Queen Nancy the First started off prime time with a speech as ignored as her recent book, and witticisms befitting a third-grader (or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). No matter, she had a late-arriving convention crowd chanting “John McCain is wrong!” anyway. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) made several references to the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but didn’t quite mention the whole Skin Color versus Character Content thing. He also appeared to bury the family hatchet, as Jim Lehrer noted, in regards to his father’s remarks- although presumably not in the same place where his father would rip off.
It always amazes me how Jimmy Carter’s reputation among Democrats is still intact. Not only is his presidency widely regarded as an abject failure, but his post-office endeavors mostly include sucking up to third world dictators. He’s probably more skilled at hammering nails in to a board than he is overseeing elections, anyway: he declared Hugo Chavez’ controversial “election” to have been completely free and fair. Then again, maybe double-digit inflation, sky-rocketing interest rates, social and moral decay, a defeated, humiliated military, and an energy policy reliant on cardigan sweaters represent some sort of liberal utopia, to which Democrats are all too eager to return. We Republicans will at least have the good sense of putting Dubya out to pasture in the next couple of elections.
The most talked about event of the evening was the (un)expected appearance of Senator Ted Kennedy, who defied a malignant brain tumor to deliver an impassioned address for the nominee. After internet reporters ruined the Olympics for those of us on the west coast, they couldn’t wait to crow on this convention tidbit, which was evidently supposed to be a surprise. The liberal icon appeared to be in remarkably good shape, given his condition. To the untrained eye and ear, it would seem as though nothing had changed. Personally, I don’t agree with anything Senator Edward Moore Kennedy has to say, and I don’t even like him all that much for equally obvious reasons. But I respect him and his dedicated service to this country enough to not say “good riddance” while the body is still warm. That kind of all-consuming and obsessive hatred is reserved for left-wing websites.
Ultimately, however, it was Michelle’s night. After the customary tribute via party video, she was introduced by Oregon State basketball head coach Craig Robinson, whose claim to fame is being Barack Obama’s brother-in-law (just ask The Oregonian). Speeches by potential first ladies tend to be high risk-low reward matters. They are soon forgotten if successful, and live in infamy if not. The most diplomatic way of describing Theresa Heinz Kerry’s address four years ago was that she must have been on acid while delivering it. After watching two weeks of diving, it could be said that Michelle Obama’s convention keynote didn’t make much of a splash. While it was historic in that the first African-American wife of the first African-American nominee for president was delivering the keynote address of the night, the speech sounded just like every other “first lady candidate” speech before it. What’s more, with focus group words and phrases, the speech could easily have been given by anyone else on the floor.
Conventional wisdom dictates that these quadrennial meetings are about themes- one or two major ideas that are emphasized from different angles each night. What then is the main idea this week, or even tonight? If it’s that Barack Obama is “just a regular guy,” it would seem to conflict with the media’s messianic image of the transformative candidate. Otherwise, it would appear Night One was a missed opportunity for the Democrats to define themselves, their overall message, and their candidate beyond bumper sticker slogans. With Hillary on tap tomorrow, it would seem the party needs to get down to the business of party unity, lest some 40% of Hillary’s supporters jump ship.