Liberally Speaking (Sept., 11, 2008)

Conventional wisdom

Sept. 11, 2008
By Steve Mount

Last week, the convention phase of the 2008 campaign season ended.

The Democratic Party could not have asked for a better convention. All of the heavy hitters got to have their time on stage, if not in the spotlight of prime time.

The Clintons buried the hatchet and hopefully Sen. Hillary Clinton’s call for her supporters to back Barack Obama will not go unheeded. In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to watch as Clinton campaigns for Obama throughout the country.

Joe Biden came out swinging, as everyone expected him to. He called the president to task for the policies of the last eight years, and wondered along with us what John McCain would do differently.

Wrapping up, the convention moved outside, and Barack Obama gave a speech to a packed house and a huge television audience. The TV cameras sought out the Obama supporters who were moved to tears by his speech, and it wasn’t hard to find several in the crowd.

The outdoor venue was a risk. What if the campaign couldn’t fill the stands? What if the television audience didn’t tune in? What if the weather took a turn for the worst?

To this last point, Stuart Shepard, a cohort of James Dobson of Focus on the Family, exhorted his listeners to pray for rain. Though Shepard apologized for the comment, saying it was made in jest, the incident must have still made worries bubble up in organizers’ minds.

The weather, though, cooperated, and so did the audience, both in Denver and at home. Nothing, it seemed, was going to lessen the impact of the convention at its close.

Nothing, that is, except for a couple of storms.

The first metaphorical storm was started by McCain himself, when he picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Never before do I recall seeing so much interest in a vice presidential pick.

Palin has excited the Republican base like no other pick could have, and has grabbed the attention of many who otherwise wouldn’t have cared one whit about the choice. Whether you were a political junkie, a GOP stalwart or an apolitical Us Magazine reader, all minds were on Palin.

I have seen buttons in the Internet extolling “Palin Power” and quipping “Palin – Read My Lipstick.” One, with only half-hearted tongue-in-cheekness, switches the ticket’s names to “Palin/McCain.”

Ironically, Palin is now blessed with the same kind of celebrity that McCain had criticized Obama for last month. Any comment, Paris Hilton?

Only a real storm seemed able to draw attention from Hurricane Sarah, and Mother Nature obliged with Hurricane Gustav. As the storm bore down on the Gulf states, the Republicans did the right thing and toned events down for the first day of their convention.

A former Democratic National Committee chairman, Don Fowler, turned Shepard’s words around on him, saying that Gustav “demonstrates God is on our side.” Ill-timed and in extremely poor taste, Fowler issued his own apology for his comment while the Obama campaign likely was thinking, “thanks for nothing.”

But Gustav passed and Palin took to the stage on Wednesday, marking her real debut to the nation. After briefly going over her life story and establishing her conservative bona fides, she turned into an attack dog, issuing one-liners against Obama, the “angry left” and the “liberal media elite.” After the convention closed, these zingers became staples of the McCain/Palin stump speeches, and the fact checkers revealed many of them to be outright lies.

Finally, Thursday was McCain’s night to shine. As he described his time in a Vietnamese prison, I found myself unabashedly misty-eyed. His courage in the face of adversity makes me proud to have served under the same flag. Of course, the biography was followed by a speech that was big on applause points but short on any detail for his plans for the country.

No matter. In the end, the conventions got some of their highest ratings ever. Nearly 40 million viewers watched Obama, Palin, and McCain, with McCain drawing the highest numbers of all.

Take a deep breath. There are a few weeks before the next phase, the debates. With the race as tight as it is, they could play a key role. I await the one-on-one confrontations excitedly.

I would be remiss not to mention the anniversary we commemorate today. Never forget those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and never forget the troops who have sacrificed life and limb, and continue to do so, every day since.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.