Posts Tagged ‘Democratic National Convention’

What It Was Like Inside Obama’s Speech at Invesco

August 29, 2008

It’s a remarkable thing to watch one man address more than 70,000. Even from my vantage point right on the 50 yard line, Barack Obama’s head was only a dot. On video monitors to the right and the left of the Greek columns that surrounded the dot, massive versions of Mr. Obama’s face appeared. Two scoreboards on the upper deck showed two other even larger faces.

I don’t know what it looked like on television, but to say that within the stadium the speech worked is an understatement. As Mr. Obama slowly picked up momentum after the sun set and the Denver air turned cool, hundreds, thousands of flash bulbs went off – just like the Super Bowl when Adam Vinatieri kicked a winning field goal.

To be there, as I was, one of thousands, watching the men and women in the crowd boo in unison or wave American flags briskly back and forth or slowly rise to give the candidate a standing ovation was an entirely unique experience. I’ve seen Mr. Obama speak to more than 15,000 people in a basketball arena with Oprah Winfrey in New Hampshire. That was nothing like tonight.  To witness the group dynamic, to see not individual faces but red, white and blue masses undulating with the ebb and flow of the nominee’s cadences stands apart from anything I have experienced in American politics. The crowd itself became a political actor — beautiful and scary, mesmerizing and revolting.

When Mr. Obama trained his sights on the most successful attack of John McCain’s campaign, the charge that the Illinois senator was somehow a celebrity, the crowd erupted into an orgiastic frenzy. “I don’t know what of lives celebrities lead but this has been mine,” Mr. Obama orated. The next words were lost in a sea of hooting, cheering, bellowing and stomping.

After his jibe at Mr. McCain — seemingly on the command of the event’s stage manager — a wind began to blow from across the Rockies. Mr. Obama delivered the lines of the speech: “The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America – they have served the United States of America.”

At this, the crowd thundered. Chants of “USA! USA!” sprang up. The passage, which evoked his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, brought back all the promise of his keynote address.

When it was over, Mr. Obama stood on the stage alone and waved for what seemed like too long of a period. Too many moments passed without Michelle Obama and the children. It was awkward empty time. And then the pyrotechnics started, and streamers which shot out rocket like and then landed limp upon a video monitor and those all so controversial Greek columns.

Clearly Mr. Obama and his handlers were unafraid of pushing their acceptance speech too far. Everything about it was larger than life except for the streamers lying lifeless at the end.

Yes We Can — Food Frustration at Invesco

August 29, 2008

People power might be doing a great job energizing Barack Obama’s campaign, but it’s not doing so well at Invesco Field – at least as far as the concession stands are concerned.

It’s no surprise that the lines for food were long before Mr. Obama’s speech. But once hungry attendees got in line there often seemed to be no movement at all. Concessionaires at one stand ran out of chicken, hot dogs and other products before 7 p.m. mountain time. When one customer ordered nachos, for example, the server had to walk 20 feet back and forth within the stand for cheese.

It was a chaotic, frustrating scene. As the nerves of hungry patrons rose, the servers pleaded for patience. They were volunteers, they explained.

Cross posted at the New York Sun.

Getting Into Invesco

August 29, 2008

I just made my way into the Invesco Center. Per the recommendation of Convention authorities, I took Denver’s light rail and found a smooth way in.

As passengers exited the train and made their way to the stadium, they were met with scores of supplicants asking for tickets to Barack Obama’s speech as if it were a Denver Broncos game. One man held a handwritten sign tersely reading “need tickets.” A woman held a more creative one reading, “share the hope and any extra tickets.”

Once attendees got through the metal detectors the sound of drums could be heard. A multi-racial group of musicians wearing red “East High Drumline” pounded away.

As unusual as the outdoor speech is for modern American politics, such events were common during the 19th Century as entertainment and campaigning.

Cross posted at The New York Sun.

Republic of Georgia Lobbies Democrats

August 27, 2008

A little known side of my professional life is that I used to cover foreign policy. This was back in the days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal when nobody cared about what I was writing — the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, terrorism, Osama bin Laden. I got to use those muscles when I uncovered the intense effort being undertaken by the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to make their cause bipartisan. Because of their government’s association with President Bush and contribution to the war in Iraq progressive enthusiasm for their plight has been tepid. Read the piece here.

