5:10 p.m.: Branford Marsalis, the second most famous of the Marsalis brothers, is playing the National Anthem on a soprano sax. Lovely articulation, warm timbre. After a moment, the C-SPAN sound people figure out how to give the singing crowd a little volume, so the sax rests upon a warm, soft bed of voices. Ghostly and gorgeous.
- Military people in what look like furry red berets march across the stage in formation. This is another one of those rituals with the word “color” in its title — “Color Guard,” “Color Change,” whateverthehell. What’s its purpose? I’ve never known.
- The ceremonial hoopla thus dispatched, there arrives on stage a Rep. Luis Guitarrez, of Chicago. He wants to talk about immigrants. He talks about a young girl, a high school valedictorian with a bright future ahead of her — but her parents brought her here, illegally, when she was a small child, so she coulda been deported at any time. Because of Barack Obama, she won’t be.
- “Mitt Romney wants undocumented immigrants to self deport … this election will determine whether high school valedictorians are treated with respect … or treated like suspects.”
- Another story, this one about a soldier who works as an IED-finder in Afghanistan. His wife was deported.
5:19 p.m.: A lady named Diane DeGette, of Colorado, reminds us: “Reproductive freedom means economic freedom.”
5:28 p.m.: John Perez, speaker of the California State Assembly — he gives a shout-out to the immigrants, the gays, the womenfolk, and Detroit — he’s giving it the whole kitchen sink!
- “[Obama's] standing up for us in the LGBT community to say: I do.”
- The amount of gayness at this convention is shocking. The many, many Democrats who harbor ill feelings towards us sodomites must be having a come-to-Jesus moment.
- On that subject — the gay thing might have seemed like a liability for the Dems in the beginning — infuriating the homophobes on one hand, and looking like an election-year sell-out on the other — but by constantly stressing it at the convention, the Dems are starting to look brave. They’re proud of themselves for it, and it’s making them feel and sound noble — and that might win over a lot of Americans who don’t care that much about gay issues. Nobility sells.
5:33 p.m.: Holy fuck! Tom Menino, the famously Chick-fil-A-hating mayor of Boston, has the worst Bostonian marblemouth ever. Evah! He says: “Mahtin Luthah King Jooniah!”
- Also: “Guvments naht the ansah. Guvments naht the enemay. Guvments ah pahtna.”
5:40 p.m.: Rep. Judy Chu, of California, is seriously boring. After marblemouth, I’ve divined that this is the portion of the evening to miss. Dinner!
6:37 p.m.: Everything’s still boring. One day of talking points repeated ad nauseum is more than enough; two is like internment in one of those reeducation camps the Tea Party thinks Obama wants to put us in.
- Still, there are zingers. Rep. Charles Schumer, of New York: “Mitt Romney’s favorite new tax haven isn’t the Cayman Islands. It’s the Paul Ryan budget.”
- He’s not wrong, really. The idea is: These half-libertarian technocrats only recognize the wisdom and sanity of people in their own rarefied tax brackets, or those struggling to reach them. So the tax code caters to them. Those who live their lives in less marketable ways are crazy, or lazy, or something. Regardless, they’re very much Other, possibly un-American, and oughtn’t be catered to.
6:42 p.m.: Apparently, while I was gone, there was some flap on the floor about a motion to reintroduce the word “God” into the party platform.
- Also, people booed and hissed about reinserting language declaring Jerusalem the “capital of Israel.”
- Yuck. That’s gonna get headlines. Drudge will be awful tomorrow.
- Rep. Al Green, from Texas, is the country’s most hirsute legislator.
6:47 p.m.: The DNC is whizzing through its speakers fast-fast, a parade on the dais. No introductions. Folks talk three minutes, then they’re gone.
- Here’s Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a known yeller and firebrand, but he’s oddly calm today.
- Says: “The political brinksmanship in which we are mired doesn’t help either political party; it hurts the nation … We will never be better off without being better.”
- Whoops, there he goes with the yelling. He notes that Republicans have lambasted the president for speaking of hope — but that the president should speak of hope; the people here should speak of hope:
As long as the God of Abraham sits on his throne, hope on! Hope on! Hope on, Mr. President! Hope on!
- But, really, one should only scream for so long. Crescendos should crescendo.
6:58 p.m.: The Governor of Connecticut goes chick-baiting. “Three reasons to vote for Barack Obama: Your mother, your sister, and your daughter.”
7:04 p.m.: Several minutes of talking-point regurgitation. Here’s Trumka, the Union dude, who’s incapable of seeming unsleazy. Here’s Denise Juneau, Montana Superintendent of Public Education. Deadly dull.
- Deadly, deadly, deadly dull. There may be more speakers, but they’re all one speaker, calling with one voice for women’s rights and sodomy and the American dream.
