Category Archives: Michelle Obama

In the City of Brotherly Love: Day 1 of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia

sanders-clinton-handshakeOur theme today is “United Together.” I’ll pause while we all take a deep breath and live in the hope that today’s Democratic Convention opening doesn’t look like last week’s RNC disaster.

Will Bernie Sanders go all Ted Cruz and refuse to endorse Hillary? Will the Feel the Bern-ers (who are still chalking “Vote for Bernie” on sidewalks in the Fillmore) take over the spotlight to cause a ruckus? Bernie has promised a special moment for his supporters for today, which sounds ominous…

michelle-obamaOn the other hand, Michelle Obama is also slated to speak tonight. Personally, I’d love it if she cribbed a phrase from Melania Trump, but she’s too gracious for that kind of thing.

We will see if the Dems can get their act together. That dull thunk you hear is the sound of Debbie Wasserman Schultz falling on her sword, which may not mollify the Sanders supporters, but oy, can we please at least get the  dirty laundry aired and dry cleaned before we start this party? I am so tired of watching supposed adults acting like they are five year-olds on a playgroundfive year-olds on a playground.  Come to think of it, I know better behaved five-year olds.

Party Rules

Real estate developer Donald Trump, gestures during a news conference with the PGA in New YorkSo, I know I promised this earlier in the week. It took a while for my stomach to settle down enough so I could read the Republican Party platform. Not that you’d know it from the four days of absurdly rollicking disunity and disorganization we just witnessed ( which Politico called “The most chaotic, messy and perhaps memorable political convention in decades“), but there is a written plan that theoretically outlines the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of the GOP.

2It’s 66 pages of eye-roll inducing bloviation that starts out by declaring for American exceptionalism, which to me is like starting out by stating that the sun, moon, and stars all revolve around the earth. It just ain’t true, folks–we are as exceptional as any other nation, which is to say, not at all. It also kind of hilariously flies in the face of Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” If we are so exceptional and guided by divine right, why do we need to make ourselves great…again?

Here are some other lowlights, but I encourage you to read it yourself, particularly to friends who need encouragement to get out to vote in November. It’s scary, folks.

In no particular order, let’s start with  denial about climate change. The GOP is putting their chips formally behind fossil fuels and coal, which seems so ludicrous as to be insane. Do you really need the votes from coal miners in West Virginia so badly?

Hilariously, the platform notes that:

The central fact of any sensible environmental policy is that, year by year, the environment is improving. Our air and waterways are much healthier than they were a few decades ago. As a nation, we have drastically reduced pollution, mainstreamed recycling, educated the public, and avoided ecological degradation.

Seriously? And just who do you think was responsible for the REGULATIONS that brought about that improving? Because it was Republicans and it didn’t just happen spontaneously.

Republicans are, of course, vehemently pro life and would like to pass an amendment declaring every egg and sperm is sacred.

We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Notorious R.B.G. At work. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Along with that, the platform formally declares their desire to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and condemns the Supreme  Court decision that allows women’s health clinics to continue to operate in Texas without undue restriction.

 

Also on the Culture War front, the platform also promises pro-life justices– enjoy this shoutout to Antonin Scalia:

Only a Republican president will appoint judges who respect the rule of law expressed within the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, including the inalienable right to life and the laws of nature and nature’s God, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Speaking of Scalia, the GOP is also looking to roll back marriage equality gains:

Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law. We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia,
was a “judicial Putsch” — full of “silly extravagances” — that reduced “the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Storey to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.” In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Check that out. That’s Republicans claiming that they were robbed of the right to disenfranchise other citizens of their rights.

PP-Casting-Out-the-MOney-Changers-by-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch-1834-1890

Hey, moneychangers: Get out.

And speaking of rights….the GOP also whines that the freedom of religion is under attack because certain institutions who don’t believe that gay marriage should be a right can’t get government grants and might lose their tax exempt status. Uh, by the way, you’re still FREE to practice your religion–you just don’t get money and tax breaks for failing to recognize the rights of others.

Other miscellany: the GOP is against gun restrictions. Of course. High capacity magazines (154 shots in 5 minutes) are a great idea especially for school shootings.

We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.

They’d like to roll back banking reform –what little there was of that–from 2008, because darnitalltoheck those pesky restrictions keep crazy people from inventing new investment schemes that can tank the economy.

