Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Live From Denver: Let The Convention Begin
By Katharine Q. Seelye
Michelle Obama praised her husband’s values and accomplishments.
(Photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times)
The Democrats kicked off their convention today, hoping that they could inspire party unity and heal divisions from their long and bruising primary battle. Follow tonight’s events, including the tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy and a speech by Michelle Obama.
11:30 p.m. Wrap Up: Wrap: Cute as those final moments were with Michelle and the girls on stage, and as interesting as Michelle’s shout-out to Hillary Rodham Clinton was, the night belonged to Edward M. Kennedy.
Much of the clan was there to watch him pass the torch to Mr. Obama: “There is a new wave of change all around us,” he said, after a soaring video tribute by Ken Burns, “and if we set our compass through, we will reach our destination.”
His speech already echoed perhaps his most famous line, with which he ended his 1980 campaign against Jimmy Carter, when he said: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Tonight, he concluded: “The hope shall rise again, and the dream lives on.”
Of course, off stage, you-know-who was still busy ironing out how her own historic run for the presidency will be marked by this convention.
The Associated Press reported that aides to Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had agreed to limit the roll call on Wednesday night, allowing some states to cast votes for both before ending the roll call in acclamation for Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton herself may cut off the vote and recommend unanimous nomination of Obama.The drama shall never die.
11 p.m. Live From Kanas City, Mo.: Our colleague Jeff Zeleny sends the following dispatch:
As his wife delivered the closing speech of the night at the Democratic convention in Denver, Senator Barack Obama watched from a living room here in Kansas City.
Mr. Obama is winding a path through battleground states as he makes his way to the party gathering in Colorado. His campaign selected the home of Jim and Alicia Girardeau, both of whom are social workers, to watch Michelle Obama give her prime-time address.
He sat at one end of the couch next to Jim, 45, with Alicia, 44, seated in an overstuffed chair next to him. As a video tribute to his wife played, he smiled as he watched with his hands folded under his chin, his elbows resting on his knee.
When his wife took the stage, Mr. Obama turned toward a small group of reporters and said, “It’s nerve-wracking.” As he turned back to the television, with an image of his wife on the screen, he added: “She’s pretty cute.”
The backdrop was purposefully selected to underscore a key theme of the evening, that the Obamas understand the challenges facing working-class Americans. After the speech, Mr. Obama was beamed into the convention hall via satellite from the Girardeau’s home, where he waved to the crowd.
“Hey sweetie! Hello, everybody. Hello from Kansas City,” Mr. Obama said. “How about Michelle Obama? Now you know why I asked her out so many times, even though she said no. You want a persistent president.”
“Hi daddy!” said Sasha Obama, speaking to her father from long distance. “What city are you in?”
“I’ll see you guys on Thursday, all right?” Mr. Obama said.
10:57 p.m. More Michelle: Mrs. Obama recounts her parents’ blue-collar lives, and much of the speech serves to underscore the message that the Obamas are like everyone else. Her husband will achieve his goals — of ending the war, building the economy and making health care affordable — “the same way he always has — by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are.”
And she wraps it up six minutes before the 11 o’clock news. She is joined on stage by her daughters as the sound system blares “Isn’t She Lovely?”
Then, Barack Obama appears on a big screen behind them on a live camera from Kansas City, Mo. (although he initially said he was in St. Louis).
“How about Michelle Obama?” he says to the crowd as his daughters coo and chatter. “Now you know why I asked her out so many times, even though she said no. You want a persistent president.” There’s a big applause in the hall. (Interactive Video and Transcript)
The Obamas have had practice with these video calls. He frequently calls in from the trail to say goodnight to his daughters via video cam.
10:45 p.m. Props to Clinton: Michelle Obama talks about standing at the crosscurrents of history, with the anniversaries this week of women winning the right to vote and of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
She lauds people who work hard every day, and among them: “People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling” — here she steps back from the podium and applauds Mrs. Clinton along with the crowd in the hall — “so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.”
10:37 p.m. Mrs. Obama Takes the Stage: Michelle Obama is up, just about on schedule. She pays tribute to her parents and her brother, and of course, her husband. A sea of blue- and-white ‘Michelle’ signs in the hall.
10:30 p.m. Introducing Michelle Obama: In the video set-up, Mrs. Obama is talking about her former law firm being abuzz with word of this “hot-shot” summer intern.
The biographical video creates a little suspense and tension to her courtship by that hotshot, with Mr. Obama saying he noticed that Michelle didn’t have a ring on her finger. They draw out the saga a little more, with Michelle saying that Barack finally made his “big move” and the camera switches to Barack, who says the scene was the company picnic. “And on the drive back, I offered to buy her ice cream.” That did the trick.
The whole show at this point is to make Michelle and Barack seem as all-American and down-to-earth as everyone else. Craig Robinson introduces his sister by noting that her favorite TV show as a child was “The Brady Bunch.”
10:22 p.m. Republican for Obama: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is on-message in her intro to Mrs. Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson. Lots of mentions of the American dream.
(Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)
10 p.m. Republican for Obama: Here’s Jim Leach, a Republican and former congressman from Iowa and the Democrats’ answer to Zell Miller, the Democrat who spoke at the Republican convention in 2004.
