Live-Blogging the Democratic National Convention, Night 2

11:23 pm: “I love this country–and I know we’re coming back, because Americans have beaten every crisis they have faced in 200 years.  People have been predicting our demise since George Washington was called a mediocre surveyor with a bad set of wooden teeth.  But to-date everyone who has bet against America has lost money…”

I’d go further: Most of them have lost everything they wagered.  An allusion to Republican election efforts this year?  I suspect it is, considering Clinton’s earlier reference to Mitch McConnell’s putting party ahead of country in full view of the public.  In any case, President Clinton’s faith was infectious–something I think home viewer will have to agree. Imagine: A speaker who can answer every major Republican Republican attack, line by line, charge by charge, and remain inspiring.  The Republicans who planned last week’s Convention will rue their placement 1 week ahead of the Democrats in the schedule; 2 nights in a row the Democrat have had speeches that are sure to be remembered.

11:19 pm: “Don’t you ever forget this: Republican policies quadrupled the national debt in the 12 years before I took office, and doubled the debt in the 8 years after I left.  They did this because they defied the arithmetic.”  What a warning to take home; Bill Clinton is great.

11:13 pm: “Governor Romney said he doesn’t want his campaign beholden to fact-checkers.  Finally, I can say, ‘That is true!’  I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

11:06 pm: Clinton defends President Obama’s $716 billion in cuts to Medicare spending: Those cuts came from unnecessary subsidies to Medicare service-providers and insurance companies (as determined by an expert panel), and much of those cuts went to “closing the donut hole” in President W. Bush’s Prescription Drug Benefit for seniors with middling prescription drug costs and increasing the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 8 years.  He notes that Congressman Ryan has proposed cutting Medicare by just as much as President Obama!  “I’ll give him this–It takes cajones to accuse a guy of doing the thing you did yourself.”

President Clinton continues with a scathing account of what is now the Romney-Ryan proposal to “reform” Medicare, which is to turn Medicare’s funding over to insurance companies.  He also notes that President Romney has proposed to cut Medicaid by 1/3 and block-grant it out to the States, letting them to decide what benefits to keep and what to cut.  At this point Clinton identifies a hidden cut in Medicare spending: Medicaid is a major funder of nursing home care for poor seniors.  “It would be the end of Medicare as we know it,” he warns, without a shadow of hyperbole.

11:04 pm: President Clinton touts some of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act health care reform: parents can keep children on their health insurance plans until age 26; senior citizens have more purchasing support to buy their prescription drugs; insurance companies will benefit from millions of new customers.  Finally, for the last 2 years, cost inflation in the health care sector has been under 4% for the first time in 50 years.

11:00 pm: Clinton emphasizes the importance of job-retraining programs as we lose inefficient jobs to technology and trade.  This weaves nicely with the attention give to trade adjustment assistance during the Clinton years as NAFTA–our biggest free trade agreement to-date–was implemented.  President Obama also secured an agreement with Senate Republicans just less than a year ago–after much hand-wringing–for expanded job-retraining programs as part of our free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

10:55 pm: President Clinton insists that no President–himself included–could have repaired all of the damage wrought to the economy by the housing bubble and the 2008 Financial Crash within 1 Presidential term.  Coming from anyone else, this message would sound defensive; but a lot of people have fond memories of the Clinton years, and he gives the case for the depth of the crisis and the need for economic triage legitimacy.

10:49 pm: Clinton reminds us that “in a remarkable moment of candor, 2 years before the election,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Congressional Republicans’ #1 priority was “to make Barack Obama a 1-term President.”  What an extraordinary thing for the Senate Minority Leader to say during a press conference in late-2010.  I give House Speaker John Boehner credit for contradicting him at the time; I like to think it might be possible for President Obama and John Boehner–whose party will still control the House of Representatives but whose position in the House Republican Conference is not necessarily secure–to work together on our fast-approaching financial and economic hurdles after this election is over.

