Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Love fest

BOSTON--After last night's levitational address by Barack Obama, John Edwards' performance tonight seemed merely able. That said, Edwards' "able" is better than what most politicians deliver in the guise of their strongest speeches.

The most effective part of his speech was when he had us conjuring the image of a loney wife, scraping together the money to support her family while her husband, in the National Guard, serves in Iraq.

Edwards seemed to go out of his way to cast most of his imaginary Americans as women; it's nice to see he's paying attention to demographics.

The "hope is on the way" line was a fun bit of political jabbing, co-opting Cheney's 2000 line, "help is on the way." It's an insider punch; it's doubtful that viewers at home have much memory of Cheney's speech at the last Republican National Convention.

The Edwards family is certainly impressive: A handsome wife, fellow attorney Elizabeth, who conveys a sense of quiet assurance; an intelligent and exquisite eldest daughter, who deftly invoked the style of Jacqueline Kennedy tonight; and two cute little kids who actually appeared to be having fun on the stage after Daddy's speech.

As I write, Aaron Brown is interviewing Al Franken, who seems not to have one funny thing to say.

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One more thing about Dukakis & Kerry

BOSTON--Speaking of lessons from '88, I hope the Kerry campaign remembers not how great Dukakis did in the polls after the convention, but how absolutely wonderful he looked in the final days of the campaign, when he started rolling up his shirtsleeves and really mixing with people--unfortunately, after all was lost. He looked so good, in fact, that even as every poll spelled doom for the Democrats, I was half believing that another feat of metaphysics from Miracle Mike would make itself apparent.

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Mike & Kitty at Friends of Dukakis gathering.
photo © 2004 Adele M. Stan

Snoopy-in-a-Tank on the Big, Blue Teletubbie

BOSTON--So I’m walking by this Greek restaurant near the dock where the water taxi dumps you off, and I hear, amplified, a familiar voice, but one I can’t immediately place. Then it all comes into focus.

“I’m happy to see that the Democrats have learned some lessons from 1988,” he says.

It’s a good voice, with a bit of a sardonic edge, and that swell Massachusetts accent. “I know you’ve all seen that boy-in-the-bubble picture,” he goes on, referring to Kerry’s fabulous photo flub.

Why, it’s former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, whose failed presidential bid in 1988 is often summed up visually in a goofy-looking picture of him sitting in a tank wearing a too-big helmet with built-in-ear muffs. Given the candidate’s small build and not-so-small nose, the effect was said to resemble Snoopy in Red Baron-chasing mode.

This time, he explains, no sooner did that silly picture of Kerry appear than a bit of tape showing the president engaging in undignified behavior finds its way onto television. “Did you guys see this? [A video has turned up] in which George Bush picks his nose for at least 60 seconds. That’s the honest-to-God truth, which suggests to me that we’ve all learned lessons...And, incidentally, it’s true that I got in that tank; on the other hand, folks, I have never, ever performed that [nasal] act in front of the cameras."

The event at which Dukakis was speaking today, it turned out, was sponsored by a group called Friends of Dukakis, a group of people who supported many of his political campaigns.

I get in the receiving line, where he stands with his wife Kitty, who took quite a beating on the campaign trail for her struggle with substance abuse. They still seem like two people in love.

When my turns come for the handshake, he nearly crushes my hand. I tell him I was here as a blogger.

“I won’t hold that against you, “ he replies.

I remind him of a photo I have of him from the 2000 convention, in which he sits at a laptop in the CNN skybox, taking questions from e-mailers in an interactive interview.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “I’m not great with the techonology.”

Pretty ironic, considering all the references to him as a technocrat in ‘88. His claim to fame was the “Massachusetts miracle,” whereby an ailing, industrial state found prosperity in the tech sector--if only for a moment.

I move onto Kitty. It being the day after Teresa Heinz Kerry’s big convention speech, it’s only natural to ask her how it feels to watch another candidate for First Lady endure such scrutiny. After all, I say, you endured that scrutiny; you weren’t exactly conventional. Her back stiffens, and she guides my away from her by a touch on my arm.

“I think she’s terrific,” says Mrs. Dukakis.

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White, black or whatever??

A reader e-mails:

Obama was amazing. It's interesting that he's seen by all as a black man who has a shot at being the first black pres., but his mother was white and his father black. Why is he not a white man? or ???  Anyway, he's the most refreshing person I've heard in years.

I have my own thoughts on the question the writer asks (legacy of racial categories from the old days; America's unspoken obsession with skin color), but would rather hear from you, dear reader. E-mail me, and I'll post your comments.

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A good night

BOSTON--There’s no getting around the fact that last night was a very good one for the Dems at their convention. With Howard Dean and Barack Obama, they got a good tap into the mojo.

Dean delivers

The reception that Dean continues to get from Democrats calls a question: why was this guy deemed “not electable”? I saw the same thing happen at the aforementioned fundraising dinner in Washington--on a night that was to be Kerry’s, the very mention of Dean’s name from the main stage evoked a prolonged ovation. (At that event, Dean was relegated to the small stage from the side of the room, speaking during the cocktail hour with the other also-rans.)

Conventional wisdom conspires to tell us that a firebrand is a danger in an election year where the future of the nation is at stake. I say that a tepid candidate is every bit as much of a danger.

Obama lives up to hype

And it was quite a lot of hype to live up to. The youngster from Illinois--and the Land of Lincoln's next new senator--raised convention rhetoric to nothing short of soaring; his may just be the best convention speech I’ve heard since Mario Cuomo’s in--was that 84?

By the time Obama got to his red-state, blue-state riff, he had your blogstress in full trance. My favorite line:

We worship an awesome God in the blue states...>

‘Twas also gratifying to hear that...

...we have gay friends in the red states

--especially gratifying since that was the first mention of the word “gay” heard during prime-time from the convention podium.

Smart and well-informed

Teresa was, as always, fascinating, especially in her take on what a woman should be: a person of beliefs expressed aloud, a person free to pursue her goals.

I hope the Kerry campaign is listening. I’ve yet to be impressed with its regard for women voters: we are clearly the part of the base that the campaign takes most for granted.

Where ya gonna go?

Our old friend, conventional wisdom, says of women voters--or voters from any group struggling against discrimination, for that matter: Where ya gonna go?

Sure, few of these voters will vote for Bush. But the question should not be, “where ya gonna go?” but rather, one that could come from these voters on November 2nd: “Why go out at all?”

In Election 2004, the Democrats need every single member of their base groups to get to those polls. In swing states, little more than a few hundred voters could determine whether a state goes red or blue. It’s time to order up the roses and the chocolates. I’m ready for some wooing.

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