What else? They’re against stem cell research, natch, and against GMO labeling, but for proof of citizenship to vote. (Hey, what if everyone had to name the nine –well eight–justices of the Supreme Court in order to qualify? Then only recently-minted American immigrants will be able to vote.)

keystone-xl-pipeline-tar-sands-cartoon-1024x701Republicans are for fracking, more oil and gas drilling (hello, Keystone XL pipeline) and against food stamps. They want to break down Obamacare and build a wall on the Mexican border. They want to penalize cities that give sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, but pass a law allowing bible study in public schools. Affirm the right to life while restoring the death penalty. Oh, and this:

Quite simply, the Republican Party is committed to rebuilding the U.S. military into the strongest on earth, with vast superiority over any other nation or group of nations in the world.

KKKristian-690x460

I don’t think these people live in Seville, Spain.

You’ve got the idea. Basically they’d like to give lip service to Christian values, while standing against all the things Christ actually represented like helping the poor, forgiving sins, renouncing violence and worldly goods, and unconditional love for your enemies.

 

Happier Thoughts

Anyway, in prep for tonight’s extravaganza, I offer you a few things that made me happy from last week, in hopes that this will set the tone for this week.


Unranting Edition

Were you looking for a rant after the last day of the convention?

Yeah, I was too.

When I turned off the Dem convention Day Three last night, I was looking for that fired-up energy.

You know, the couch-slapping, galvanic kind of energy  I got at the end of Bill Clinton’s Day Two speech or the poignant warmth that I felt at the end of Michelle Obama’s encomium on Day One.

Don’t get me wrong, Obama gave a good speech. It had some memorable lines and excellent points, but, as with many of the speeches he’s given in the past few years, I felt like it was geared more toward dialing things down than firing things up. And after we turned off the TV, I didn’t really have any particular feelings about the speech, other than that it was good, not great.

Still, I think it says a lot about him and his approach that his speech slowed me down. I wasn’t typing furiously the way that I did after the Republican convention speakers, or even at the close of the last two days of the DNC. In the morning, I’m chewing over it and still asking myself how I felt about it. The answer is positive, although not necessarily inspired.

The fact that we’ve always known is that Obama is not a grandstander or a demagogue. And he’s not a ranter like me.  Now, I love to see that other people are as outraged as I am, that they’re as vexed by the misinformation and obfuscations that have been flying this political season. I like to watch Bill Clinton preach and Jennifer Granholm rip into Romney. Even last night, it was John Kerry, of all people, who was on fire:”Our opponents like to talk about ‘American Exceptionalism,’ but all they do is talk. The only thing exceptional about today’s Republicans is that — almost without exception — they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place.”

And Joe Biden, who’s often painted as a buffoon in the news media, gave a disarmingly heartfelt and stirring populist speech, exhorting folks to look to a future where we promote the “private sector, not the privileged sector.” Although I worry about Bob Woodward’s new book being a thorn in Obama’s side, it seems his portrayal of Biden confirms what I’ve always suspected: that he’s savvier than you think, and doesn’t care what his public image is as long the job gets done.

BUT, none of this is Obama’s style. We could see that from Day One of his presidency in his inaugural address. Last night’s speech, to be honest, wasn’t full of soaring rhetoric, or even broad, sweeping ideas. His sauciest one liner–“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”– was delivered with more exasperation than charm.

However, I think it was designed to reframe the entire conversation and in its own understated way, re-entrench (if I may coin a word) his supporters, by reminding them of what we like about him. He’s honest, unafraid to face tough realities, works hard for what he believes in, and is humble enough that everything doesn’t need to be about him. Some of what I thought were his best lines last night underscored that:

“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy.  I never have.  You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear.  You elected me to tell you the truth.”

“So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  My fellow citizens – you were the change.”

“And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.'”

“America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now.  Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place.  Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together.  We don’t turn back.  We leave no one behind.  We pull each other up.”

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast had it right, I think, when he said, “I don’t think it was a game-changer. I do think it sets an optimistic tone for the campaign and a stark choice for Americans this fall. This convention was much better than last week’s. Clinton’s speech alone was worth the whole thing. But this will now be decided in the debates. They will be more than usually vital. I suspect Obama kept his waverers on his side tonight, fired up his base, but failed to break away. We’ll see.”