- When, by the way, did sexual orientation get euphemized into the phrase “who you love”? As in: “We believe in a country that believes you should have an equal shot, no matter who you love!”
- Many — most — of my gayest acts have been with people I never loved.
7:16 p.m.: A cartoon about the American dream.
- See: Men climbing out of a ditch on ladders — and then pulling the ladders up after them, leaving those in the ditch with no clear method of egress.
- (These are Republicans. Note: Do not fall into a ditch with Republicans.)
- Aha! But here are the Democrats, throwing down ladders — hundreds of ladders — and the ditch-dwellers are saved!
- A new slogan: “We are the house Democrats. And it is our mission to reignite the American dream.”
7:18 p.m.: Nancy Pelosi! I thought we dealt with you last night.
- Pelosi talks about ladystuff, Medicare stuff.
- What I want to know is: Why does she think Barack Obama’s name is pronounced O-bummAAH? It’s the way a smokeshop Indian might say it.
- Egads, Nancy — don’t make people repeat your stupid slogans back to you.
- Nancy Pelosi rhetorical tactic: Say something nasty the Republicans are allegedly up to, and make the convention floor repeat back to you: “It’s just plain wrong.”
7:27 p.m.: Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, shares talking points.
7:36 p.m.: Some horrid song about the awesomeness of women. Sounds like something by Sarah McCthulu, or whatever her name is. The Lilith Fair person.
- And here we have all the Democratic ladysenators, standing on the stage in a semi-circle. Look! Women!
- Barbara Mikulski, of Maryland, was the first female Democratic senator ever elected, and she talks for a while about the brilliance of her gender.
- Honestly: we need lots more women senators. They make up the majority of the population, but a pronounced minority of legislators.
- Part of that is sexism. But do you think part of it might be that women are, in general, too emotionally intelligent to get involved in something as venal as politics?
- Is our whole system of representative government somehow intrinsically male? Would the Constitution be different if women had written it?
- Because, really, the peacocking manner in which the United States conducts its politics is stupidly bombastic and plainly inefficient. Those seem like characteristically male failings.
7:50 p.m.: Jim Hunt, former governor of NC, sounds just about dead.
7:59 p.m.: Here’s some young R&B singer. At least, she aspires to be an R&B singer. Her name is Sanchez. Something Sanchez. And she’s murdering Marvin Gaye’s “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
- Much too much vibrato! Terrible pitch! Horrible, shrieking tone!
- This satanic caterwauling must sound better in the auditorium, ‘cuz the audience is dancing.
8 p.m.: A video on “Women’s Health.”
- As a politics junky, I am bored. These women’s health points have been argued over for months, and we’re not breaking any new ground tonight.
- Here’s a woman named Elizabeth Ann Bruce. She came down with endometriosis. Doctors ignored her complaints, but Planned Parenthood listened to her, and diagnosed her correctly.
- … and here’s Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood. I didn’t know she was the daughter of Ann Richards! I love her.
- On the importance of women getting involved with politics: “When we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu.”
8:18 p.m.: Rep Steny Hoyer, whose jowls are as majestic today as yesterday, repeats more talking points.
- Romney, he notes, recently claimed that he’d hoped Barack Obama would have a successful presidency: “If so, he’s the only Republican who felt that way.”
- Republicans “want to drown the captain, and they’re willing to sink the ship to do so.”
- Rep. Hoyer is repeatedly interrupted by a heckler, yelling and holding a sign: “Bring Our War Dollars Home.”
8:24 p.m.: Ed Meagher, a Vietnam vet, talks about vetty things. But we’ve already done the vetbeat. Boring!
- Meanwhile, a quick spin around the internet shows that everybody’s picked up on the God/Jerusalem flap from earlier this evening. CNN, the Times, the AP, Drudge.
8:30 p.m.: Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs Secretary, comes from generations of vets. He got ahead with the help of the GI Bill.
- Shinseki wants to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015, and so does Obama.
- Note to self: If Barack Obama is reelected, any allegedly homeless vet asking for spare change after January, 2015, is a fraud.
8:35 p.m.: Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, reports that tourism’s up in his state.
- Also, his state’s economy’s ticking along.
- Also, sales of Coloradoan craft beer are way the hell up. (I credit me. Between the two conventions, my household has gone through six six-packs of Flying Dog’s “Raging Bitch” IPA, from Aspen.)
8:42 p.m.: Yes! Sister Simone Campbell! She’s the director of NETWORK — the Nuns On The Bus!
Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared faith … but the Conference of Bishops said the budget failed a basic moral test … because it harms families who live in poverty. We agree … Our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another. I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper.
- Sister Simone Campbell is the best speaker of the night, so far. We’ve arrived at primetime.
8:50 p.m.: Never mind. Gov. Jack Markell, of Delaware, puts me to sleep.
