Senator Ted Kennedy’s appearance the first night of the Democrat National Convention was nothing short of miraculous. He appeared strong and spoke with clarity and conviction, an amazing feat for someone who had just two months ago undergone radical brain surgery. It is a testament to both his belief in Senator Obama and his commitment to a vision for this country that he rose from his deathbed and traveled over a thousand miles to speak at the opening night of the Convention.
Michelle Obama did exactly what was expected of her and beyond. Her words demonstrated the strongest of commitments to family and faith. It was clear in the speech that the Michelle Obama of fifteen years ago has evolved into someone who loves America, and is as patriotic to our ideals and principles as anyone on the political stage. In fact, without Michelle Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Democrats would have wasted the evening.
With that said, there are some cold facts that Sen. Barack Obama and the Democrats need to face. The candidates are in a statistical dead heat. The selection of Joe Biden as a running mate did not give Barack Obama the bounce he was expecting. Nor does anyone expect Biden to bring any state (other than his small home state of Delaware) to Barack Obama’s winning column. A year ago the American people were ready to impeach Bush over the war in Iraq, and now, incredulously, Senator John McCain is pursuing the war and his role in promoting it as an asset instead of a liability. Several months ago, fuel prices reached record highs, and are still hovering astronomically. The current mortgage crisis happened on the President’s watch, and thousands of people are losing their homes; and yet, despite siding overwhelmingly with President Bush on what have been characterized by Democrats as failed policies, Senator McCain is still in a dead heat with Senator Barack Obama.
Overshadowing Senator Obama’s crowning moment was an unresolved tension with the Clintons. Having maligned his ability and character during the primary, they provided ample fodder for the McCain campaign, which consistently features her attacks against Obama in their own television advertisements. Curiously absent from Senator Clinton’s speech on Tuesday night was any mention of Barack Obama’s fitness or ability to lead this country going forward. To make matters worse, on Tuesday, President Bill Clinton posed a hypothetical question which seemed to suggest that electing Senator Obama would lead to a complete loss, while electing McCain would at least provide a modest gain.
However, they don’t call President Clinton the best politician of his generation for nothing, and he showed why on Wednesday night; delivering both the strongest endorsement of Senator Obama and the most stinging rebuke of Bush and McCain heard thus far at the Democratic convention. President Clinton was at the top of his game; even to the point of one-upping his wife’s speech of the night before. The words that come to mind when considering his remarks are; smart, effective, convincing and winning.
What seemed at first a spineless capitulation to the Clintons’ outrageous demands by allowing them to control two nights at the convention, now appears to have been a brilliantly executed strategy to turn the Clinton’s anger, frustration and naked ambition into energy Senator Obama can use to propel himself to the Presidency. No matter what the Clintons do from here on, whether they snipe and hedge, or obstruct and bother, the fact remains that they not only threw their support unreservedly behind Obama, they, as a team, clearly spelled out what makes Obama the most qualified candidate to lead this country. President Clinton effectively accomplished this by comparing criticisms of Obama to his own candidacy in 1992 (we all knew he would talk about himself), in which he was roundly dismissed as too young and inexperienced to lead the country. President Clinton thus rhetorically turned youth and inexperience into an asset rather than an impediment to Obama’s hopes for high office.
If nothing else, the events of this week provided the catharsis among her voters that Senator Clinton wanted. It was evident from the tears, cheers and jeers that poured freely from delegations that the Democratic Party has come together finally; the divisions seem to have been healed, at least for now. By capitalizing on the Clintons’ ambitions, and giving them time to shine, Obama conquered his enemies by turning them into allies; and in the process demonstrated that while he might be on the ropes, he is certainly no dope.