The reaction from around the blogosphere is pretty much in agreement. James Fallows at the Atlantic says, “I thought it was not one of his best but that it did the job.” And at the NY Times, David Brooks’ assessment is : “Thursday night’s speech showed the character and his potential. It didn’t show audacity and the fulfillment of that potential.” And Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast says: “It was not Obama’s greatest speech, nor his most passionate. It was, instead, a grown-up speech, a substantive speech, one that hit high notes but never soared to the heights. Whatever afterglow it created may soon fade as voters again confront the realities of the shaky economy, and the fresh unemployment figures due out Friday morning.”

So here’s the thing though. Mixed in with my musings on the Obama speech, I was also pondering the post of a Facebook friend, a Conservative  Baptist I’ve known since high school, who says that she is hiding the posts of some people that she knows until this election is over. I have to assume that I’m on that list, since I merrily post political items on my timeline all the time. Add to that the request from another friend that I not send her emails any longer because “politics just isn’t her thing.”

Now, I’m not offended, but it brings home a reality that I think we have to face up to. People who are Republican supporters are just as unlikely to change their minds about anything to do with Obama as I am to change my mind about Romney. A few weeks ago there was a report on NPR which I can’t find now, but the upshot of it was that for those of us who have a partisan bent, whether it be left or right, it is nearly impossible to make us change our minds now. But there are surprisingly few people, even among independents who HAVEN’T yet made up their minds.

Was this dog-and-pony show going to change the opinions of anyone out there?  Nope. Neither convention could ever have done that and frankly,neither the RNC nor the DNC was without cringe-worthy moments. On balance, I think the Dems came out ahead, despite the wrangling over putting “God” and Jerusalem in the platform, and despite the embarrassing move out of the stadium venue for the last night. After all, the Republicans lost a whole day to the hurricane, had to contend with Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, and were raked over the coals for Paul Ryan’s factually-challenged speech.

Instead, I think we have to use these moments to remind ourselves of why it’s important that we not get lazy about this election, why it’s important that everyone gets out there to vote. Why it’s important that we refute the lies of course, and battle the misinformation wherever we find it, and take this election seriously.

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GROUSY CAT SEZ:
Only kitties can afford to be lazy. Get out and vote.

In the Tank Edition

Clearly I am in the tank for Barack Obama.  It’s a nice tank. I like it a lot. I’ve installed a comfy couch in one corner of this tank and I’m planning to stay here.

Yep, it’s time for the Democratic Convention–and after managing to contain the rage (yes,that was contained) that the GOP convention elicited, I feel like I can finally enjoy politics for a brief shining moment. 

Everyone is a little shouty, except for Kathleen Sebelius, but they’re hitting the right notes. Tammy Duckworth and Lily Ledbetter are there, as is Rahm Emmanuel with some great observations about life in the Obama White House that make me long for the “West Wing.” He reveals that Obama reads ten letters from average Americans every night to ground him and remind him of what they were working for. Why do I doubt Mitt Romney would ever even entertain the thought of such a thing?

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts gave a fabulous fiery wonderful speech–I especially loved his exhortation to Democrats to grow a backbone–did that offend people? It should, because it’s true and it’s been a problem for Dems for decades. Still, Deval reminds us of all the Obama has accomplished, “With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office — and neither should you.” If you’re looking to get fired up, check his speech out.

Patrick’s not the keynote speaker though. That’s Julian Castro.  I’m still dreaming of a “West Wing” Matt Santos from Texas kind of situation. Castro’s TED talk was genial but not on fire.  In Charlotte though, he gets warmed up and he’s a great personable natural speaker, plus he gets a few great lines in there about Romney/Ryan: “Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks, we’ve heard that before. First they called it “trickle-down.” Then “supply-side.” Now it’s “Romney-Ryan.” Or is it “Ryan-Romney”? Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price.”

Castro also tosses off this line: “In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay.”  Yeah, that’s a gibe about Ryan’s fibs about his fabulous marathon time.

The star speaker of the evening though is Michelle Obama. Gotta love it when “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is your theme music. Seriously, how much does this woman rock?

One can’t help contrasting Ann Romney’s speech with Michelle’s.  Ann got a lot of praise for her speech, but looked at next to Michelle’s, it pales–it comes across as inauthentic, nervous and and filled with non-specific generalities about life with Mitt.

