7:25 p.m.: I’ve just returned from dinner, because I’ve spent the last two nights wasting the early evening hours taking notes on pre-primetime convention speakers that nobody cares about, and I’m done with it. Done! So — now they’ve presumably whizzed through all the marginally important Dems, and will begin firing the big guns promptly.
7:26 p.m.: As I write, the Foo Fighters are onstage, doing a great, sweaty version of “There Goes My Hero.” Wow ! I always forget how good the Foo Fighters can be. They get rock’n'roll.
- Dave Grohl is a monster. He’s a shaman. His hair has a life of its own. The Republicans didn’t have anything like this in Tampa.
- … although, now that I think about it, the Republicans did have a house band, and that was a lot better than than the canned music the Dems have been using. A good house band is always better than a DJ. With the house band, the Republicans were able to create a sort of ebb and flow of energy in Tampa; give their convention a narrative dynamism that made the endless repetition of talking points seem more exciting than it was. The Dems haven’t had that, and they’ve suffered for it.
- Here’s a song I don’t know. The screen tells me it’s called “Walk.”
- Wow! This is powerful! By the way: it’s always interesting to see black people listen to white rock’n'roll. At the convention, they’re having fun, but they also look like they’re not entirely sure how to dance to it. The beat’s too stiff.
- White people, of course, don’t mind that, because it excuses the bawling abortion they try to pass off as dancing. They sway awkwardly, they doggy paddle, it’s atrocious. But at least everyone’s having fun.
- Is this still the same song? It builds and builds! “I never want to leave/I’ll never say goodbye/I never wanna die/I never wanna die!”
- It is the same song. It’s called “Walk,” and it lasts forever, and it uplifts the soul.
7:33 p.m.: And then there’s the voice of Wolf Blitzer, possibly the least rock’n'roll conclusion to this mini-concert that television could have provided.
- And here’s Piers Morgan with Ashley Judd. Judd knows how to talk politics!
- Wolf Blitzer admits he’s a Foo Fighters fan. Piers is more into Mary J. Blige, who apparently performed earlier this evening. Missed it! Damn.
7:39 p.m.: Here’s Rep. James Clyburn, of South Carolina, speaking in church cadences
7:44 p.m.: Actress Kerry Washington wants us to know: she is here as a black person, as a woman, as a grandchild of immigrants, as a student loan beneficiary, and as “one of millions of volunteers working to reelect Barack Obama.”
Even if you’re not thinking about politics, politics is thinking about you.
- … and it’s not thinking nice things.
- Kerry Washington is excellent at this. She could go into politics.
7:48 p.m.: Scarlet Johansson! There are a ton of celebrities here. James Taylor apparently performed earlier.
- He’s famous for … two songs, right? Neither one’s very good? Yet he’s still trotted out at all of these events where the hosts are seeking both celebrity and respectability. He’s always at those Kennedy Center Honors things — his tribute to Paul McCartney three years ago was, I recall, awful.
- Anyway — Scarlett Johansson. Is it wise to have all these actors and actresses here? Aren’t Democrats reviled for being the Party of Hollywood?
- Ah, but ScarJo has things to teach us. For example: In 2010, only half of all Americans under the age of 25 voted. She says: “Young America, why are we speaking with only half our voice, when there’s so much at stake that affects us?”
- Canned funk blares over the PA, and the crowd dances.
7:58 p.m.: Oh, this will be wrenching — Gabby Giffords and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are here. Debbie helps Giffords to the stage, and Giffords leads us all in the Pledge. She’s still wrestling with brain damage; she can’t walk quite right, stand quite right, or talk quite right — the hardware connecting mind and body is fucked. She swallows a few words in the Pledge, but pronounces most of the others right. She’s smiling. Beaming. She leaves the stage slowly, under her own power, with a look backwards and a kiss to the crowd. Tears everywhere. Women, big black men, everyone crying.
- For two minutes, the whole arena screams: “We love Gabby!”
- Beside me on the couch, my boyfriend is crying. For the first time this convention. He never cries.
8 p.m.: And here’s Caroline Kennedy!
- Nobody’s talking about gun control, but my God, the roster here is a living advertisement for it.
- Caroline’s not the most charismatic speaker, but she’s got gravitas.
- “I was inspired by Barack Obama’s promise,” she says. “Now I’m inspired by his record.”
- She gives The Women’s Spiel. Equal pay for equal work, health decisions in their own hands, etc.
