By Tom Baxter
Wednesday night update:
This was the night designed by the Democrats to make the case that Donald Trump is just a little too screwy to trust with the keys to the nation’s nuclear arsenal, and what better setup could there have been than Trump suggesting Russian intelligence might help bring Hillary Clinton’s missing emails to the surface?
We had in this a campaign micro-moment. It’s happened repeatedly. Trump says something that sounds utterly outrageous, a lot of official types voice their shock, Trump’s supporters are more delighted by the consternation he’s caused than worried by what he said, and he wins the news cycle.
The difference Wednesday was that the Democrats had a powerful battery of speakers, including former CIA director Leon Panetta, Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, lined up to paint the Republican nominee as “a risky, reckless and radical choice,” in Bloomberg’s words, vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine to imitate him, and Barack Obama, in what will be his farewell speech to the party as president, to bat cleanup.
“Let’s elect a sane, competent person,” Bloomberg, an independent who flirted with a presidential run, said. The message what that Trump falls short of those qualifications.
There were still hecklers protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the middle of Obama’s speech, which means they will probably be there tomorrow night when Hillary Clinton gives her campaign acceptance speech. Unpredictable as the Republican National Convention was last week, the Democratic National Convention has come off on television as much bigger and more boisterous.
Obama, making the case for what matters most in this election, reached back to the Scots-Irish roots of his mother’s parents to talk about the values he sees as contrary to Trump’s. If his Charleston speech was this very complicated man’s most self-consciously black moment, maybe this was the most self-consciously white moment. It was a direct and very emotional appeal to those in the American heartland who might be most susceptible to the appeal of a “homegrown demagog” to remember “the true things, the things that last.”
Tuesday night update:
He may still be the heavyweight champion of the stump speech, but in the spousal division of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton will be scored a distant second to Michelle Obama.
The former president’s speech Tuesday night, capping off an evening marked by the nomination of his wife as the first woman presidential candidate of a major American political party, was long — long — on details about his wife’s accomplishments, but never seemed to reach the high notes the First Lady hit so effortlessly on the convention’s first night.
At times Clinton’s affectionately wonkish reminiscences about “the best darn change-maker I have ever known” led to stretches of embarrassed silence from the Democratic delegates, and although not the effect Hillary Clinton’s campaign may have hoped for, it was far preferable to the loud heckling that had gone on the night before.
By the time Bernie Sanders called for Clinton’s nomination to be approved by unanimous acclamation, that sentiment seemed to have been pretty solidly tamped down. Hillary Clinton made a brief appearance via video wall at the close of the evening, surrounded by girls and women of all ages, complete with the animated breaking of that famous glass ceiling.
Historically speaking, that’s huge, and the significance of it has helped turn the convention around from its stormy beginning.
What a movie this campaign will make, if they are still able to make movies by the time it’s over.
COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR are a pair of Russian hacker groups, well known in intelligence circles but not to the general public until the recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system. They are widely thought to be the source of the 20,000 emails which Wikileaks released last Friday, just ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
A dump that large suggests all sorts of information showing the DNC unfairly siding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign over that of Bernie Sanders. In fact the first batch of revelations from the emails seem fairly tame, given that we knew this was going on anyway.
But the timing was perfect. By the time the convention was gaveled to order Monday afternoon, Debbie Wasserman Shultz was out as chair of the party, and any worries the Philadelphia convention would look too buttoned-down compared to the Republican convention in Cleveland last week were out the window.
“Brothers and sisters, this is the real world we live in,” Bernie Sanders implored his followers at a rally near the convention site. But even the third bear in this story couldn’t contain the fury of his followers, which spilled over into an extremely raucous opening.
Needless to say, any story with “email” in the headline isn’t good news for Hillary Clinton. The really ominous news is that Julian Assange, the impresario of Wikipedia, has promised more to come.
Does the transparent involvement of Russian intelligence groups mean Vladimir Putin is taking sides in the U.S. presidential election? The Russian leader has made no secret of his support for nationalist parties in Europe, and he and Donald Trump already have the makings of a bro-mance. And in the long run, will it matter in this election?
The heckling from disgruntled Sanders supporters continued at some level or another throughout the entire evening, even after Sarah Silverman, a prominent Sanders supporter, urged them to “stop being ridiculous.” It could be heard, more faintly by then, during the speech by Sanders closing out the evening.
Imagine what Ted Cruz would have done if he’d had more than a thousand delegates still chanting his name in Cleveland. Sanders did what Cruz couldn’t bring himself to do, capping the evening with a full-throated endorsement of his former adversary. But it remains to be seen whether he can bring his restive delegates along with him.
If there was one speech on this first evening which seemed to bring the convention entirely together it was Michelle Obama’s stemwinder, which seemed tailor-made to play along with the Clinton campaign’s “Role Model” ad currently airing on cable and several battleground states. And so far, there aren’t any charges that she lifted any of her material.