Thoughts on conventionsPosted Wednesday, September 3, 2008, at 9:56 AM
Last week, the Democrats made history by nominating the first African-American to be a major party's candidate for president.
There were some African-American delegates on the convention floor old enough to remember back 50 years ago when they weren't even allowed to vote. Whether Obama wins or not, this country has come a long way in the last half century.
Obama stands at the top of a ladder whose rungs were built by a great many people, black and white, great and small.
The list includes Fredrick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson, the largely white college students who helped register African-Americans to vote in the south (some paying for it with their lives), and all the voters who cast aside race as an issue and elected black mayors such as Mountain Home's own Joe B. McNeal, black legislators and black congressmen. This country' leaders and everyday citizens worked to bring us to this point, to build a rung in that ladder.
The American ideal of "equality for all" is finally being realized.
It was a day that, despite the context, went beyond partisan politics, that should have made every American proud, regardless of political affiliation.
Obama may or may not win the election. There's still ten weeks to go. But the simple fact of his nomination sent a message around the world that we can practice what we preach.
I don't care what anybody else says. It's good to be an American these days.
* * *
And, in terms of "equality for all," we might have a woman holding the second highest office in the land.
When I was growing up, there were "men's jobs" and "women's jobs." But the social activism of the '60s saw the daughters of Rosie the Riveter begin demanding gender equality. In my early career as a journalist, I covered a lot of stories about the first woman police officer, the first woman fireman, the first woman city councilman, the list goes on.
One generation later my girls grew up believing that any job was open to them, that they had the right to seek whatever careers they wanted. One is a working mother, one is a full-time homemaker/mother and one is a career woman. They pretty much cover all the bases. The point is, all the options are on the table for women today, and Palin's selection merely reinforces that.
* * *
Last week, the Democrats had the national spotlight, and did well with it. This week, it's the Republicans turn, and I suspect they'll do equally as well.
But in the category of "if life hands you lemons, make lemonade," Hurricane Gustav may turn out to be a blessing for the RNC's national convention. It's a bad storm, although not catastrophic as it turned out, but it gave McCain and the RNC the opportunity to adjust their schedule to give the appearance of being more concerned about the country than mere politics (and there is probably a lot of sincerity in that -- although Obama's comments have shown an equally sincere concern).
More importantly, it probably will keep Bush and Cheney away from the convention. That's good for McCain. The last thing he really needed was having to have his picture taken holding hands with George Bush. He's under enough criticism for adopting/advocating Bush's policies. Unfortunately, whenever he tries to stand on the same ground as Bush he keeps discovering it's quicksand. Keeping Bush away will help keep the spotlight on McCain alone, so Gustav has to be considered a blessing to him.
* * *
Obama gave a great acceptance speech. Not quite as soaring as some he's given, but a lot more nuts and bolts about what he plans to do. I suspect McCain also will give the speech of his life at the end of this week. At least he better. It very well could make or break him.
* * *
Both candidates are going to make a lot of promises over the next few weeks. I think both will be sincere in their efforts to achieve those promises. Voters should keep in mind the hard reality is that neither candidate will be able to pay for or fulfill all of their campaign promises, no matter how hard they try. I'd say if either one gets 50 percent of what they want to do accomplish, they'll have done well. And since both are sitting U.S. senators, the loser of this election still has the ability to try to put his programs in effect.
* * *
I was pleased to see that Obama had declared Palin's family issues off limits. He's right, we don't elect families, and they should have their privacy. Of course, that won't stop the press, the pundits and the bloggers (you can just imagine the jokes that are going to be made about potential White House shotgun weddings).
The microscope that candidates and their families are put through by the press these days is what kept Colin Powell from running for president eight years ago. And I truly believe he'd have gotten elected if he'd run. But showing what a smart, compassionate man he was, he didn't want to put his family through that wringer.
When it comes to family issues, the candidates run the gamut. We have a divorced man, a woman whose (currently) unwed teenage daughter is pregnant, a man who was raised by a single mother, and a man who raised his children in their early years as a single parent. It's a pretty good cross section of the real America.
* * *
In terms of family, however, no matter who we elect as president this fall, the country is going to wind up with a great -- and gracious -- first lady. The wives of both of the candidates are very classy ladies, with style, grace and charisma.
Michelle Obama got her spotlight last week, and Cindy McCain will get hers this week.
I was impressed by something Mrs. Obama said in one of the interviews I watched last week. She noted that for politicians and pundits, September is usually considered the start of the political season, the final, crucial furlong in the race to the election this November.
But, she said, for most Americans, including herself, it was about getting the kids settled back into school -- registration, buying supplies and clothes, all the minutia that people who have kids in school have to go through.
The comment sort of provided a reality check to all the politics of last week and this week. For all that the candidates may be focusing on the "big picture" issues, in the end, what people really care about is what effects them on a day-to-day basis. A lot of time, the politicians and the pundits tend to forget that. Her comment seemed to remind us all about what politics is supposed to be about. You and me getting through today and tomorrow.
* * *
I thought it was a little tasteless of the GOP to run highly negative attack ads against Obama in the middle of network coverage of the Democratic convention. Somehow, I tend to believe that if McCain wasn't being so heavily influenced by the Karl Rove Clique handlers he's surrounded himself with that wouldn't have happened. Of course, the ad did say he'd approved the message.
Each party should have the right to the spotlight during their convention, without interference from the other party. I hope the Democrats don't pull the same stunt. If I think it's wrong for one, it should be wrong for the other. However, this being politics....
* * *
Every party will be able to point to certain truths that they think are compelling. It's up to the voters to decide which of the truths carry more weight (after they've filtered out the lies, half-truths and innuendos).
Sen. Harry Reed of Nevada, the senate majority leader, gave a speech that was probably the strongest attack on GOP policies of any of the speakers, and contained one interesting truth.
Reed's focus was on U.S. energy policy (or rather the lack of one). He contended that ever since President Carter declared a need for energy independence (and was the first and until recently the last president to do so), the country has failed to address the need for a coherent energy policy. The Republican solution, he said, was just to "drill more."
And he pointed out that in the last 28 years, except for the Clinton administration, every administration has had a former oil company executive as either president or vice president -- in the fact, the current administration has both. Good point. It does sort of explain why this country is still subsidizing oil companies with taxpayer dollars while they report obscenely high record profits.
* * *
I wish more people had watched what went on at the convention last week, or what will go on this week, but unfortunately, far too many people -- who plan to vote this fall -- spent time watching something else. Some even objected that their favorite reality/game shows had been pre-empted. They're not interest in actually listening and learning in order to make an informed vote for what is turning out to be a crucial election in American history.
When "American Idol" and "Deal or No Deal" are more important to a person, maybe they shouldn't even be allowed to vote. But they will -- unfortunately.
By the way, PBS had the best coverage of all. They weren't trying to show how smart they were and analyze every little thing. They carried the speeches in their entirety, and let the viewers decide for themselves. How refreshing.
* * *
Finally, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit GOP candidate John McCain. The politest thing I can say about that is "hogwash." Putin claims the U.S. urged Georgia to "attack" its own province of S. Ossettia, which had become sort of "neutral" territory with both Georgian and Russian "peacekeepers" in the area, thus "forcing" them to "counterattack," which would then make McCain, who is strongly anti-Russian and pro-Georgian, look good.
That's about as convoluted an argument for naked aggression as I've ever seen. And in fact, whether McCain benefitted at all from the crisis in Georgia is highly doubtful. To think that Bush encouraged an attack to help McCain is ridiculous.
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