- Barack Obama, says Caroline, “has the quality my father most admired in public life. Courage. [Obama] staked his presidency on making health care accessible to all Americans.“
- It’s easy to hate on Caroline’s dad, and to snicker at all the lionizing language tossed his way, but remember: In WWII, the Japanese did sink his boat, and he did lead his fellow sailors on a nighttime swim to a far-away island, and then to another, rescuing them all. And he did do this while suffering from a bad back, a back so bad it got him kicked out of the army, and which was reinjured in the Japanese attack. And he did this swim while hauling a wounded sailor behind him. Now that John McCain’s never running for president again, the odds of ever again having a president who can whip out that kind of anecdote are pretty slim. Respect.
8:06 p.m.: Entrance of a smiling Rep. Xavier Becerra, of California. Los Angeles.
- He’s giving The Immigrant Spiel.
- And The College Spiel.
- You know these Spiels by now, right?
8:12 p.m.: And here’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm — from “the great state of Michigan — where the trees are just the right height!”
- God bless her for going there.
- She’s giving The Detroit Spiel.
- Giving it very passionately.
- Wow. She’s loud!
Sure Mitt Romney loves our lakes and our trees. He even loves our cars so much they have their own elevator … in Mitt Romney’s America, the cars get the elevator, and the workers get the shaft!
- Holy shit! This woman’s vicious! And crazy! And right!
- She’s hollering. She’s out of her mind. She could have been a tent revivalist, if there were still tent revivals, and if Democrats didn’t hate Jesus.
- Now she’s tallying all the jobs in all the American states dependent on the auto industry — the dealers, the parts manufacturers, etc. Obama saved them! Nine-thousand jobs in Colorado! Nineteen-thousand in Virginia! Fifty thousand there! A hundred thousand here!
- She’s screaming! Hilariously!
- This woman’s a lunatic!
- The crowd loves this, just a huge boiling pot of happy humanity. Jennifer Granholm is possessed by a demon.
8:19 p.m.: … and here’s Eva Longoria.
- The screen informs me she’s a co-chair of Obama’s reelection campaign.
- She’s giving The College Spiel. And the Taxes Spiel.
The Eva Longoria who worked at Wendy’s flipping burgers needs a tax break. The Eva Longoria who works on movie sets does not.
8:25 p.m.: Governor Brian Schweitzer, of Montana. “I know Mitt Romney.”
- They went to Iraq and Afghanistan together when they were both governors. Hung out. Yacked about war, peace, religion, their experiences growing up.
- “Mitt’s a good man,” says Gov. Schweitzer. “A good family man, and a loyal American.”
- Governor Mitt Romney left his state in debt — the highest per capita debt in the country.
- Mitt raised billions in new taxes, which he sneakily called “fees.”
- This is, Gov. Schweitzer explains, what governors do when they don’t want to be on the hook for a tax hike. But he should moderate this line of attack: Bill Clinton did the same damned thing in Arkansas when he increased fees on drivers’ licenses.
- Gov. Schweitzer is especially galled that Mitt Romney made it hugely expensive to get gun licenses. The Democrats are attacking him for this? Right after trotting out Gabby Giffords?
- Gov. Schweitzer’s verdict on Mitt’s time in Massachusetts: “Taxes up. Cost of college up. Debt up. New businesses — down!”
- This man does not communicate trustworthiness.
- I suspect he is half-lying all over the place.
- The debt thing, for example. It’s totally true that, under Mitt Romney, Massachusetts carried the highest per-capita state debt in the country. What he’s not saying is that Massachusetts has always been one of the debtsiest places in the country, and Mitt actually slowed the debt’s growth rate.
- Why lie? When confronted with a candidate as awful, as genuinely reprehensible as Mitt Romney, why lie?
8:34 p.m.: … and here’s ex-Gov. Charlie Crist. He’d have been booed four years ago. Now he’s applauded. Tepidly, but applauded.
- It’s weird to see my old Republican governor in these environs. Real, real weird.
- “What an honor to be here with you,” he says, “and to stand with Barack Obama.”
- So weird.
- “Ronald Reagan … said ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left me.’ “
- “Reagan would have been too moderate, too reasonable for today’s GOP.”
- “I don’t agree with President Obama about everything, but I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve gotten to work with him, and my choice is clear.”
- Crist proceeds to praise Barack Obama’s handling of a “catastrophe in the making.”
- He says President Obama “saved Florida.”
- “I look around Florida. I see a state bursting with diversity … a state that looks like America’s future.”
