Monthly Archives: August 2008

Greetings from Bloomington

I’ve arrived at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul,or, more exactly I’m at the La Quinta Inn in Bloomington, 15 miles away. This the headquarters for the Iowa delegation.

Monday’s convention schedule has been abbreviated, thanks to Hurricane Gustav. The convention will gavel in for just a few hours in the afternoon to take care of necessary business. No speeches, no politics. Officials will decide later what to do about Tuesday. Strange, subdued atmosphere so far.

The Iowa delegation is pressing on with its breakfast gathering Monday, featuring former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson. I’ll be live-blogging, technology permitting, so don’t miss it.

More than one Iowan has observed that although it’s clearly fitting to turn our attention and prayers toward the Gulf, we shouldn’t forget Iowa’s ongoing recovery. We’ll see if that sentiment becomes a theme here.

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Gustav Scrambles GOP Plans

From Politico:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – President Bush is unlikely to make it to the Republican National Convention, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite because of the historically huge hurricane threatening New Orleans, top officials said.

And from The Washington Post:

ST. PAUL, Minn., Aug. 31 — With Hurricane Gustav gaining power as it nears the Gulf Coast, Republicans scrambled Saturday to make contingency plans for changing the tone of their national convention, worried that televised images of a lavish celebration would provide a jarring contrast to scenes of disaster and mass evacuations.

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Getaway Day

I’m still in Denver for a few hours, but I’m wearing a Minnesota Twins T-shirt, a sure sign that I and the rest of the political world will now turn our attention toward the Twin Cities and the Republicans.

Unfortunately, the Twins will still be in the middle of a season-crushing road trip when I get to St. Paul. But there will be plenty of politics to take my mind of my baseball disappointment. And anyway, I’m ready for some football.

But first, a few thoughts about last night.

I’m not going to dwell on the speech. Reams have been written. As acceptance speeches go, it was a great one. He hit all the right notes, told us some things he wants to do and hit McCain in several critical areas where the Arizona senator has been gaining ground. It was an impressive performance, which is Obama’strademark. He does rise to an occassion.

I know there was a lot of late hand-wringing about the colossal stadium setting feeding the notion of Obama as caesar, but to those of us who were there, it was pretty remarkable stagecraft. We’re Americans, we like big, over-the-top spectacles with fireworks and flags and blaring rock music and a screaming crowd. Not sure why Obama’s folks were so freaked out about that.

I understand how politics has a knack for making everything small, but once in a while it’s big, and there’s really nothing smarty pants observers like myself can say to belittle it. Sometimes you don’t have to think hard to figure out whether history is being made. Sometimes it’s obvious, even through layers of long-cultivated cynicism.

Anyway, I think Obama gets some sort of bounce out of this but probably not a lot. If he wins, it’s going to be close no matter what.

Now, McCain and thre Republicans get their turn, and I expect them to hit back hard. Evidently he’s picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. More history. But I have to confess I don’t know much about her. CNN says she’s young, 44, has five kids and evidently conservatives like her. By the end of today we’ll know her shoe size and favorite color.

More on the GOP later. I’ve got a long drive this afternoon to think about St. Paul

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Clintons Behaving Gladly

Journalism used to be called the first draft of history. Now, with our screens filled by a mob of cable TV pundits, it’s more like the first draft of hysteria.

Take the coverage in the lead up to and in the initial days of the Democratic National Convention. It was filled with hand-wringing about how giving Bill and Hillary Clinton prime time speaking slots and placing her name in nomination for the roll call vote would mean big trouble for Obama. Disunity would shake the Pepsi Center into a lather.

In the end, all three moments are among the most memorable of a convention that has probably given Obama a decent boost, unless he really screws up tonight at Invesco Field, of course. The Clintons’ speeches, taken together, make a strong case for Obama’s candidacy. And those roll call worries seemed pretty silly during what amounted to a boisterous Obama coronation.

So why didn’t the Clinton’s wreak havoc?

Because the Clintons always do what’s best for the Clintons, and what’s best for them now is to play nice. They beat up Obama for months and handed Republicans a ready-made fall playbook on how to paint Barry as a newbie elitist freak. If she wants to ever run for the White House again, and receive any African American votes, they’ve got to take one for the team. Otherwise, if Obama loses, they’ll be public enemy No.1 in the finger-pointing fest that always follows Democratic defeats.

How anyone thought they’d let smoldering anger overpower their ceaseless ambition is a mystery.