10:47 pm: President Clinton applauds his wife Hilary’s work as President Obama’s Secretary of State.  (No esoteric plug for Hillary Clinton in 2016.)

10:46 pm: A standing ovation, at the direction of President Clinton, for Vice President Joe Biden for his advocacy and legislative management of the President’s program.

10:41 pm: President Clinton says he wouldn’t be able to hate the Republicans as much as “the Conservatives who currently run that party seem to hate the President.”  He notes with gratitude President Eisenhower, who integrated the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas and planned, paid for and built the Interstate Highway system.  He expresses his gratitude for both Presidents Bush for working with him on disaster relief.  He says that “In the real world, compromise is how we get things done.”

10:38 pm: President Clinton calls the Republican Party’s narrative–the Democrats are terrible stewards of the economy, the rich are all self-made–the description of another universe.  He brings the discussion back to the Democrats’ opportunity theme; a stable middle class and opportunities for the poor to enter into that middle class are more-important than nostalgia.  Quoting a past Democratic Party leader, he observes that “Republicans imagine we are all born in a log cabin we built ourselves.”

10:34 pm: Bill Clinton must be the most fondly-remembered living President with Americans of both parties.  Think about it.

10:32 pm: Next up to speak is former President Bill Clinton.  This update requested by a friend: “Release the Krakken!”

10:27 pm: “President Obama believes in a country where billionaires pay their taxes like their secretaries do, and–I can’t believe I have to say this in 2012–where women get paid for the same work as much as men do.”

10:15 pm: Elizabeth Warren, President Obama’s architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, walks out to the Convention podium.  Senate Republicans blocked her when President Obama nominated her to lead the CFPB after the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform due to her Liberal politics; in very-Democratic but also corporate-friendly Massachusetts, Ms. Warren is actually trailing Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who took the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special election in January 2010 and provided the crucial “41st vote” that let Senate Republicans start filibustering Democratic bills like there was no tomorrow.  It will be an embarrassment if she can’t bring that seat back into the Democratic fold, especially with President Obama at the top of the ticket and certain to win the Commonwealth; she offers a barn-burning speech at the Convention, repeating Van Hollen’s earlier refrain that you grow a national economy “from the middle-out (by helping people to consume) rather than from the top-down (by making investment by the rich easier).”  A friend watching the speech with me notes that Warren has probably led among the Democratic public figures speaking thus far in strong statements; next former President Bill Clinton will come out to bring the conventioners back to a centrist place of good feelings.

10:12 pm: Sinegal says that presidents of dynamic and growing American companies will tell you that the most-important interests for growing the economy are a good education system, low costs, a safe and well-designed transportation system, a balanced approach to deficit reduction and a rational and welcoming immigration policy.  It sounds like he isn’t a Republican.

10:07 pm: Jim Sinegal, co-founder and past CEO of CostCo, speaks on behalf of President Obama.  I think the Democrats have beaten the Republicans at featuring businessmen Convention-speakers.

10:00 pm: Sandra Fluke speaks at the Democratic National Convention.  She speaks well and hits all the essential notes.  In my opinion the best moment comes early: House Republicans shut Ms. Fluke, a student at Georgetown University, out of her role on a House-organized panel on contraception.  She notes that no women spoke on the panel on contraception; strange, “since this is an issue that affects every woman.”

She recounts right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh’s attack on her as a “slut,” which President Obama immediately condemned and Governor Romney, in a singularly pathetic moment, averred was “not (his) choice of words.”

9:59 pm: A rising tide lifts all yachts.

9:54 pm: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Paul Ryan’s Democratic opposite on the House Budget Committee, says “Paul Ryan, America is literally in your debt.”  As the previous speakers aimed to disqualify Governor Romney’s claim on the Presidency by virtue of his business experience, so Congressman Van Hollen aims to disqualify Congressman Ryan’s record as a deficit hawk.  Congressman Ryan proposes deficit-positive tax cuts for the rich that will require steep spending cuts that hurt the poor, the working-class and the middle class.