- He’s just repeating the convention’s safer, more banal talking points — but to swing voters in Florida? All the guys that voted for him over Marco Rubio in 2010? Probably a pretty compelling package.
8:41 p.m.: Is it veeptime already? There’s a video here of Geraldine Ferraro. Her vice presidential nomination acceptance speech from 1984.
- The vid’s over. There’s music. Somebody standing awkwardly off to the side of the stage, awaiting an introduction. Please don’t let that be Joe Biden. Please. No awkward Bidenisms tonight. Please.
- Oh. It’s a camera man.
- Ladies and gents — Sen. John Kerry!
- He looks good. Very tasteful plastic surgery. And he’s lost some of the woodenness that dogged his run at the presidency.
- “We’re exceptional not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.”
- Among them: We go to the moon, save people from AIDS, lift millions out of poverty, innovate — you know the laundry list.
- There is nothing very new.
- Now Kerry’s recounting Barack’s military successes. After the swift-boating, it’s easy to forget what extraordinary credibility John Kerry should — does – have on military and veterans’ issues.
- Obama, Kerry wants us to know, is a strong and steady steward of our military, a great friend to veterans, and a terror to terrorists.
Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago!
- Romney and Ryan are “the least experienced foreign policy twosome to run in decades.”
- Kerry catalogs Romney’s flipflops on Afghanistan and Iraq. “Here’s some advice. Mr. Romney, before you debate President Obama on foreign policy, you’d better finish the debate with yourself.”
- Blasts Romney’s “preposterous notion” that Russia is “America’s number one geopolitical foe.”
- … and takes Romney to task for failing to mention the troops during his acceptance speech last week.
No presidential candidate, in the midst of a war, should fail to pay tribute to the troops in his party’s acceptance speech.
8:55 p.m.: Tom Hanks is narrating a video about our troops.
- An admiral appears in this video.
- Veterans appear in this video.
- A vet’s kid!
- Now we’re talking about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
- SEALS appear in this video.
- The video’s real point: Vets are awesome workers. Hire them!
9:03 p.m.: Adm. John Nathan, retired, and a whole bunch of vets assume the dais.
- This generation of soldiers, notes Adm. Nathan, has been called “the second Greatest Generation, and they live up to that in everything they do.”
- Perhaps that should be amended to “the second coming of the Greatest Generation,” so as not to create the impression that you think people who’ve lost limbs and lives for this country are somehow second-best.
- Lots of stuff about how Obama’s helped the vets.
- This is huge. Every night that a veteran sleeps in the gutter is a national disgrace. (Every night that anyone sleeps in the gutter is national disgrace, of course, but when it’s a vet it bespeaks a national ingratitude that stains our every act.)
9:11 p.m.: Here’s a student at Miami Dade College, Ms. Angie Flores.
- She’s introduced Dr. Jill Biden. Dr. Biden is Flores’s “idol” because of her commitment to education, which she’s maintained despite her husband’s “big promotion.”
- And here’s Dr. Biden. She lets us know immediately that she’s still a “full time teacher and a military mom.”
- She is a military mom, and she really is a full-time teacher at a community college. Isn’t that brilliant? What’s Ann Romney do for a living?
- She mentions the accident that claimed the lives of Joe’s wife and daughter in 1972. Praises Joe’s “big heart.” He’s a deadly opponent of domestic abuse; the author of the “Violence Against Women Act.”
9:20 p.m.: Now we watch a Joe Biden biopic.
- A picture of his lovely mom, ancient and kindly, taken just before the lady’s death.
- Stuff about growing up in Scranton. Clips of old home movies. This looks like the same small-town USA that my family comes from, and I’m touched by it.
- (And if I, a gay city boy with very little small-town nostalgia, can be touched by it, I imagine most of the rest of the country is touched, too.)
- Mama always told him: “Nobody’s better than you. You’re not better than anybody else, but — nobody’s better than you.“ Working class pride!
- The home movies, the town squares, the snow and the Christmases and mom probably making a casserole. (Remember when moms made casseroles?)
- “The hardest walk a parent can make is up the stairs to their child’s bedroom, to say — you can’t play little league, you can’t sing in St. Ann’s choir, you can’t go to Roosevelt High anymore — because I lost my job. My parents made that walk. Too many people are making that walk.”
- The wonderful thing about Joe: he’s goofy, sentimental, and not faking any of it.
9:29 p.m.: Here’s Biden!
- A lovely shout-out to his wife. “You don’t just give your [students] confidence. You give me confidence.”
- Note about the audience: middle-class union-boss types often look like walruses.
