AN HISTORIC DAY,
while Bill Clinton and Joe Biden
begin the wooing of Independents
Thursday, August 28, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Regardless of how well, or poorly, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York's speech before the Convention the night before helped unify the Democratic Party, this does not at all change the fact that today's session would be most historic: for, for the very first time, an African-American was to be formally nominated for President of the United States by one of the Nation's two Major Parties.
In addition, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware- the presumptive nominee for Vice-President- would have to use his Acceptance Speech on this same night, however historic, to begin the wooing of non-Democrats who might yet be skeptical- especially when it comes to issues of Foreign Policy and National Security- of there even being a 'President Barack Obama' (in essence, Senator Biden would be attempting- as regards independent voters- to do the very same thing Senator Clinton was herself attempting to do as regarded the Party faithful the night before). In this task, he would be aided by former President Bill Clinton who would be speaking before the Convention about an hour and a half before Biden and, aside from also "talking up" Obama as regards Foreign and Military Policy, would continue to soothe the perhaps still raw nerves of supporters of his wife's presidential bid in yet one more bid for Party unity.
The third day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention was gaveled to order at 3:10 PM local time in Denver (5:10 Eastern Time [2110 UTC]) on Wednesday 27 August 2008 (the centenary of the birth of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, by the way [though I recall hardly a mention of this by LBJ's much beloved Party during all this day's proceedings]) by acting Chair State Senator Leticia Van de Putte of Texas who gave a short speech honoring Texas Democratic women of the past, including the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (who was the Keynoter at the 1976 Democratic Convention) and the late Governor Ann Richards. Then Democratic National Committee Chair and Temporary Convention Chair Howard Dean came out to entertain motions on a couple of what he called "procedural matters" related to the presidential nominating process.
Only after this was the Invocation offered by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Presentation of the Colors was by the Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Paul Bucha and the National Anthem was sung by Rob Moore, a member of the Council of the Rosebud Sioux Nation in South Dakota.
Then Permanent Convention Chair and Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi came forth to announce that two candidates had qualified to be formally nominated before the Convention- these being, obviously, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois).
The nominating speech for Mrs. Clinton was delivered by Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) who stated that the formal nomination of Senator Clinton was being made in the name of a coalition of 18 million people... who stood with Hillary and never gave up. Mrs. Clinton's nomination was seconded in speeches by Utah delegate Jordan Apollo Pazell (one of the youngest delegates to the Convention) and Denise Williams Harris of New York State.
The nominating speech for Barack Obama was given by Michael Wilson, an Iraq war veteran and a registered Republican who told the assembled he was supporting Obama as someone who has the courage to talk to our enemies and consult with our allies. Obama's nomination was seconded by Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado who greeted the Convention with Welcome to the West, where we are building the new Democratic Majority!; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida (who had been co-chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, by the way) who declaimed that No matter where we stood at the beginning of this campaign, Democrats stand together today!; and, finally, Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama (whose Congressional District encompasses the so-called "Black Belt"of his State, the very area through which passed the famous March through Selma back in 1965).
After all the nominating and seconding speeches had been completed, Permanent Chair Pelosi called upon Convention Secretary Alice Travis Germond to conduct the ROLL CALL OF THE STATES re: the Presidential Nomination.
The Roll Call of the States proceeded alphabetically through the first portion of the list of 56 delegations to the Convention until New Mexico was called. New Mexico passed to Barack Obama's home State of Illinois (which, along with California [the largest delegation], had passed earlier in the Roll Call); Illinois, in turn, passed to New York- the State represented by Senator Hillary Clinton, at which point Mrs. Clinton herself moved that the rules be suspended so that the Roll Call itself could be suspended and Barack Obama could then be nominated for President by acclamation-- this was seconded and approved by the Convention viva voce and, with this, Senator Obama formally became the first African-American ever to be nominated for President of the United States by a Major American political Party.
After a fairly brief celebration on the floor marking Senator Obama's presidential nomination now being official, the Convention proceeded with a presentation of non-incumbent Democratic candidates for the United States Senate by Senator Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The candidates so presented were: Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico, former Governor Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Oregon Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley and Congressman Tom Allen of Maine. The most interesting remark made by any of these was by Merkley who scored his opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith, by saying that my opponent talks like Barack Obama, but he votes like George W. Bush [what made this interesting is that Senator Smith, although a Republican, is a cousin of Tom Udall, who had spoken just moments earlier!]).
All the Senate candidates who had spoken together then joined Senator Schumer on the stage for a few moments, after which the next speaker came to the dais- Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. As Mayor of Chicago, I know something about Barack Obama: he came to Chicago to fight for working families... he understands that people want government to work for them again. Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida came next: he complained that today, American influence abroad wanes: our advice is not sought, our warnings are not heeded, our standing in the world is at an all-time low. For 7 long years, America has paid a dear price for the National Security decisions of President Bush and John McCain. Wexler also noted that Barack Obama stands with Israel, not only in his words, but also in his deeds.
