Democratic Convention 2008

You Are Better off Watching on C-SPAN, if at all


In my throat-clearer for this week, I took gentle exception to the Jeff Jarvis/Jack Shafer notion that news organizations would be better off relying on C-SPAN for the conventions than sending reporters. I still stand by that claim, but after finally catching some post-game network coverage of the convention last night, it's clear that you'd be infinitely better off as a viewer using the largely unfiltered filter of Brian Lamb (one of reason's 35 heroes of freedom!) than watching the self-referential cheerleading performances from the likes of CNN and MSNBC.

Whether it was Wolf Blitzer's hour's worth of giggly shout-outs to the competent but cringe-inducing house band (who are apparently trying for a Guinness World Record for playing Stevie Wonder covers), to Paul Begala's ridiculous description of Joe freakin' Biden as "half-steelworker, half-statesman," to Larry King asking McCain flunky Tucker Bounds to, in fact, confirm that every American agrees that Wednesday was a night of awesome historical import, the network guys and gals were downright enthusiasts, looking relieved and giddy in the Mile High air that things the last two days seem to be going pretty well for the Dems after a rocky opening night.

Which they have. Going into this week, the party had a few urgent goals: Get all reluctant ex-Clinton supporters back into the fold, make Barack Obama reek with reassuring lunchbucketty goodness, tar McCain as a super-rich, out-of-touch 20th century relic who promises nothing but four more years of George Bush; and identify with the "middle class" as much as humanly possible. Well, missions accomplished!

But conventions are more than just exercises in rallying the base and providing empathetic Horatio Alger narratives. They are, especially for us non-Democrats who aren't going to vote for John McCain, job interviews, in which one of the crucial questions is whaddya gonna do, exactly? I mean, aside from "creating five million green jobs," throwing yet still more "resources" at failing public schools, and talking tough about every foreign country we haven't yet invaded?

Obama will likely remind us tonight that Larry King is right: this is a historical moment. And huzzah for that, no matter how telegraphed that particular news. But it was a historical moment when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as vice president, and that didn't mean she needed to be anywhere near the White House. If Obama spends more time tonight assuring us that he's normal, rather than telling us what his administration will do, it will be, I think, a missed opportunity.


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  1. Biden as “half-steelworker, half-statesman,”

    for serious? Biden is more like your retired uncle who thinks he did the world a favor by being a crooked cop (but who can’t explain how he can afford the million dollar home he owns).

  2. I planned on flipping around the cable networks to see what people were saying, but I didn’t realize they’d be talking over everyone giving speeches. There’s an entire night’s worth of speeches, yet the talking heads blab on over most of them. What’s the point of covering a convention if we can’t even hear the convention? Cspan all the way.

  3. If Obama spends more time tonight assuring us that he’s normal, rather than telling us what his administration will do, it will be, I think, a missed opportunity.

    You think so? The more I hear about what he’s going to do, the more frightened I become. Then again, I decided long ago I’d rather suck on an extension cord that vote for Obama. I’m still not sure that articulating policy is going to tip folks who are ‘on the fence’ in his favor. Better to look all presidential and articulate.

  4. Better to look all presidential and articulate.

    The fence-sitters are all people who haven’t been sold by the wall-to-wall coverage of Obama’s Incredible History-Making Charismatic Triumphant March to the White House. That market has peaked.

    The way to pick up the extra 5% he needs is to sell them on some actual issues and proposals.

  5. Most people aren’t political geeks like us, RC. I wouldn’t assume that fence-sitters are knowledgeable about his story, and as for “issues,” how far did policy wonkery get Dukakis, Gore, Hillary, or Edwards?

  6. If policy wonkery was a winning strategy, Al Gore’s run against President Lugar in 2000 would have set turnout records.

  7. joe — Al Gore was actually pretty un-wonkish in 2000, yammering on about “working families” and “I’ll fight for yew!” stuff. Along with the Lockbox.

  8. Matt,

    That was only for a brief period at the end of the campaign.

  9. I need the insights of the “best political team on TV” and the “best political pros in the business” and the “best political coverage” on cable …
    I mean, what they actually say about health care, taxes, war and peace… please, I need Wolf to tell me what it all means!!!

  10. I wouldn’t assume that fence-sitters are knowledgeable about his story,

    Good point, but I wouldn’t assume that, as the ignorant learn his story, they will break for him in any greater numbers than those who already know his story.

    and as for “issues,” how far did policy wonkery get Dukakis, Gore, Hillary, or Edwards?

    Not far enough. I suggest that perhaps they weren’t pushing the right policies? That the market for class envy, entitlement politics, nanny state interventionism, and fiscally irresponsible wealth transfers is already saturated, perhaps?

  11. It seems a silly conceit to suggest that anyone with the mental faculties required to write for Reason could possibly anticipate any speech or other course of action by Obama or his campaign that would persuade him that Obama is fit to defend the Constitution. What possible additional utterances or, Lord help us, facts could possibly improve Obama’s chances?

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