- More shout-outs to the wife. Joe’s fumbling a little, but it’s okay. He’s one of us.
- This generation has proven itself the equal of any, says Joe.
- So folksy, so ordinary: “The financial crisis hit, like a sledgehammer, on all the people I grew up with.”
- Reminds us that one false move in 2009 could have led to a run on the banks, a credit collapse, a million more out of work.
Day after day, night after night, I sat beside [President Obama] as he made one gutsy decision after another. To stop the slide, and reverse it … I watched him stand up to intense pressure, and stare down enormous challenges, the consequences of which were awesome. But most of all, I got to see first hand what drove this man: His profound concern for the average American. He knew that no matter how tough the decisions were he had to make in that Oval Office, he knew that families across America … were making decisions for their families that were equally consequential.
- Whoops — Biden mentions “the enormity” of Obama’s heart. The vice president of the United States doesn’t know the definition of the word “enormity.”
- … but neither do his working-class constituents, so whatever. Still, it’s troubling. Don’t we want our leaders to be smart?
- Biden’s praising Obama’s character. Now the jobs record.
- Michelle Obama looks nervous.
- Joe wants to focus on two crises, to show “the character of the leadership” these men “want to bring to the job.”
- “In the first days [of the Obama presidency], Chrysler and General Motors were literally on the verge of liquidation.”
- Lots of people — even some of Obama’s advisers — said not to bail them out. The risks were high; the outcomes “too uncertain.”
- The president “didn’t see it the way they did.” The president understood: “This isn’t just about cars. This is about the people who make those cars. And it’s about the America those people built.”
- “In those meetings, I often thought about my dad … an automobile man. He was one of those guys, all the way down the line — one of those guys selling those cars to the American people.” And the mechanics, the back-of-the-house people — all the workers in the chain of commerce — all dependent on Detroit. “I know if my dad was here today, he’d be fighting like heck for the president. Because the president sought to save the jobs of those guys he cared so much about.”
- “Looking back on that — I think of another son of another automobile man. Mitt Romney. I don’t understand — how he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt.”
- “What I don’t think he understands … I don’t think he understood what saving the auto industry meant to the American people. I think he saw it the Bain way — in terms of balance sheets and profit reports.” Which is a fine way to do private equity, but no way to lead the country.
- Barack understood in his gut what it would mean to leave so many without work, and he “understood the message it would send around the world.”
- “Conviction, resolve, Barack Obama — that’s what saved the automobile industry!”
- Crisis number two: Osama.
- “In 2008, before he was president, Barack Obama made a promise to the American people: If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights, we will take him out.”
- “If you harm innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the Earth!” Yes! Republicans, 2012! Wait — what?
- Romney, notes Biden, didn’t want to go after Osama bin Laden. Thought it was a waste of time and resources. Biden says Romney was about that America “needed healing.”
- Healing, healing. Biden keeps saying that. Is it apt? A gunshot to the head is a pretty brutal way to heal something.
Bravery exists in the heart of Barack Obama. And time and time again I’ve seen him summon it. This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel … Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!
- “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: It’s never a good bet … to bet against the American people! We’re not gonna downsize the American dream!”
- Biden mentions gay rights, just once, very briefly. There was reportedly an unprecedented amount of gayness earlier today, but it’s over with – they got it out of the way so they wouldn’t have to gay it up in primetime.
- Now we’re talking about the vets.
- Joe has been talking for a very long time.
- More talking. One nice turn of phrase: “We now find ourselves at the hinge of history.”
- Talking, talking.
- Ah. It’s over.
10:10 p.m.: Here comes Sen. Dick Durbin to, I think, I hope, introduce Barack Obama.
- Didja know Dick Durbin is the fellow who introduced Barack Obama at the convention in 2004! That’s wonderful.
- He also introduced the DREAM Act. Also wonderful.
- Still. He’s a boring speaker.
10:16 p.m.: A video.
- Long, lovely shots of America. A very pretty nation.
- “We’ve been through a lot together,” says the voiceover. “But we’ve known tough times before.”
- Shots of breadlines during the Depression. Marches during the Civil Rights Movement. A shot of … Christa McAuliffe? How odd.
- Bill Clinton says: “[Barack] did some things he knew wouldn’t be popular in the short run to lay the groundwork for recovery.”
- Bill mentions how Barack bucked the polls on the auto industry bailout.
- Michelle Obama notes that children always think they’re the most important people in the room, so at the Obama dinner table Barack’s always the “last person to be asked, oh, how was your day, dad? He’s an afterthought.”
