By J. PATRICK COOLICAN
Star Tribune staff writer
As I write, former Vice President Walter Mondale is killing time as a huge crowd of Minnesota, Tennessee and Michigan delegates await the arrival of Sen. Bernie Sanders for their delegate breakfast.
Here’s Mondale: I've been to some really bad conventions, when we knew we weren't gonna win. Every once in awhile it all comes up roses.
And now they’re singing happy birthday to Stella, who is turning 100. American politics isn’t all soaring rhetoric.
Let’s start here: Tony Fabrizio, GOP pollster, including for the Trump campaign: In my 30+ years as a political professional I’ve never seen the DC establishment and media more disconnected with real America…WOW
We shall see in November, although we’ll probably have a good idea of whether Fabrizio is right in the next week or so.
Still and all, President Obama’s speech to the convention left the crowd energized after his figurative and literal hugging of the nominee but also as an important bookend to his American public life, which began 12 years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Obama defined a new set of American values as a fusion of the traditional -- “honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility; helping each other out” -- and the new cosmopolitan: “They knew,” he said of his white Kansan grandparents: “These values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab.”
After years of his citizenship being questioned, it was remarkable to watch Obama define the American character.
Conservatives in my social media feed were smarting at Obama’s ability to co-opt the sunny optimism and rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and other Republicans, but that was a key part of Obama’s contrast. Bush politico and speechwriter Peter Wehner: Tonight Ds made concerted effort to become party of patriotism/that speaks well of America/defends military. An opening created by Trump.
(Although: It was more noticeable in the hall than on TV, and it wasn’t in prime time, but former SecDef and CIA head Leon Panetta was lustily booed by left wingers in the hall.)
Obama said the Cleveland GOP convention was neither very Republican nor conservative.
Ronald Reagan called America "a shining city on a hill." Donald Trump calls it "a divided crime scene" that only he can fix.
Obama had a wide grin on his face for much of the speech; he seemed pleasantly surprised the opposition had given him so many openings: “We don’t look to be ruled” he said in reply to Trump’s claim that he “alone” could solve problems of crime and social breakdown.
Obama was also happy to say betting against America is foolish: “That's why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.”
A major party nominee grouped in with fascists, communists and jihadists. (Although, Obama has been similarly tarred.)
Again, Trump and his supporters believe Obama and the Democrats and establishment Republicans are hopelessly out of touch, ignorant of the anxiety, fear and anger that are stirring the American soul.
The rest of the night was one hammer after another coming down on the GOP nominee. Vice President Joe Biden aimed at his middle class roots in working class cities like Scranton, where Donald Trump is currently running very strong. “He doesn’t have a clue about the middle class,” Biden said, with utter scorn. Data maven Ronald Brownstein: No speaker so far @ #DemsInPhilly has balanced party's blue-collar legacy & modern diversity anywhere near as well as Biden @VP
I’ve long mocked my colleagues in the East Coast media for their obsession with the presidential ambitions of Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and founder of the eponymous business machine and media empire. Never understood why anyone thinks he would appeal to voters outside the Acela corridor, named after the high speed Amtrak train that goes from Boston to D.C. Still, Bloomberg made an explicit appeal to independent voters, and I suppose they wouldn’t have put him on the stage if they didn’t think he had some appeal with suburban, business-friendly voters who are uncomfortable with Trump. “I’m from New York, and I know a con,” Bloomberg said.
The most forgettable oratory of the night came from the Dems VP nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine. He’s a Harvard Law grad and has been mayor, governor in a deeply competitive state and senator, but his oratory lacks gravitas. It’s as if the president of the local Rotary Club is the vice presidential nominee. Which is maybe why Clinton picked him. But Clinton also seems to genuinely like him, and I’m not sure he was selected with electoral concerns in mind, although a boost in Virginia doesn’t hurt.
Overall though, Wednesday night raised an uncomfortable concern for Dems: The bar has been raised very high for the nominee, Hillary Clinton. She is not a good orator. She will have to re-introduce herself to the public, outline an agenda, define the opposition and do so without much credibility given anemic trust with the voting public. It will be compelling to watch her take on that challenge, in what will be the most important public address in her long career.
Strib cartoonist Steve Sack with a great retrospective on conventions past and present.
Pat Condon and I had great fun following Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar around as they did the convention circuit. Read it.
More important news: Minnesota test scores flat; achievement gap still wide. Goal of halving achievement gap won’t be met.
Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @jpcoolican.
Have a great day everyone.
-- J. Patrick Coolican