So now the cable doom troops have turned their attention to next week’s GOP Convention. You’re already hearing how Hurricane Gustav’s ominous path will make for a split-screen convention with natural havoc one side and the party of Katrina fame on the other. MSNBC will probably make a combined logo, maybe with an elephant perched atop a flooded home.

That’s good news for folks along the Gulf. Based on pundits’ track record this week, you may get drizzle.

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Iowa Delegates Vote

Iowa DNC Roll Call Vote: Obama 48, Clinton 9

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Meanwhile, back home

Legislative Republicans are starting to turn up the heat on the need for a special session to address flood needs. Here’s this morning’s GOP news release:

Republican Reps. Call for Special Session to help Flood Victims

(DES MOINES)-A group of Republicans representing areas affected by the summer floods and tornadoes have today called on the governor to convene a special session of the Legislature to help the victims. The group has also unveiled several ideas that could be debated during the session.

“We’re playing a guessing game on what the governor is going to do. Our constituents need help now,” said Minority Whip Kraig Paulsen. “Reallocating funds in the time of crisis is an absolute necessity because we don’t want to pile a fiscal disaster on top of a natural disaster. Several members of the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission have already called for a special, we’re standing with them today.”

The group which consists of Reps. Kraig Paulsen (Hiawatha), Sandy Greiner (Keota), Tami Wiencek (Waterloo), Dawn Pettengill (Mt. Auburn), Tom Sands (Columbus Junction), Jeff Kaufmann (Wilton), Dan Rasmussen (Independence), Bill Schickel (Mason City), and Pat Grassley (New Hartford) called on the federal delegation to push the House and Senate to approve a second supplemental disaster assistance bill before congressional adjournment at the end of September. They also asked the governor to use as much Community Development Block Grant funds as possible to match FEMA dollars – as was the case in 1993.

In the meantime, a special session is needed to reallocate funds to help Iowa’s families, small businesses and local governments. Some of the reallocations include:

1) Using Iowa Values Fund money to provide grants to small businesses to keep them in the area.

2) Using Power Fund money to provide grants to local governments to restore power and heating to disaster areas.

3) Cancel construction of the new state office building in Des Moines and the new Maximum Security Prison in Fort Madison and use the funds for local infrastructure, housing, buyouts, and flood plain mitigation.

4) Cancel funding for special interest projects such as $80,000 to repair an antique organ in Clermont, and $100,000 for the multi-use fitness center in Des Moines.

5) Freeze property taxes at no more than pre-disaster levels and have the state temporarily make up the difference using the general fund ending balance or the state’s rainy day Fund.

6) Approve bonus depreciation so Iowa’s businesses are not socked with a tax increase due to not coupling with the federal tax code.

The group insists the six ideas are merely a jumping off point and that specific discussions on assisting certain areas of the state should be brought up in the near future.

“Many are falling through the cracks and not receiving help which is forcing them to dig deep into their own pockets to cover the damage. It’s time that the Legislature acts quickly to get some relief to these folks,” said Rep. Tami Wiencek.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this could be bad news for Democrats. Bad enough to cost them a House majority? Probably not. But it could cost them in Eastern Iowa in the long run.

Seems like a read somewhere that a lot of voters live in that part of the state.

The GOP salvo came just as Democrats lobbied for flood help here in Denver. 

Also, here’s the link for this morning’s live blog from the Iowa Dem’s breakfast, featuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She’s coming to tour flood damage Sept. 8.

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Hillary Scores

What is it about near-misses and great speeches?

That was the best speech I’ve ever seen Hillary Clinton give. Sure, there were cliches and some fluff, but it was forceful and got the job done. Obama’s probably in better shape now than he was before she stepped to the mike, and that’s really all the nervous Nellies in the party could hope for.

I suppose it could have been too good, and it will make her folks even more bitter. Maybe her subliminal pantsuit message was “Orange you dumb for not nominating me.”

But what is it about losing that brings out a great speaker?

I think Al Gore’s best speech of the 2000 campaign may have been his concession speech at the end of the Florida recount nightmare. And last night we heard a reprise of Ted Kennedy’s famous 1980 convention speech, which came after his bitter loss to Jimmy Carter.

 Loss is freeing , perhaps, although there was plenty of pressure on Clinton tonight. And she was remarkably generous in her praise of Obama.

One thing Obama’s got going for him is he can deliver a great speech when the pressure of victory is on. We’ll see Thursday night. His wife Michelle and Clinton set a pretty high bar.

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