9:44 pm: “I just heard Bob King talking about President Obama’s record of saving jobs.  I’d like to talk to you about Governor Romney’s record of cutting jobs.  Mitt Romney once said, ‘I like to fire people.’  I can tell you from personal experience, he does!”

A few of those laid-off from their struggling companies by Bain Capital come out to address the crowd.  The speaker of these zingers insists that he doesn’t believe Governor Romney is a bad man, and that he isn’t bitter or resentful.  (Ugliness will ultimately be in the eye of the beholder there.)  However, he says that he believes Romney “makes money without conscience.”  The woman who follows him goes further: She says that she knows some businesses must fail, but argues that something is wrong “when dedicated, hard-working workers have to feel the pain while men like Mitt Romney get all the profit.”  The worker from GST Steel speaks of 1 of Bain Capital’s failed attempts to turn a business around: Bain Capital loaded-up GST full of debt, then laid-off about 700 and walked away with a $12 million profit.  The speaker notes that a GST employee would have to work for about 240 years to make that much.  In fairness, a good private equity firm has to have a pretty-good business turnaround record to be viable, and it also has to be able to avoid taking-on much debt in order to be viable.  Private-equity companies acquire struggling companies and make tough choices in order to make them viable; some of the organizational and policy changes they make to those companies might seem cruel or exploitative, but they are in the business of making failing businesses competitive.  But the GST story is a sordid one, and I think it will follow Governor Romney around.  The speaker has a strong finish, linking his loss of his own job at GST to Governor Romney’s op-ed call to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

9:39 pm: Repeating the title of a New York Times op-ed that Governor Romney likely already regrets writing, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mr. King claims that prudent policymaking and an emphasis on shared sacrifice–“from labor, from management, from suppliers, from debt-holders, from dealers”–saved not only General Motors and Chrysler, but their many employees and a vast array of small businesses both directly and indirectly dependent upon those large, then-teetering corporations.  This is another central Democratic message this year: The Republicans like to talk in generalities and iron principles; the Democrats actually craft policies designed to nourish the sophisticated organism of the economy.

9:36 pm: Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers, comes out to drive this message home.

9:33 pm: Karen Eusanio speaks on behalf of UAW workers in the Midwest.  She was laid-off in 2008 and fearful for her daughter’s future; today she has a job again and General Motors paid back all its loans from the Federal Government ahead of schedule.

9:30 pm: OK, the Democratic National Convention is now putting the President’s bailout of Detroit front-and-center.  Going forward from the 2012 Presidential Election, I believe the successful bailout of American car manufacturers will have to be a part of any serious historical analysis of it.

9:20 pm: Cristina Saralegui looks like a big endorsement for President Obama; a daughter of Cuban exiles, she has built a media empire that resembles Oprah’s; as she is Hispanic, it also has a large multinational reach.  She is more of a self-made woman than many of the self-made men who are luminaries in the Republican Party; she really did have to build her business herself without the benefit of an economically well-established family.  She says that the American Dream as she knew it is in jeopardy.  She calls the re-election of President Obama an urgent mission in order to preserve access to opportunity.  I don’t want to trivialize what this moment probably means for the Convention, but looking back I’m actually surprised that the Republican Party aimed for so little during their Convention.  Aspersions were cast about their insincerity at the time (particularly focusing on the lack of diversity among their delegates), but the RNC clearly tried harder during their 2000 Convention, and in both 2000 and 2004 their party benefited from the big-tent approach; this year the Democrats clearly have a more serious outreach to Americans who happen not to be both white and male (which would be nearly 70% of them).

9:15 pm: Democrats to Republicans: “Just leave the keys to Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada under the doormat.”

9:13 pm: The Convention shifts its focus from the economy and small business to immigration.  It’s time to put a fork in the Romney-Ryan campaign out West.

