Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack's Speech and the Palin Shocker

Within the course of just about 15 hours, two incredible events occurred proving the possibilities of the American experience. Last night, a black man accepted the nomination of a major political party and delivered an address with words that will live much longer than any of us. Today, a woman was named the vice presidential choice of the other major political party for the first time in its long history.

As you might imagine, I have strongly different feelings about the particulars of both events. But as someone who loves this country deeply, I can't help but feel privileged to be cognizant of the happenings of the 2008 United States presidential election. This has been the most spellbinding, compelling, and important election season of my lifetime, and these seminal events have set up a 67-day run to November 4 none of us will ever forget.

First, Barack's speech. 38 million Americans saw the greatest moment of Obama's campaign, and one of the greatest moments in American history by extension. While I didn't get a chance to watch and hear the entire thing (the speech was on in the Pub last night but Brotherhood of Groove was far too loud and far too awesome to be drowned out by even Obama), I caught the last 10 minutes or so and then watched highlights of most of the important parts. Obama was poised, composed, clear, concise, and unabashedly tough in the biggest moment of his life. It's almost like we can't expect anything less from Obama when he steps to the microphone. Some have tried to knock Obama for being a great speaker. However, Obama's ability to continually rise to the occasion on the national stage proves the backbone and mettle possessed inside this man's heart.

Obama called on Americans to take responsibility for improving their own welfare in many aspects, a Kennedy-esque message that Democrats seem to have forgotten in recent years. He was very tough on John McCain, essentially calling him "W: Part II," claiming that he "doesn't get" regular Americans and their concerns, and in his most personal attack yet on McCain, called into question his temperament to be Commander in Chief.

As the Obama camp tried to convey in the build-up to this speech in front of almost 85,000 at Mile High, it wasn't a rhetorically beautiful speech meant to reinforce all the things Obama has already stated. This was a new direction for the Illinois Senator, one meant to go right after McCain on his own turf, and call his vast Democratic support base to arms in the battle of change against the status quo. It makes me wonder if spending time with Joe Biden has awakened this bulldog mentality in Obama. If that's the case, and the Democrats are finally ready to grow a pair and show that Republicans are the exact opposite of what America needs to go forward, I feel like my party will be tough to beat nationwide.

The Democratic Convention in Denver was a smashing success overall. I had tears in my eyes Wednesday, following the official vote by acclimation of Barack Obama to be Democratic nominee, when John Lewis told David Gregory that all his 1960s civil rights work had finally paid off. Later, Bill Clinton soothed the party and the nation by saying that his own experience as president proved to him that Obama is ready for the job. And Joe Biden capped the night wonderfully with his typical tough, humorous self and the surprise appearance by Obama brought the house down. After being somewhat underwhelmed by the first two days of the convention, I finished watching the coverage Wednesday night and felt like both my party and I were ready to go and ready to win.

Last night proved that great things can still happen in America. Today, we saw the ascension of another unlikely person to a presidential ticket. At 10:45 this morning I turned on my TV expecting to learn that Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Joe Lieberman had become the vice-presidential nominee for John McCain. Instead, by jaw hit the floor to learn that 44-year-old Sarah Palin, just one and one half years into her first term as Alaska's governor, would become the most improbable VP pick in decades.

I have to hand it to McCain and the Republicans. Had the pick been one of the three men I mentioned above, I can't help but feel the media would have talked about it for a few minutes, covered the introduction speech today in Dayton, and then gotten back to covering Obama's speech. However, the Palin stunner has really wiped Obama's speech off the coverage and is stoking people's interest heading into the Republican Convention in St. Paul next week.

I'd heard Palin's name mentioned really only in passing when it came to the Veepstakes. Her youth, inexperience, low national profile and the recent birth of her fifth child seemed to take her out of the running. But McCain saw an opportunity to rock the political world with an out-of-the-box choice, and Palin provided that without shaking most of his policy points.

Palin, who only two years ago was the mayor of a town roughly the size of Wolfeboro, NH, is suddenly thrust on the national stage with not very much time to go before the actual election. She is both fiscally and socially conservative, which satisfies the base of the party and certainly makes many Bush Republicans happy. Her brief time as Alaska's governor gives her the most executive experience of anyone on either major party ticket. She appears, from the brief things I've seen of her, that she has a terrific, vivacious personality that should engage all of us. Plus, even though she's pumped out five kids, she's still kinda hot. Take a look at the Fix and tell me she doesn't look EXACTLY like Tina Fey in her picture there.

But don't get me wrong, this pick for McCain qualifies as a stretch in just about every other area. She has ZERO foreign policy and national security credentials when those seem to be the only issues the Republicans can claim to have any sort of even equal footing with Democrats. When she gets in the debate with Joe Biden, it will border on comical when they have to discuss these issues.

I think a big part of McCain making this decision was to obviously try and scoop up disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. Well, I can't help but feel that is somewhat of a pipe dream given the wide disparity between the ultra-conservative Palin and Clinton. In Hillary's Tuesday speech, she openly asked her supporters if "they were in it just for me?" She then went on to explain that the best chance those supporters had to realize their dreams was to vote for Barack Obama, because John McCain would not be able to deliver in the same way. While some may be attracted first to this idea of a woman on the ticket, once those former Clinton supporters look into Palin's record they will almost certainly dislike what they see. Politico's Ben Smith just reported on MSNBC that Palin does not support abortion rights for rape victims, which puts her far, far to the right of even John McCain. In the end, I don't see the attempt to attract these women just because there's a woman on the ticket working.

Regardless, having Palin on the ticket was a bold, inspiring move for a party that really needed a shot of life. Obama's speech last night riled up his base and I can't wait to see where he and Biden take their campaign next.

As Tim Russert would say, what a country.

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