Joe Biden thinks this, too, is a big effin deal.
I trust others besides me have noticed that the last week or so has been the worst for conservative Republicans since Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008?
It started last week when the Komen Foundation, at the behest of right-wingers so dead-set against Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s leading health care providers to women, tried to screw the organization out of breast cancer screening funds, and in the process only succeeding in destroying their own good brand. Komen is still writhing around in the muck, trying to salvage what little is left of their organization, without much success. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, has raised millions in extra funding and will undoubtedly step up, not cut back, on breast cancer screenings and other crucial preventive health care services.
Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 1
Next, the new job numbers came out. Turns out that despite Congressional Republicans’ best efforts to block as much of the President’s plan to right the economy as they can, the Obama administration’s efforts have been humming right along, and there is new optimism that the economy is going in the right direction, after years of worry. Suddenly the people who have tried for two years to pin the unemployment picture on Obama were arguing that presidents don’t really affect employment anyway, so it’s irrelevant. Right.
Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 2
In another development which is undoubtedly directly attributable to the news on jobs, National polling immediately showed an up-tick in Obama’s support, for the first time opening up some daylight in the theoretical general election match-ups, and showing Obama beating Mitt Romney in November.
Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 3
But speaking of front-runner Mitt “pink slip” Romney, funny thing happened on the way to the Republican nominating process yesterday in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Romney didn’t win any of them. Neither did the self-proclaimed conservative alternative to Romney, Newt “vagina whisperer” Gingrich. Instead, back-bencher Rick Santorum won them all, in a stinging rebuke of virtually every big money Republican funder and every establishment Republican leader, except for the evangelical leadership most out of tune with general election voters.
After Romney’s big come-back in Florida, Romney had about ten days to consolidate his support into a national movement. And with all the money and organization in the world to do so, he failed. Gingrich, being the chief architect of his own demise, has made himself seem qualified to be nothing more than the governor of our newest state, the moon. Which left Santorum to reap the benefit of one of the biggest leadership voids to hit the Republican Party since Herbert Hoover.
Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 4
So where do they go from here? The Republican nomination is in complete disarray. This, by itself, is not necessarily a train wreck for them – need I remind Democrats that at this point in our own nominating process four years ago, we were incapable of making a decision between Obama and Clinton?
No, here’s the train wreck, and the difference: four years ago, Democrats couldn’t make up their minds because our choices were both so damn good. Republicans today can’t make up their minds because each of their remaining four choices is so utterly and fundamentally flawed. The conservatives who make up the bulk of the Republican base hate Romney’s policies. Gingrich has made himself completely unlikeable to more mainstream establishment Republicans. Ron Paul is very busy being Ron “you kids get off my lawn” Paul. And Rick Santorum, being the new guy with the wind at his back, is about to have the worst three or four news cycles of his life, dealt him by Romney’s attack machine, which has all the cash.
Republican voters freshly supporting Santorum do so knowing very little about the man – they’re just opposing Gingrich and Romney. They’re about to know more about Santorum than Mr. Santorum ever wanted them to know.
Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 5
And that’s just a week. Have a great day, Republicans.
Update: oops, I forgot about this, the Proposition 8 ruling supporting Californians’ civil rights, despite me listing it in my head earlier before I got to my computer.
Score: Republicans: 0, everybody else: 6