Live From Denver: Big Night
By Katharine Q. Seelye ~ from NY Times
The speech featured all the big themes that Mr. Obama has been highlighting on the campaign trail. Here he expanded on them and wove them together, not so much in a new way but in a more emphatic way.
He has been casting himself as an economic populist in the last few weeks, and it was no surprise that he continued to do that here. But it was striking the degree to which he did so, focusing on the economy almost exclusively for the first two-thirds of his speech — a measure both of how central it is for many voters but also of how much he wants to appeal to Reagan Democrats.
That was evident, too, in his references to the hot-button social issues that have alienated many older, blue-collar, Catholic voters. Those references were brief and sought common ground:
* “We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.”
* “The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.”
* “I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.”
The red meat came in his assault on John McCain. He was more in his face than he often has been, and in a more sustained way. He even painted him as a bit of a wimp: “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin-Laden to the gates of hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”
But did he succeed in erasing the doubts about him? The polls have showed a stubborn problem for Mr. Obama, in that voters see Mr. McCain as a more plausible commander-in-chief. Mr. Obama made an interesting allusion to that, weaving in an issue — Mr. McCain’s temper — that hurt him in the Republican primaries in 2000 but has been less of a factor so far this year.
Mr. Obama put it this way: “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.”
On the campaign trail, he usually limits his challenge to debating Mr. McCain’s judgment, not his temperament.
The presidential debates — the next big opportunity for Mr. Obama to reach millions of listeners — start Sept. 26. Between now and then, of course, Mr. McCain will pick his vice president, and his own convention starts in a few days, giving him the chance to crush all too quickly the good vibes and stunning optics from Denver.
11:30 p.m. | Clinton’s Statement: Hillary Rodham Clinton just released the following statement:
“Barack Obama’s speech tonight laid out his specific, bold solutions and optimistic vision for our nation and our children’s future.
“His speech crystallized the clear choice between he and Senator McCain. Four more years of the same failed policies or a leader who can tackle the great challenges we face: revitalizing our economy and restoring our standing in the world. I am proud to support Senator Obama, our next President of the United States and Joe Biden, our next Vice President of the United States.”
Yes We Can: Kate Phillips reports from outside Invesco that crowds of people are climbing over barriers as police are closing a gate. People are shouting “Yes we can!” as they break through another part of the fence.
11:20 p.m. | Emotion at Invesco: Michael Powell sends this dispatch from Invesco Field:
Crouching amid the Tennessee delegation on the floor of the stadium, I noticed him, this tall black man standing behind me. His face was as broad as his shoulders. And as Barack Obama finished his speech, as fireworks shot off and red white and blue confetti fell, tears rolled down his cheeks.
What emotions are running barreling through right now?
“So much, I see so many things,” replied Keith Norman in a rich baritone. “I see my earliest dreams as a child. I see a man being given a fair chance because of his talent.”
His chest heaves; he is looking at the stage and the Mr. Obama hugging his wife and his two daughters.
“I see his faith in God. And I see the hand of God,” he said, “And it makes my heart glad.”
A friend, a barrel chested black man in a black Obama beret comes over and puts his arm around the midsection of Mr. Norman and asks another man to take a picture of them together.
Both men are crying and smiling.
11 p.m. | Fireworks: Mr. Obama wraps it up at about 46 minutes. Truck-driving, country music is playing as the Michelle Obama and the girls take the stage. The sound of fireworks exploding shook us out of our seats! The Obama and Biden families are gathering on stage with red, white and blue streamers spilling out of the sky.
The McCain campaign has already issued its rebuttal. From spokesman Tucker Bounds: “Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama. When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm’s way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President.”
From outside Media Pavillion Four at the Pepsi Center, a short distance away from Invesco, we can see the fireworks streaming over the stadium, which is lit up like a flying saucer. The fireworks are still exploding, soaring up into the sky, the music an intensifying symphony.
The the transcript of Mr. Obama’s speech.
10:56 p.m. | King Reference: Now, 45 minutes in, Mr. Obama makes a reference to race — but it is that, a reference when he mentions the “promise that 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln’s Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.”
10:55 p.m. | It’s Not Me, It’s You: The McCain campaign has been doing its best to make this election a referendum on Mr. Obama, not a choice between the two of them, and Mr. Obama here is resisting that characterization: “What the nay-sayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me,” he says. “It’s been about you.”
Mr. Obama can only hope that is how voters see it.
10:50 p.m. | Verb. That’s What’s Happening: Mr. Obama’s speech is full of strong active verbs. “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he says, not quite describing how he will pursue that goal. “I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.”
And this: “I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.”
All the Republican talk about his “celebrity” status hasn’t inhibited his high-wattage smile.
10:45 p.m. | National Security: Now, 30 minutes in, he turns to Iraq and terrorism, saying that “while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face.”
And this crowd-pleaser: “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”
10:44 p.m. | Responsiblity: Mr. Obama, who has said in the past that black men need take more responsibility for their families, he omits the racial reference here. “Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.”
10:37 p.m. | More on the Economy: Addressing the concern that his campaign has been all lofty rhetoric, he now focuses on his economic program: stop tax breaks for corporations; cut taxes for 95 percent of working families; and in 10 years, “end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”
“Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.”
That’s not all Mr. McCain’s fault, of course, but Mr. Obama makes his point.
And now, more than 26 minutes into the speech, Mr. Obama has scarcely mentioned the issue that propelled his candidacy in the primaries — the war in Iraq.
10:34 p.m. | Workers and the Economy: The speech so far, and we are more than 17 minutes into it, has been focused almost exclusively on workers and the economy and his humble, all-American, family background. “I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.”
“I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.”
From Michael Powell: “Let me explain exactly what I will do, Mr. Obama says. “There you go, there you go,” whispers a man from Kansas.
They are now passing out extra size American flags. This is a place awash in red, white and blue, a visible attempt at inoculation against charges that Democrats are not patriotic enough.
10:26 p.m. | He Just Doesn’t Know: Mr. Obama uses the McCain campaign as a foil to emphasize his message. He cites a quote from Phil Gramm, who said America was “a nation of whiners,” and then Mr. McCain himself, who albeit half-jokingly defined “rich” as someone making more than $5 million a year. Mr. Obama exploits both in this speech. “I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans,” Mr. Obama says. “I just think he doesn’t know.”
10:23 p.m. | 10 Percent Chance on Change: Mr. Obama: “John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”
10:22 p.m. | The Set: For all of the “Temple of Obama” talk from Republicans, the tight shots of Mr. Obama as he is speaking don’t give that impression at all. Instead, you see a backdrop that looks like windows on a home, with intimate, soft-glowing light emanating through. As they say in Hollywood, lighting is everything.
10:14 | Accepts the Nomination: The opening applause goes on for two minutes and 20 seconds. He accepts the nomination at 10:14 p.m., the first African-American in the nation’s history to become the nominee of a major party.
Mr. Obama opens with yet another nod to the Clintons. Here’s what he says: “Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest — a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours — Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it.” He then thanks Senator Edward M. Kennedy and then Mr. Biden.
He pays homage to his family. “To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia – I love you so much, and I’m so proud of all of you.” Mrs. Obama flashes him a thumbs up.
10:12 p.m. | Obama Takes the Stage: As U2’s City of Blinding Light plays, Mr. Obama walks on stage. He is clapping along with the audience and soaking it all in. Camera lights are flashing. He almost looks misty-eyed.
Weird front to back recounting here...