Mr. Leach endorsed Mr. Obama earlier this month and is now on stage at the Democratic convention. Alas, this speech didn’t start out as interestingly as his comments when he made his endorsement: “It’s been a very difficult thing for me because I’ve never endorsed a Democrat before,” he said then, adding, “but sometimes in life you come to a juncture where it’s very clear the national interest trumps party discipline.”
It had a bit more punch than what he is saying now, even as he lists what he perceives as the faults of the Republican Party (war, out-of-control spending, etc.). He is not nearly as emotional as Mr. Miller was, but concludes coolly: “I stand before you proud of my party’s contributions to American history but as a citizen, proud as well of the good judgment of the good people of this party in nominating a transcending [sic] candidate who, I am convinced, will recapture the American dream and be a truly great president.”
9:30 p.m. Senator Kennedy Takes the Stage: Senator Kennedy comes on stage, walking, with his wife. He’s lost some of his hair.
(Photo: Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times)
After an extended standing ovation, Senator Kennedy begins: “My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here. And nothing, nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight. I have come here tonight to stand with you, to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship.”
He speaks of Mr. Obama, and pledges “that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the next Congress.” This, he says, is a “season of hope,” and he returns to his signature issue, vowing that every American will soon have decent, quality health care.
He smiles throughout, occasionally adjusting his round glasses, and concludes: “The hope rises again and the dream lives on.” The crowd chants, “Teddy! Teddy!”
A stool had been placed behind the podium if needed it to lean on; now Vicky comes to lead him off stage, as “Still the One” rises over the sound system. Various Kennedys and others flood the stage, with hugs and grins all around. He waves away attempts to help him off.
This was by far the most gripping segment of the convention so far. (Interactive Video and Transcript of Kennedy’s Speech)
9:25 p.m. The Kennedy Video: The video opens with the Kennedys sailing, with Senator Kennedy saying that the sea has always been a metaphor for life. He’s at the helm. And now, a cavalcade of black-and-white pictures of Senator Kennedy with his brothers John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, and clips of Senator Kennedy’s great speeches: “Like my three brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard… .”
Vicky, Senator Kennedy’s wife, says in the video that he reads once a week to children as part of a literacy program. There are tributes here too from families who are unknown. His wife calls him “the pied piper in this family,” and the video segues into the Obama story
9:16 p.m. Kennedy Tribute: Caroline Kennedy takes the stage to pay tribute to her uncle, who is struggling against brain cancer, and a sea of “Kennedy” signs is washing over the hall.
“I’m here to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country — Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy,” Caroline says. “Their stories are different but they share a commitment to timeless American ideals.”
Mr. Biden has tears in his eyes as Caroline says that more than any senator of his generation, or any generation, Teddy has made life better for everyone. “He’s been a Senator for all who believe in a dream that’s never died,” she says. Tears are streaming down Maria Shriver’s face.
Now the video.
Senator Ted Kennedy was driven in a golf cart from to attend the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: David Scull/The New York Times)
8:53 p.m. Senators Kennedy, Biden Arrive: Senator Edward M. Kennedy just arrived at the convention hall, along with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama’s running mate. They came in separate motorcades to a back loading dock, where Mr. Kennedy was helped from his Suburban into a golf cart and driven into the arena. Mr. Biden walked into the hall and is now in a skybox, just below the NBC booth, chatting with Howard Dean and others. (Graphic: Seating chart inside the Pepsi Center.)
Earlier, Ethel Kennedy, Maria Shriver and several other Kennedys came into the hall.
Energy in the hall seems to be picking up now that pictures of Mr. Biden have been flashed on the overhead screens. We’re not sure where he is, and the Obama camp is mum on plans for rolling him out, so to speak, before he accepts the vice presidential nomination on Wednesday night.
These extended musical interludes (“We’re going to have a funky good time”) are adding to the “American Idol” aura of this show.
8:40 p.m. The Carters: Former President Jimmy Carter, and his wife, Rosalynn, came out on stage and waved, but that was it. We thought he might want to say a few words, and maybe he did… He did speak in 2004, when he talked about his foreign policy achievements. Also, he and the only other living Democratic ex-president, Bill Clinton, spoke on the same night. Not this year; Mr. Clinton’s big night comes Wednesday.
By the way, we’re writing to you from just outside the Pepsi Center, in a media tent, where we have been seated under air ducts that are loudly blasting cold air all over us. Some of our colleagues are inside the hall with the convention-goers and are reporting back that the atmosphere is a bit subdued (except when Nancy Pelosi mentioned Hillary Clinton and the Texas delegation, of all places, erupted in cheers).
8:30 p.m., Eastern Showtime! DENVER — Hi everyone. The 45th quadrennial Democratic National Convention is underway, at least the parts that the Democrats want to show off in prime time. We’ll be with you through the evening and tonight’s finale, the speech by Michelle Obama, who will take the podium around 10:30 p.m., Eastern. The Obama campaign has released excerpts of her speech.
The emotional highlight is likely to be the appearance of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He was not expected to come because of his brain cancer; reports say that his doctors deem his appearance here risky because his immune system has been so compromised by his treatment. But he has said that he couldn’t imagine missing it.
It is still not clear whether Teddy will speak, which will depend on how he’s feeling. He’ll be introduced by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, and there will be a short movie tribute to him.
And here’s something a little different. You’ll be able to watch all the proceedings live right here on this post courtesy of our friends at MSNBC — and keep up with our running commentary at the same time.
So sit back and enjoy the show.