The Widening Gyre: We Fall in Love with Michelle Obama (and Remember Why We Always Wanted to Shake Nancy Pelosi).
DNC Day 1:
The Democratic Party launched its 2008 convention last night but did it backwards. They started with a whimper -- but they did end with a bang. Maybe they just don't have that much ammo, but this election's 'change' party seems to be saving the best for last or pacing themselves or bid(en)ing (sorry) their time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- whom I certainly admire (I guess) for her achievements as both the first woman Speaker and first Italian-American Speaker -- drifted out of the gate with a fumbling, spacey address during which she repeatedly led the mildly interested delegates in a chorus of "John...McCain...is wrong." It felt like an episode of Romper Room -- if the hostess had been popping Valiums. I think she talked about issues, but she turned me off so much that I tuned out. It gave me flashbacks to her and Harry Reid's trying to respond to one of Bush's State of the Union addresses.
The highlights of the night for the Democrats were Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Ma.) and Michelle Obama. Jackson, Jr., delivered a spine-tingling speech, proving himself a very effective orator both in terms of style and content. He argued a strong and specific case for the candidacy of his party's presumptive nominee, which, I suppose, is the reason our two political parties hold these tacky, bloated self-love fests every four years.
The nostalgia vote of the night goes, unsurprisingly, to Sen. Kennedy who, despite a recent diagnosis of cancer in the brain -- and apparently against doctors' orders, not only made an appearance but gave a rather rousing speech -- and a good one, talking some issues and not just rhetoric and fluff. The Ken Burns-made film introducing him was solid, particularly in its historical scope, though I'm not sure all the shots of the Kennedys on their sailboat and commentary from Sen. John Kerry, forever the Flip-Flop King, were really the best choices politically. As if the Democrats needed to foster any more charges of East Coast elitism. But Teddy did give a helluva speech.
And then She appeared. Can I write in Michelle Obama instead of her husband in November? Perhaps that takes it a tad too far. But watching her last night I left asking myself why they've hidden Mrs. Obama from us all this time. The pundits (at least on PBS) said that having her speak was an attempt to put a real face on her husband, to let the American public get to know him better. And I think it did to some degree. The stories of their courtship were humanizing, and her admiration of him is clear. But I think it's all the more clear because we now know her better. Her family's story is compelling, and she-- look, I really have nothing against Laura Bush. Or against librarians. She's spent her life educating children, nothing to scoff at (though her marital choices...) But Mrs. Obama proved herself so damn impressive in her own right as a professional and as a family woman. Plus, she is a compelling speaker. Seemingly completely at ease, totally natural, she really did hold the crowd of delegates in rapture.
As for the PBS coverage, I really do appreciate Jim Lehrer and his team (like poor Judy Woodruff trying to find delegates in the crowd who could put a sentence together). Frankly, I'm not sure I could watch any of the other networks for that long. And it is nice that they have academicians as commentators. But I'm looking forward to see how they cover the Republicans -- and if they use the same experts as last nights' historians who were so excited over the Democrats that I'm guessing they had to change their pants when the cameras were off of them. Yes, I welcomed their historical and substantive insights -- not one comment about any of the speakers' outfits -- but settle down, boys. Flex those critical-thinking muscles, so I don't feel like an ass for believing you.
Also, did you not feel like mentioning the Nazis who may have been planning to try to assassinate Sen. Obama? I know this campaign is all about unification, and I realize these guys who were arrested are probably just some ineffectual little junkies -- but it's taken only one ineffectual little junkie in the past. And it's the truth. Besides this is the fun stuff conventions are made of.
As a final note on night 1 in Denver, I'm guessing they let the Party regulars handle the music for the big night; but, dear god, you're nominating a man whose campaign is supposedly run by a whole mess of scruffy 20-somethings. Please, for the rest of the week let one of those hip grass-rooters plug in his/her iPod and bring the event into the modern era -- or at least an eon with decent musical taste. I totally blank on what your speakers have said when I have to choke down vomit because you're playing songs I hear only at bad bar mitzvah parties. I thought you were running on the 'change' ticket.
Overall, the Democrats better shore up the production value of their convention and give the people more moments like Jackson's, Kennedy's and Obama's speeches and no more like Pelosi's, if they don't want to increase the already existing risk of blowing an election a lot of otherwise-reasonable people have called a sure thing.
Technorati tags: politics, DNC, convention, Kennedy,Pelosi, democrats, McCain, Obama.