- I literally can’t tell these speakers apart anymore. The repetitive hammering of barely reworded talking points has turned my brain to oatmeal.
9:05 p.m.: Kamala Harris, back for a second night. She’s the same as the others. She’s talking about how her family chased the American dream — but didn’t she tell that story last night?
9:12 p.m.: A video in which Barack Obama talks about those who are Americans in every way but on paper, and who might, until recently, have found themselves deported to a country they can’t remember living in.
- Obama: “It’s heartbreaking. It makes no sense to deport talented young people — who think of themselves as Americans …”
- And here’s Benita Veliz onstage — an undocumented immigrant from — where? Missed it.
- She was the valedictorian of her San Antonio high school.
- Graduated at age 16.
- Completed her double major at 20.
I know I have something to contribute to my economy and my country. I feel just as American as any of my friends or neighbors. But I’ve had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported — just because of the way I came here. President Obama fought for the DREAM Act to help people like me. And when Congress refused to pass it, he didn’t give up — instead he took action. So people like me … can stay in our country and contribute. We will keep fighting for reform. But until we achieve it, people like me will be able to work, study, and pursue the American dream …
9:17 p.m.: I switch to MSNBC for a moment, and am immediately reminded why I don’t watch the convention on MSNBC. Within seconds, they’ve bopped away form the actual conventioning to report some non-story about how Barack Obama will be in the building later this evening.
- Back to C-SPAN. Cristina Saraleui, a Telemundo personality, notes that Romney loves the evil Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and wants to make life so horrible for illegal immigrants that they’ll “self deport.”
- The audience boos.
- “Don’t boo,” says Cristina. “Vote.”
- Cristina notes that Romney calls girls like Benita Veliz “illegal immigrants,” while Obama calls them “dreamers.” “That,” she says, “is the difference in this election.”
9:26 p.m.: Auston Ligon, the founder of CarMax!
- By saving Detroit, says Ligon, President Obama prevented a “domino effect” that would have destroyed every part of the car-related economy.
- “A billion” job losses — prevented. “The president deserves credit for this … and I mean to see he gets it.”
- Wow. Obama’s rescue of the auto industry is reaping huge political dividends. Here’s a video in which auto-workers — dozens! Hundreds! — crediting Obama for ending the “darkest” chapter of their working lives, and leading them to “triumph.”
- Now onstage is Karen Eusano, an assembly worker at an GM plant in Ohio. A union gal. She’s serious, not at all nervous, huge dignity.
- Now Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, gives a typical uniony speech.
9:45 p.m.: Wow. Here’s Randy Johnson, who once worked for American Pad and Paper in Marion, Indiana. Mitt fired him. Er, Bain fired him. Closed up his plant. Johnson showed up to work one day and was told to go home.
- “What affected me most was having guys the age I am now, guys with nothing to fall back on, coming to my desk and crying.”
- He’s not saying Mitt Romney’s a bad guy. He’s not saying he’s mad that his plant folded, or that some businesses don’t make it. He’s just mad that dudes like Romney put dudes like him out of work to marginally increase their profits.
- Here’s Cindy Hewitt, who lost her job when Bain Capital closed Dade Behring Medical Supply, in Miami.
- Bain apparently made $250 million out of downsizing and screwing up that company. Is it true?
- This is a vicious attack on Romney, and even if it’s warranted — which, who knows, it probably is — it’ll lead to whole new levels of nastiness in the campaign.
- Here’s David Foster, a steelworker for 21 years. Former lead negotiator for the workers at GST Steel, in Missouri.
- When Bain took over the mill, they loaded up the place with debt, used the borrowed money to pay themselves $12 million, and then downsized like mad.
I had to stand in a rented auditorium in front of hundreds of steelworkers in their fifties and sixties, and tell them: Romney and Bain had broken their promises. Vacations, bonus pay, raises — all gone.
9:52 p.m.: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland. Nasty negative nancy. Talking points. Romney jokes. Tedium.
- I literally have no idea what I’ve been listening to for the last ten minutes. Boring.
10 p.m.: Sandra Fluke! Bumped from an earlier time-slot so she could make primetime.
- Fluke recaps the congressional hearings on contraceptives from earlier this year.
- “Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. A man who won’t stand up to any of those slurs, or to any of the bigoted voices in his party.”
- Sandra looks like an angry Wynona Rider.
10:08 p.m.: Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco, is boring.
- I’m gonna call it now: Today is a failure. Thank goodness they’re not showing most of this on network news, because the enthusiasm’s down, the speakers are pedantic and fake-seeming, and everybody’s faking being angry at Mitt Romney.
- Yes — faking being angry at Mitt Romney. You can’t sustain anger for days and months. It’s an unsustainable emotion.