- Bill makes the point that Barack had to move ahead on Obamacare. Medical costs rising at “three times the rate of inflation.”
- More Osama stuff!
- Barack seems to be trying very, very hard to not take too much credit for the death of Osama bin Laden. As a result, his role in the SEAL operation has gone unexplained through this convention. It’s still unexplained. Nothing about how he had sift through several competing plans, or about how he overruled several advisers on attacking bin Laden at all, or about how he personally ordered the second helicopter for the operation — which was handy, because the first one actually crashed in Pakistan. Take some credit, dude!
- I think this video’s a bit of a dud.
10:23 p.m.: Here comes Michelle — in another kickass dress! She announced: “The President of the United States of America!”
- Barack’s entry music is the same as in ’08. U2, “City of Blinding Lights.”
- A loud reaction in the arena, but oddly muted compared to the one Bill got last night, or even Michelle’s two nights ago. Is this a question of sound mixing? Audience exhaustion?
- Barack looks great. Smiling, handsome, confident.
- But tired. He’s a tired guy.
- But he’s fighting through it! He’s a prizefighter in sixth round — bruised, but resolutely badass.
- A shoutout to Michelle: “A few nights ago, everyone was reminded just what a lucky man I am.”
- “Malia and Sasha — we are so proud of you. And yes, you do have to go to school in the morning. And Joe Biden, thank you for being the very best vice president I could have ever hoped for, and for being a strong, loyal friend.”
- He accepts the nomination.
- He apologizes for the smallness of our politics, the ridiculousness and stupidity of modern presidential campaigns.
If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I
- This election poses the clearest choice in a generation, etc.
- Ours is a fight to restore the middle class, etc.
- Down in Tampa, “they talked a lot about what’s wrong with America, but didn’t have much to say about how to make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t wanna tell you their plan.”
- That’s because it’s the same old shit.
Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!
- Apparently, Barack Obama doesn’t think more tax cuts for millionaires will help us keep jobs. Nor does he think that firing teachers will help us compete with China.
- Barack Obama is a bit boring.
- Manufacturing! “We are making things again.”
- The problem here is that Barack’s basically just doing his stump speech. And every speaker at the convention has been aping Barack’s stump speech for the last three days. We’ve hard this before.
- Ah — a politician who trusts scientists!
Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts, and floods, and wildfire is not a joke.
- Still — I’m not feeling this speech. I just Wikipedia’d “cats.” There are some really cute pictures of cats on Wikipedia.
- Maybe those who haven’t seen Barack do this schtick before are impressed.
- I’ve seen him do it two dozen times.
- My roommate rushed home from a meeting to see this speech. Now he’s thumbing through the new issue of the New Yorker.
- Barack: “My opponents are … new … to foreign policy.” Zing!
- Barack’s opponents want to go back to the “blustering and blundering” of the past.
- “You don’t call Russia — Russia, not Al Qaeda — our greatest foe unless you have a Cold War mindset.”
- Mitt’s probably not prepared for full-contact international diplomacy — in Beijing, say — if he “can’t go to the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.”
- (Of course, Barack began his presidency by insulting Britain, but never mind.)
- Barack wants us to know that he’s not a Big Governmentnik. He wants a leaner government.
- Nor is Barack a tax-junkie. He wants to return to Clinton-era tax levels.
- Ah — this is good:
I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. But when Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy — well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m president, I never will.
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled — all so those with the most can pay less.
- Also “I will never turn Medicare into a voucher program.”
- In the audience, I spy Mike Albetta, the Democratic powerhouse from Fort Lauderdale. What’s up, Mike!
- Free enterprise is good. Capitalism is good. All that stuff’s good, and essential to the future success of America.
- But there’s another side to our Americanness. “Citizenship.”
Citizenship. A word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe that a little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the founder of the next Google, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States- and it’s in our power to give her that chance.
- I want badly to like this speech. I agree with everything in it. Maybe it’s too much to ask Barack to change his whole mode of public address. I mean, he shouldn’t — we elected him to be him.
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems — any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
- Lots of panning of the audience. There’s barely a wet eye in the house.
- Barack talks about American heroes. The girl who won a science fair while her parents were homeless. The company owner who downsized his own paycheck to keep his workers employed. The wounded vets, inspiring more recently-wounded vets to recover bravely.
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.”
- Smart, Barack. If you mention “hope” in the context of Scripture, the Republicans can’t go after you for it.
- … and now he’s done. The convention is over. There are no balloons.