There was then a presentation of the Democratic women of the U.S. House of Representatives led, of course, by Speaker of the House (and Convention Permanent Chair) Nancy Pelosi who, noting that the first female delegates to a Major Party National Convention had been at the Democratic National Convention held in that same city in Denver 100 years earlier, introduced a series of female Members of Congress who were Democrats- in turn: Rosa di Lauro of Connecticut; Nita Lowey of New York; Hilda Solis of California; Louise Slaughter of New York; Maxine Waters of California; Kathy Castor of Florida and Lois Capps of California. When all had finished speaking, all these women- along with other female Democrats serving in the U.S. House who did not speak- joined Speaker Pelosi on the stage.
Next came Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland who, playing on both his being the chairman of both the House Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation subcommittee and the Readiness subcommittee (the motto of the Coast Guard being 'Always Ready') complained that when it comes to our National Security, the Bush Administration has not always been ready. Congressman Cummings was followed by a presentation of 'Firefighters for Obama' led by Mark Docherty, a firefighter from Sterling Heights, Michigan and then House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina who, in turn, was followed by Manuel Diaz, the Mayor of Miami, Florida and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors
Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia- chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence- now came forward to speak. He referred to Barack Obama and Joe Biden as two patriots with the judgment and the courage to face down the threats of the 21st Century... The threats we face are real and they're growing... our strength is profoundly undermined by our reliance on unstable regimes for foreign oil. We need a leader who will see the world as it is, he offered, not as it was... Barack Obama is that leader, seeing Obama as someone who understands that are Nation is strongest abroad when it is strong here at home, while John McCain views the world through Cold War glasses
Senator Rockefeller was followed by another video under the rubric 'Changing the Course of our Nation', featuring John Melvin, an Iraq war veteran from Iowa.
When the 8 PM Eastern Time hour rolled around ('Prime Time' in TV time), there was a musical performance by Melissa Etheridge who performed a medley of God Bless America, Bob Dylan's The Times They are a-Changin', John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. This was followed by a video of a Convention delegate from Austin, Texas arriving in Denver a few days back discussing, on camera, her expectations for this Convention.
The first speaker of the evening portion of the program (the theme of which was 'Securing America's Future') was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada who professorally argued that the history of the last hundred years has been a constant mix of oil and war: wars that were funded by, impossible without, and usually fought over oil... Since the turn of the new century, those hard facts have come home to America in the most vicious way: attacked at home by oil-funded terrorists, at war abroad with oil-funded insurgents, threatened by global markets and faced with acquisition of our industrial base by oil-funded multinationals, we must defend America or face her utter destruction... These threats are real, they're immediate and they're potentially overwhelming and the saddest part, the most terrible irony, is that we finance them every time we pump gas or pay a utility bill.
Reid reminded the assembled that President Carter, back in the 1970s, had called sound energy policy "the moral equivalent of war" and then noted that his proposals were ridiculed by Republicans who forgot that both Presidents Nixon and Ford had joined him in calling for America's energy independence. That bipartisanship, however, became partisan as this Nation entered an era of oil industry dominance when, for more than 28 years since 1980- except for the Clinton Presidency- former oil industry executives have been President or Vice President of the United States and, indeed, for the past eight years, have filled both offices at once.
Retired United States Army Reserves Command Sergeant Major Michele Jones of the District of Columbia came to the podium next to explain why she was endorsing Barack Obama for President. She was followed by Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress, who came onstage with 25 fellow veterans of that conflict.
Clinton Administration Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright came to the dais to opine that we have learned that American foreign policy is not foreign anymore: overseas problems, if not addressed, inevitably come home to America. She complained that Senator McCain claims to already know everything a President needs to know, but the first qualification any leader needs to have is the ability to learn. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana then came to the podium and started with what he called "good news" that in less than five short months, the Bush Administration will be gone, finished, out of here forever! Of his Senate colleague John McCain, Bayh pointed out that he's not a bad man, but he's badly mistaken to embrace the Bush agenda for America.
The next speaker was Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island who, in turn, was followed by former Senator (and former Democratic Senate leader) Tom Daschle of South Dakota who seemed more earnest, where not also more energized, simply by his no longer being in the Washington political vortex (no, that was now Senator Harry Reid's problem) and scored the Bush Administration by opining that in less than a decade, we've gone from being perceived as a beacon of Democracy and Justice all over the globe to a country whose government has little respect even for the most basic tenets of Human Rights. We know that's not us, we're better than that!
Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida came to the podium to read some remarks introducing President William Jefferson Clinton, after which the former President himself strode onto the stage to the strains of the Convention band playing Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, the Fleetwood Mac song that became his campaign theme during the 1992 campaign in which he was first elected. The Convention cheered him lustily and heartily, well showing that Bill Clinton was, very clearly, still the "rock star" of his Party, someone who, being still young enough, perhaps had already picked up the mantle of an ailing Senator Ted Kennedy as an inspirational speaker at, presumably, many a Democratic National Convention yet to come--
yet, at the very same time, one looking upon this scene simply had to well reflect on one particular line of that song being played as the former President bathed in the adulation of the assembled: "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone"-- perhaps, more than anything else, his wife- Senator Hillary Clinton's- bid for the Presidency this time round was ultimately tripped up by that very line's rather harsh truth. For, with her being perceived (whether this be fair or not) as the inheritor of the Clinton legacy, Barack Obama- the relative 'newbie' on the national political scene, who emerged on that scene after Bill Clinton had already left office- was much the more allowed to better position himself as the Democratic presidential contender reaching for the future, at least enough so to be able to end up nipping Mrs. Clinton at the post.
After several failed attempts to quiet the crowd, Bill Clinton finally said: Got to get on with the show here, come on!... Sit down!... Please stop: I love this and I thank you--but we've got important work to do here tonight. I am here, first, to support Barack Obama. Then, somewhat humorously playing on presumptive vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden's reputation of being a rather drier speaker (certainly as compared to himself), the former President went on: and, second, I'm here to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden: though, as you will soon see, he doesn't need any help from me.
Clinton noted that the former First Lady, the defeated presidential contender, told us, in no uncertain terms, that she would do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us. Then, referring to the number of those who had voted for Hillary Clinton in the Primaries and Caucuses: Actually, that makes 18 million of us! Because, like Hillary, I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November.
Of the closely fought contest between eventual presidential nominee Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton, her husband joked that that campaign generated so much heat it increased global warming. But the former President also opined, of Senator Obama, that the long, hard Primaries strengthened and tested him and (here speaking of Senator Biden), in the selecting of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.
Bill Clinton argued that our Nation is in trouble on two fronts: the American Dream is under siege at home and American leadership in the world has been weakened. The former President opined that, as a result of this, clearly the job of the next President is to rebuild the American Dream and to restore American leadership in the world and that Barack Obama is the man for this job.
Clinton assured his audience that where Obama cannot convert adversaries into partners, he will stand up to them, but that, at the same time, the 2008 presidential nominee well understands that people all over the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
President Clinton reminded people that, when he first ran for the Nation's Highest Office, the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander in Chief. Sound familiar? Clinton asked rhetorically with a wry smile. It didn't work in 1992 because we were on the right side of History and it will not work in 2008 because Barack Obama is on the right side of History. Clinton then closed by declaiming that If, like me, you believe that America must always be a place called Hope, then join Hillary, Chelsea and me in making Barack Obama the next President of the United States!
The former President was followed by Beth Robinson of Hampton Roads, Virginia, the wife of a United States Marine and an advocate for military families. She, in turn, was followed at the dais by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who began: Four years ago, you gave me the honor of fighting our fight: I was proud to stand with you then and I am proud to stand with you now to help elect Barack Obama President of the United States...
Never in modern history, the previous Democratic standard-bearer opined, has an Administration squandered American power so recklessly; never has Strategy been so replaced by Ideology; never has Extremism so crowded out Common Sense and fundamental American values; never has short-term partisan politics so depleted the strength of America's bipartisan Foreign Policy...
President Obama and Vice-President Biden will shut down Guantanamo, respect the Constitution and make clear, once and for all, the United States of America does not torture- not now, not ever! Kerry declaimed. We must listen and lead by example because, even a Nation as powerful as the United States needs some friends in this world...
I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years but, every day now, I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say: let's compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain... candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill; candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote: are you kidding me, folks? Then, in a piece of self-deprecating humor recalling one of the lower moments during his own presidential campaign four years earlier, Kerry noted Talk about 'being for it before you're against it'! Let me tell you: before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself...
A candidate who once campaigned on a promise of ideas, not insults, now has nothing left but personal attacks, Kerry claimed. How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission question the truth ;how pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself; how desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn't put America first. No one can question Barack Obama's patriotism!... After all, patriotism is not love of power or some trick, patriotism is love of country. Years ago, when we protested a war, people would weigh in against us, saying 'My country, right or wrong': our answer? Absolutely, my country right or wrong: when right, keep it right; when wrong, make it right. Sometimes loving your country means you have to tell the truth to power-- this is one of those times and Barack Obama is telling those truths.
Kerry closed: The choice is clear, our cause is just and now is the time to make Barack Obama President of United States of America.