- (Yesterday, when the convention was all about being in love with Barack Obama, nobody was faking. Love actually is sustainable.)
- Anyway — Sinegal. He’s a terrible, terrible speaker.
10:16 p.m.: Elizabeth Warren! Will things get better now?
- She elicits a crazy, barbaric roar from the crowd.
- This is her first DNC.
- “Warren! Warren! Warren!”
- She “grew up on the ragged edges of the middle class.” This was in Oklahoma. Daddy sold carpeting and ended up a maintenance man. Warren was waiting tables at 13, married at 19. She became a teacher. “Grateful down to my toes for every opportunity America gave me.”
- “I grew up in an America that invested in its kids.”
- Now: “People feel like the system’s rigged against them. And the sad thing is: They’re right.”
10:32 p.m.: Omigoodness. Here comes Bill Clinton.
- Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews is a blubbering mess of Bubba love.
- “Here he comes!” says Chris. “Bubba! The big dog! Elvis! Elvis!”
- Here’s a video introducing Bill. News clips from 1992. Campaign highlights. Bill saying:
There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America!
- … and at 10:35, there he is. In the crowd, heads explode by the thousands. On the PA: “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow).”
- After all these years, do you suppose Bill Clinton’s sick of Fleetwood Mac?
- “We’re here to nominate a president. And I’ve got one in mind!”
- Mad cheers!
- Gets right to the point: Six weeks before his inauguration, says Bill, Barack Obama watched the nation suffer its most dire economic collapse since the Depression.
- Bill explains this. Wow, he’s a helluvan explainer. Economics, policy — he doesn’t talk down, doesn’t oversimplify; but he believes strongly in the power of logic, and of persuasion, and of simple, unadorned speech.
- And then: “I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside, and who burns for America on the inside.”
- Bill says the Republican “narrative” about the supposed Democratic hatred of free enterprise exists only in an “alternate universe.”
- “We believe that ‘we’re all in this together’ is a far better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’ “
- Here’s an interesting statistic, which happens to be true: Since 1961, Democrats have held the White House for 24 years, and Republicans have held it for 28. During the Republican span, the American economy grew by 24 million jobs. During the Democratic span, it grew by 42 million.
- “There’s a reason for this. It turns out, advancing economic opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and economically sound.”
- Ouch! “I never learned to hate Republicans the way the far right of that party now seems to hate the president.”
- It’d be impossible, says Bill, ‘cuz Eisenhower sent troops to integrate Little Rock, and Bill loved him for it.
- … plus, Bill’s been “honored” to work with both Presidents Bush.
- Here’s what he wants people to think about at home: Constant fighting might make for interesting politics, but “what works in the real world is cooperation.”
- The Republican argument against reelecting the president is …
… pretty simple, pretty snappy. It [goes] something like this: ‘We left him a total mess. He didn’t clean up fast enough, so put us back in … President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president — not me, not any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage [Obama] found in just four years.
- “I believe it. With all my heart, I believe” — that the American recovery is underway, and all Americans will “feel it,” and soon, if they “renew Obama’s contract.”
- Bill reminds us that the president’s cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans.
- “The old economy is not coming back. We’ve got to build a new one, and educate people to do those jobs.”
- We’ve dropped to 16th in the world in college graduates, says Bill, and — and here Bill drops his voice real low, total silence in the crowd — that’s why Barack Obama’s student loan plan is more important than ever.
- This crowd is going to rupture its vocal cords.
- Bill defends Obamacare; professorially dispatches Republican fibs about its costs.
- God, he’s good.
- My Facebook is going nuts.
- Obamacare doesn’t rob Medicare. Bill explains the math.
- This is the most specific economic talk of the presidential campaign so far. No one’s respected Americans’ intelligence so much. America, it seems, likes its intelligence respected.
- My Facebook is going nuts.
President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken medicare. They strengthened Medicare. When Paul Ryan looked into the camera [last week] and called the president’s Medicare plan the ‘coldest, cruelest power play,’ I didn’t know to laugh or cry …
- … because, you see, what Paul Ryan was decrying was the same savings scheme he’d inserted into his own proposed budget!
It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.
- Explains the lies about Obama vis-a-vis welfare. Masterful. Rapture! Holy shit! Honest to goodness political speech! Paul Ryan is in a fetal position under his couch!
- “Did I make myself clear? [Obama's welfare] requirement was for more work, not less. This is personal to me. We moved millions off welfare.”
- Bill paints Mitt Romney as a fiscal incompetent.
- “We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down.”
- After 49 minutes, Bill finishes, the president emerges from backstage to hug him, and the arena shorts out CSPAN’s microphones.
- Did you see this speech? If you didn’t, find it, watch it. This is how it’s done.
- I withdraw my earlier proclamation about today being a failure. Bill saved it. The big dog! Elvis!