Mayhem and Magic at the Democratic National Convention
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Last night hundreds of people holding tickets to watch speeches at the Time Warner Arena were denied entrance, told by security officers that Charlotte's fire marshal had declared the space over capacity. I had the pleasure of being one of them, and to add insult to injury, I watched former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin being invited to bypass the line and enter ahead of the flummoxed crowd. I guess screwing up the economy gives you special privileges! (This morning I learned that Mr. Rubin had managed to fall into a swimming poolat a party at the Ritz-Carlton just prior to his line-cutting.)
Along with other weary folks, I finally found a spot in a local bar and watched the TV screen as Massachusetts senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren stuck it to Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy who stashed his money in offshore accounts. The former TARP watchdog addressed Romney like a disappointed schoolteacher explaining the world to a recalcitrant child:
"No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we dont run this country for corporations, we run it for people."
While Warren was speaking, people chatted and munched their chicken wings, and sometimes it was difficult to hear. That all changed when Bubbah took the stage. Suddenly, the noisy bar was quiet as a chapel.
Bill Clinton is known for delivering sharp critiques of Republicans in his speeches, but there was some question yesterday as to whether or not he could whip up the base in support of someone other than himself. That question has been answered. If the crowd at the CNN Grill was any indication, Clinton's magic worked wonders to inspire Democrats to rally around President Obama in an election cycle that has often seemed lackluster. Gray-haired but still retaining his boyish charm, the former president took his leisurely time, addressing the audience for the better part of an hour as if he were kicking back for a long catch-up with old friends. He spoke as a man who had seen trials and tribulations in his own presidency, and credited Obama with calmly weathering an economic storm that was not of his own creation. As he made the case for re-electing Obama, he served up several memorable lines, including his description of the President as "a man who's cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside." Perhaps the most effective part of his speech was the potrayal of Republicans as bamboozlers bent on fleecing ordinary people by going after social programs like Medicare.
It remains to be seen if Clinton's endorsement can help bring some badly-needed white working class voters back into the Democratic fold. My guess would be yes, but nothing is certain in a race that remains impossible to call.