The chairman of Georgia’s Parliament, “David Bakradze called on liberals to back his cause. ‘We have a case of a small democratic nation, attacked by a large autocratic neighbor,’ he said. ‘I think the case speaks for itself. What Georgia is guilty for is … that we don’t want to be part of this autocratic system and we want to have a right to choose, to choose our democratic system, to choose values, and to choose our security arrangements like NATO. It’s about values, democracy, and protection of human rights. It should be very important to liberals.’

Mr. Bakradze, who is the head of a Georgian delegation attending the NDI program and meeting with American officials, is using his visit to strengthen support for his country among Democrats. Members of his group have spoken to a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, Susan Rice; an informal adviser to Mr. Obama and the director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Graham Allison; Mrs. Albright; a former ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York.

Mr. Engel told the Sun that he spoke with Mr. Bakradze as they were entering the Pepsi Center on Monday night. ‘I’m glad they’re here to explain this to people who are not as aware of the situation as I am,’ Mr. Engel, who favors speeding up the entry of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, said. ‘I told them I for one was very sympathetic to the cause of Georgian freedom. We should not allow the Russians to operate with impunity there.’

Mr. Obama’s selection of Senator Biden as his running mate drew praise from Mr. Bakradze, who noted that the Delaware senator visited his country earlier this month and backed a $1 billion aid package for Georgia. Mr. Bakradze also seemed eager to dispel the perception that his country’s cause was only a Republican cause.

‘I think what we very much appreciate is that Georgia is a bipartisan issue in American politics, and we very much appreciate that we hear very good statements from Senator Obama, very good statements from Senator McCain,’ he said. ‘This should be a bipartisan issue, and we very much value the support of the Democratic Party on this.’

The Georgian official specifically rebutted the argument prevalent in the left-leaning blogosphere that Russia’s invasion of Georgia was made possible by the American war in Iraq. ‘In Iraq, the situation was very different. It was an internationally recognized crisis. Saddam Hussein was recognized as a person who conducted ethnic cleansing against his own population,’ Mr. Bakradze said. He suggested that better precedents for the situation today in Georgia included the Soviet Union’s military entries into Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Finland.”

David Nyhan on Ted Kennedy

May 17, 2008

The last great piece of David Nyhan’s life was his story on Ted Kennedy just prior to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Read it here.

Nyhan had a great anecdote in Kennedy’s role in getting Boston the 2004 Democratic National Convention: “When he returns to the old executive mansion nowadays, he mostly stays downstairs. Except for the Clinton interregnum, it’s always been business: negotiations, state dinners, bill signings. Now he’s on the verge of having one of his own back upstairs in the living quarters, over the store at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. But Kerry’s not the only local politician who has benefited from Kennedy’s considerable political bulk. Menino spent four years pursuing this month’s Democratic National Convention. He got it down to the two-yard line, then called for Kennedy to push the ball over the goal line. Kennedy dialed up Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic Party chairman, with this message: Tell me if Boston has a real chance to snag this, or is it a bag job for New York?

Kennedy was assured it wasn’t in the satchel for New York, that Boston was alive, but the key issue was money and the $50-odd million needed from Massachusetts Democrats. Kennedy joined Menino working the phones, collaring wealthy donors, encouraging wary business types, smoothing out the wrinkles in the city’s pitch. Save for his buddy Menino, no one did more to land the city’s first convention. Whether Kennedy is also the kingmaker, we won’t know until November. But along with Menino, he is co-maker of the throne.”

Nyhan died in 2005 and we miss him. I’ll do my best to help fill the void on NECN at 4 p.m. as part of breaking news coverage.

Hillary Clinton’s Next Argument

April 3, 2008

Wilson Franklin Roosevelt

The New York Sun this week unveils a new design for its website and my column appears on it today.

If Clinton stays in the race past the Pennsylvania primary, I believe she’ll start to invoke the tough convention fights faced by both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. While it’s a given that the conventions of the early 20th Century were much different than today, it’s still worth pointing out that both these Democratic stars faced contentious and lengthy convention fights. Wilson’s nomination took an eye-popping 46 ballots and even Roosevelt, who went into the 1932 convention as the favorite, need four ballots and a break for delegates to sleep, to win the nomination. If these conventions did no harm to either of these candidates, the Democratic Party or their ultimate presidency’s, then Clinton can make her case to stay in the race today.

Here’s a line about the potential value of Roosevelt and Wilson to her campaign: “They will be the best kind of friends for her, because unlike living former allies, such as Governor Richardson, who endorsed Mr. Obama, they can’t, as dead men, prevent the Clintons from speaking in their name.”