Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 04:08 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 04:08 | SYDNEY

Democrats in Denver IV


Michael Fullilove


28 August 2008 19:34

It's a very big day when a major party nominates an African-American to be president of the United States. And yet I found most of the rest of this evening's events in Denver a little underwhelming.
President Clinton's speech was certainly strong: some Democrats were nervous about it beforehand, but Bill is too much of a pro to disappoint when he's up on the big stage. If he focused as much on domestic issues as international ones (despite this being national security night at the DNC), well, no-one ever doubted that he prefers to be at the centre of things rather than on the periphery. And despite the Bush Administration's weak foreign policy record, polling reveals that one in two Americans regard pocketbook issues such as the economy and gas prices as the leading factors in the election, compared to less than one in four who privilege national security questions such as Iraq and terrorism.
The big event of the night was the speech by Barack Obama's pick for Vice President, Senator Joseph Biden. Beau Biden's smooth introduction of his father doubled as his own announcement for the Delaware seat in the US Senate should Biden Sr be elected Veep in November.
Joe Biden came across as a knowledgeable and eager fellow with a moving personal story. His mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, is clearly a great character — quite as feisty as John McCain's mum, Roberta. But much of the speech left me unmoved. Biden rushed through his best lines and fluffed a couple of others. There was lots of bluster and volume but few phrases that lodged in the brain. He criticised Republican foreign policy but he didn't take much skin off McCain's shins. And although he's obviously easy in the company of ordinary people, his snazzy suit, French cuffs and coiffure don't exactly shout working-class hero.
Of course, the rule for picking a VP is the same as the physician's dictum: 'First, do no harm.' People vote the top of the ticket, not the bottom. Notice that in the official Obama-Biden campaign signs, Obama's name is always displayed in the more prominent colour. Biden can introduce his leader ('Barack America', as he mistakenly called him last week), compensate for his weaknesses and put a stick in the eyes of his enemies, but he can't win the election. Biden did no harm tonight, but I don't know how much good he did, either.
With Biden's nomination complete, the spotlight will soon turn to McCain's vice presidential choice. The safe pick, and the favoured one, is Mitt Romney. But given that the political and economic winds are still in McCain's face, I think he needs to be more creative than that.
What about Obama's surprise appearance in the Pepsi Center after Biden's speech? Well, I guess it got the candidate's face on primetime TV a night early. It enabled Obama to be publicly gracious towards Hillary and Bill Clinton and, in so doing, take full ownership of the convention. On the other hand, it drained away a little of the suspense that was building towards Obama's big speech at Invesco Field on Thursday night. If I were Obama's adviser, I would have counselled him to keep his gunpowder dry a litttle longer.
My Denver tribe for tonight — the Celeb tribe — has thankfully been more elusive this week than I had feared. Perhaps the Celebs were cowed by my recent op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald railing against 'celebrities without borders'. No, probably not. More likely, the Democratic team has insisted on Celeb restraint in light of McCain's very effective ads likening Barack to Britney. It may also be that Celebs and I hang out in different establishments.
Still, Celebs can be found without too much trouble. NBC aired a particularly unctuous interview yesterday between anchorman Brian Williams and Haitian-American muso Wyclef Jean, who is in town to lend a hand. Each man was extremely pleased and honoured to be in the other's presence. Williams has Jean's tunes on his iPod, and Jean may just have to sample Williams' broadcasts in his next album. And so on. Ah, for the old days, when rock stars neglected weighty political issues in favour of their natural game: trashing hotel rooms.