9:09 pm: Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, condemns Governor Romney’s call to let housing prices “hit the bottom” so that the pure and all-important market could “take its course.”  “That’s not leadership,” she says.  The focus on well-established counterfactuals sets the President up well for the debates coming in the next few weeks.  Governor Romney has said many rightly compromising things about how the market should be able to “take its course;” we’ll see which candidate the public thinks understands its problems.

8:57 pm: Overall, Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware, gave a good speech.  I like the repeated attacks on Governor Romney for his failure to see what Detroit needed during its urgent troubles of early 2009.  Governor Markell was right to take credit for acting to keep a car factory open in Delaware; Governor Romney has way overplayed the “creative destruction” ideal out on the campaign trail.  Such talk may excite ideological Conservatives who like the vague idea of old and musty things coming crashing down, but the truth is they have confused a narrow, profit-driven perspective on the economy for a public policy.  This was the power of Governor Markell’s message: A businessman doesn’t necessarily know how to manage an economy because the scope of his responsibilities is so narrow, so comparatively selfish.  Turning a profit for shareholders is simply a different goal that requires potentially very-different thinking from managing a large country with complex and contending problems and interests.  Governor Romney’s private-equity credentials are real, and irrelevant–and possibly a trap of conceit.

8:57 pm: Mitt Romney doesn’t not “like to fire people,” he was talking about the value of having one’s choice of private-sector goods providers.  At least the Democratic Party hasn’t actually built its entire Convention message around a misquote.  Mischaracterizations like this have been fortunately few.

8:44 pm: Yes, I was right: Sister Simone Campbell is speaking on behalf of NETWORK, speaking for a number of Catholic nuns who were chastised recently by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops for the attention they have paid to the problems of needy or lost Americans to the exclusion of expounding on Church teachings on the immorality of abortion and birth control, or gay marriage.  I didn’t much like either the presence of or the tone of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s closing benediction at the Republican National Convention; I also don’t much like the current interest of non-religious Liberals (otherwise much like myself) in the current confrontation between the Bishops and the Nuns.  This is what the 1st Amendment is all about: If the Roman Catholic Church wants to advance its archaic and unjust compunctions about sex and sexuality above its mission to help those in need, that it’s really non-Catholics’ business.  An organization that professes to have eternity in mind–superstitious as it may be–is not and should not be subject to a popularity contest, not even to “respectable opinion.”  I respect the Nuns’ sentiment, but this is an in-house fight and just because I smell something I don’t like in Timothy Dolan doesn’t mean that Sister Campbell isn’t being insubordinate in this instance.  I don’t think religious personalities should be barred from political activities and expression, but they should consider it carefully before they do it and not take it lightly; these dual appearances could reflect a consequential partisan divide within the Church…for whomever it may concern.

8:43 pm: A nun speaks.  I think I know why this particular nun is here; not sure how I feel about this.

8:38 pm: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper released 22 years of his tax returns when he ran for that office in 2010.  Nothing untoward was found.

8:32 pm: Retired General Eric Shinseki speaks well and in more-general terms about President Obama’s work to address the material needs of veterans of the US military, particularly the destitute, the injured and the troubled.  General Shinseki has been in the public eye since he testified to the Senate in early-2003, somewhat under duress, that it would take around 500,000 troops to properly occupy Iraq following the invasion.  Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense, embarrassed by what turned out to be a prescient warning, announced his replacement early, essentially rendering him a lame duck among the military brass.  He is both an eloquent and a meaningful messenger for the story of Democrats’ attention to the needs of our military personnel.

8:30 pm: We hear of the thousands of mental health professionals hired by the Veterans Administration under President Obama and the new focus brought to the problem of military suicides.  “Last Memorial Day, President Obama called the treatment of Vietnam Veterans a national shame, and he said 2 sweet words my generation of veterans have waited years to hear: ‘Welcome home.'”  This is at least the 3rd veteran to speak during the Democratic National Convention; it’s as though on both political optics and policy performance, the Republicans remain asleep and the Democrats have appropriately adopted for themselves the North Carolina State motto, “To be, rather than to seem.”