Next came retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (the first woman to ever be a three-star General) to speak of her endorsement of Barack Obama for the Presidency and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson, now president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire who explained why, after decades as a registered Republican, he was now a Democrat: The Grand Old Party is no longer grand, Hutson said, it is just old.
After a short speech by Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas, there was a video presentation- narrated by Tom Hanks- about the young people who volunteered to serve in the military, linking those who have recently served in either Iraq and/or Afghanistan to those who have served in previous wars and, all together, discussing the needs of veterans once they are no longer active warriors and are back home (this video presentation kicking off the 10 PM 'over-the-air' broadcast network hour)
This led to a speech by Tammy Duckworth, Director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Dept. and an Iraq war veteran who lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq and who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2006 (else Congressman Murphy [D-PA], who had spoken earlier, would not have been the only Iraq war veteran elected to Congress in that same election). Duckworth opined that Senator Obama understands that, no matter where you stand on the war, you must love the warrior- and he does. She also decried John McCain's plan to privatize the VA [=the federal Veterans' Administration].
Next came Quincy Lucas, a schoolteacher from Dover, Delaware whose sister had been murdered by an ex-boyfriend, praising presumptive vice-presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden for so strongly supporting the Violence Against Women Act. This immediately led to making Biden less presumptively so: Convention Permanent Chair Nancy Pelosi came to the podium to entertain a motion to suspend the rules and make Joe Biden's nomination for Vice President by acclamation- a motion was made, seconded, and approved viva voce... thus, Senator Biden was now formally the Democrats' vice-presidential nominee and the Obama/Biden Democratic national ticket for 2008 was now legally official.
There was a video 'bio-pic' of Senator Joe Biden, after which Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden came forward to introduce his father who then came out to the strains of the Convention band playing/singing the "Ain't that America" refrain from John Mellencamp's Pink Houses.
Joe Biden, early in his Acceptance Speech, saluted now-former presidential contender Senator Hillary Clinton as a woman who has made history and will continue to make history. Then he got to the most important point: Since I have never been called a man of few words, let me simply say as I can: Yes- yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next President of the United States of America...
I believe the measure of a man is not the road he travels but the choice he makes along that road... You know, you can learn a lot about a man- campaigning with him, debating him, seeing how he reacts to the pressure: you learn about the strength of his mind but, even more importantly, you learn about the quality of his heart. I watched how Barack touched people, how he inspired them and I realized he had tapped into the oldest belief in America: we don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear- we have the power to change it. And change is exactly what Barack Obama will do!...
John McCain is my friend... I mean it... it's a friendship that goes beyond Politics and the personal courage and heroism demonstrated by John still amazes me, but I profoundly- I profoundly disagree with the direction John wants to take this country... These times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader...
Again and again, on the most important National Security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama has been proven right, Biden opined. Folks, remember when the world used to trust us?- when they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our President, they'll look to us again, they'll trust us again and we'll be able to lead again.
Folks, Jill and I are truly honored to join Michelle and Barack on this journey, Biden said. When I look at their young children and I look at my grandchildren, I know why I'm here. I'm here for their future, I'm here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington, I'm here for... the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American Dream endures... Millions of Americans have been knocked down and this is a time, as Americans, when, together, we get back up- back up together!...
These are extraordinary times, this is an extraordinary election. The American People are ready. I am ready, Barack is ready. This is his time, this is our time, this is America's time. God bless America and may God protect our troops!
Senator Biden was then joined on stage by his wife, Jill, who then told him Honey, tonight we have a very special surprise guest. To which Biden asked Who?- and out strode the presidential nominee, Barack Obama himself, to the delight of the assembled. I just wanted to come out here for a little something to say, Obama told them. I want everybody to now understand why I am so proud to have Joe Biden and Jill Biden and Beau Biden and Mama Biden and the whole Biden family with me on this journey to take America back!
Senator Obama went over to greet Permanent Chair Pelosi, Convention Secretary Germond and other Convention officers off to the side of the stage while Senator Biden now stood on stage, joined by his entire extended family (and- once again- Senator Obama) to the strains of the Sister Sledge hit We are Family. It was, strangely, very much like what usually takes place on the final night of a Convention (all that were missing were the cascading balloons and all the confetti) but, of course, considering that this "moveable feast" of a Convention would be moving over to Invesco Field at Mile High for a session culminating in Senator Obama's Acceptance Speech the following night, this was really the very last chance for a more typical "end of Convention" photo-op in the Pepsi Center itself.
The Benediction was offered by Sister Catherine Pinkerton of the Congregation of St. Joseph's in Cleveland, Ohio, after which the acting chair, Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, entertained a motion to recess the Convention until 3:15 PM local time (5:15 PM on the East Coast of the US) the next day at the stadium-- it was duly seconded and then approved by the Convention viva voce.