I don’t doubt that Mitt and Ann started out in a basement apartment where they ate pasta and tuna on an ironing board, but she can’t carry the story through to say, “I understand your struggles,” because they don’t understand. There was a hollowness to Ann’s speech that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time, but which seems obvious when I watch Michelle. Ann was trying to tell the story she had been tasked by the RNC with framing, but wasn’t ready to lie to put the story over.

By contrast, Michelle’s speech is both gracious, and yet peppered with details of her experience that ring true and move us. “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are,” she says, and that is so damn true. She gets all verklempt at the end, I’m all verklempt, the entire convention floor is on its feet, people are crying and cheering at the same time.

As Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast says, “As she describes the courage, wisdom, patience and grace of Barack Obama, I see them too. I make no apologies for admiring this president as much as anyone in public life, and seeing his sincerity and integrity and hearing this woman tell the truth about him after so many lies, it all comes as a huge and joyous relief.”

Yes. This.

I was going to wrap with a recap of the five best speeches Obama has ever given, but you know what? Michelle’s speech is too good.  Just go watch her speech.

Republican Wrap

In Huffpo’s “Lies and the lying liars who tell them,” Sean Carman says: “And so here is the takeaway from last week’s saturation-level political activity, revealed not by the carefully-staged theater we witnessed, but by the moments in which the actors went off-script and the truth was accidentally revealed: Mitt Romney is not a particularly great decision-maker, and Paul Ryan is a liar.”

ThinkProgress has compiled  the Ultimate Guide to Mitt’s Convention speech.  There’s good stuff in there, a lot of it reiterated elsewhere (not that I object to fact-checking the GOP convention over and over and over again) but this particular item on the list drew my attention, because it’s often repeated, and infrequently rebutted, “Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” [The Hill,6/28/2012] REALITY: According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare reduces the deficit by $124 billion over 10 years and even more after that. [Politifact, 6/28/2012]”

 

Let’s have a closer look at that graph from the CBPP:

In Salon, Robert Reich offered this view: “Every campaign is guilty of exaggerations, embellishments, distortions, and half-truths. But this is another thing altogether. I’ve been directly involved in seven presidential campaigns, and I don’t recall a presidential candidate lying with such audacity, over and over again. Why does he do it, and how can he get away with it? The obvious answer is such lies are effective. Polls show voters are starting to believe them, especially in swing states where they’re being repeated constantly in media spots financed by Romney’s super PAC or ancillary PACs and so-called “social welfare” organizations (political fronts disguised as charities, such as Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have set up).”

Madeleine Albright: “It was appalling and disgusting,” she said. “But if I may say so, the things that he said in one form or another are in the Republican platform. So [while Republicans are] saying he is a nutcase and they have to move away from him, they did not move away from their platform.” Albright goes on to add this “I think there are some who believe they are actually protecting women, you know, and that it is better for women to be taken care of. I think women want to take care of themselves, and I think having a voice in how that is done is very important. And frankly, I don’t understand — I mean, I’m obviously a card-carrying Democrat — but I can’t understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney, except maybe Mrs. Romney.”

Also, the other invisible personalities at the GOP convention did not go unnoticed by Bill Maher, who says that the  GOP needs to admit the Bushes exist. Maher had this hilarious poke at Romney that I have to share–check out this money shot of Romney and colleagues at Bain Capital.  Kinda says it all…

And if you’re still wondering what the heck this company Romney worked for actually did,  Tony Soprano explains Bain Capital in easy-to-understand terms.

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GROUSY CAT SEZ: The voting shenanigans are multiplicitous.

Dems just won a victory with the recent ruling in Ohio that “ruled that Ohio made an “arbitrary” decision when it took away early-voting rights for most voters but carved out a special exemption for military and overseas voters.”

We need everyone to get out there and vote early. I’M NOT KIDDING HERE, PEOPLE!

Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Faction notes that the Obama camp has a clear advantage on the ground over Romney. Check out this graph. Obama has far more field offices in swing states than Romney.  Romney’s clearly betting on big ad buys, but, I have to wonder if that’s going to continue to help him or backfire when voters get fatigued and tired of seeing the endless meaningless ads.

Meantime, the development side of me thinks the knocking on doors, the social media, old fashioned person-to-person campaigning is going to be the way to go.


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