8:23 pm: Hoyer notes that Paul Ryan voted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without proposing a plan to pay for it, for almost 2 trillion dollars in tax cuts over the same decade, for a prescription drug benefit that wasn’t paid for, and against the bipartisan proposals of the 2010 Bowles-Simpson Deficition Commission.  Hoyer also returns to the refrain, little-heard during this Convention thus far, that Congressman Ryan was the author of the plan to replace Medicare with vouchers for senior citizens to buy insurance in our regressive and unpopular health insurance market.  The crowd’s enthusiasm seems to wane somewhat during this list of harmful policies supported by Congressman Ryan, but it’s a long list.

8:20 pm: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says that the Republicans “want to drown the captain, and are willing to sink the ship to do so!”  He notes that “not a single Republican voted for the legislation that brought our economy back from the brink,” by which he means the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the “Stimulus” that most economists agree saved millions of jobs.

8:17 pm: Going by the Conventions, Democratic women are far more-passionate than Republican women this year.  It shines through so clearly.

8:06 pm: “When Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan threaten to get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, it’s clear they don’t know anything about women like me–women who are of limited means and are sick…”  A woman tells of her past health issues and challenges in raising her daughter.  The “Romney and Ryan just don’t get what we’re going through” message is a core part of this Convention; this could really 1-up Republican efforts to make  the President look out of his depth as he tries to contend with our economic problems.

8:04 pm: We see a video of President Obama celebrating the policy achievements of the Affordable Care Act–which he calls “Obamacare” without ambivalence.  Republicans will regret making President Obama the namesake of his own health care reform plan if he gets re-elected and the most-popular provisions of the law come into effect without interruption.

7:55 pm: Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt is on a roll on President Obama’s work on behalf of college students; again we hear about the other party’s market-oriented proposals for education.  Saying “This is not a time for Americans to believe in magic,” Governor Hunt decries the efforts of private lenders to double interest rates on student loans before they were pushed out of the student loan business.  This Convention has done a good job so far on maintaining both its overall convention theme and the continuity of successive messages.  This Convention also reveals a clearer pursuit, I think, of the constituencies that must be reached for the party to do well in November.

7:48 pm: Johanny Adams speaks on behalf of young Hispanics pursuing an education.  Mitt Romney’s policies towards undocumented immigrants have hurt him badly with Hispanics in the polls.  This by itself has put Nevada and likely Colorado beyond Governor Romney’s reach; Florida (where Ms. Adams is from) has tacked towards Obama, then Romney, then back to Obama in the polls, but if he can lock-up the vote among minority groups in Florida President Obama can probably take that State handily as well.  Anyway, Ms. Adams talks primarily about education support, not racial or immigration issues.  Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan have proposed the re-privatization of student loans, an issue that is going to be very unpopular with college students and families–if they pay attention.

7:42 pm: Katy Perry…Greeeat.  This does not necessarily help with the theme of empowering women; a convention can be too much of a commercial spectacle.

7:38 pm: Senator Mikulski’s speech reflects the Democrats’ desire to have their cake and eat it, too: The Democratic Party is for everyone, but it accepts that its path to victory in November is through constituencies.  President Obama wants to reach deep into the women’s vote, and Republicans uncomfortable gesture towards women almost represented a concession of a majority of half the electorate.  Mikulski notes that women could pay up to 50% more for health insurance than men–a deplorable injustice ended by the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance regulations.  She raises the issue of women victimized by sexual assault also being rejected for claims by their insurers; the Affordable Care Act addressed this structural injustice as well.  The Republican National Convention took pains to conmiserate with those left behind; the Democratic National Convention thus far has highlighted particular manifestations of it and advanced solutions.

7:32 pm: A lineup of woman Democratic Senators takes the stage.  “Ann Romney can say she loves women; we Democrats really include women,” the party seems to say.  Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) speaks 1st.

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