The FINAL NIGHT of the Democratic National Convention is set to begin, and there is a SUPER BOWL ATMOSPHERE in the air, at least here in Charlotte, in the immediate vicinity of the Time Warner Cable Sucks™ Arena, where U.S. president BARACK OBAMA will be speaking in less than six hours. No idea how it is in the rest of America. But here, people are FIRED UP, as well as READY TO GO.
The Democratic convention, like the Republican convention, and every political convention, is a television event. That is, it is designed and intended expressly to satisfy the audience watching at home, on the screen. The media, gathered here on-site, does not so much "cover" a convention as news as we hold it up, turn it over in our hands, and remark on its qualities, like a bunch of Home Shopping Network hosts talking up a new snow globe.
Greetings from the Democratic National Convention in horrible Charlotte, North Carolina, where your humble correspondents were just penned like dogs with a mass of humanity while waiting for fire marshals or some such to approve our entrance. Hamilton Nolan, myself, and SPECIAL GUEST AND GAWKER EMERITA Ana Marie Cox of the Guardian are here to liveblog this magical night for you. Let's begin.
The Occupy movement is camped in Marshall Park, which should be a walk of about three or four blocks from our perch in the bowels of the media area in the Charlotte Convention Center. In reality, you are forced by a series of fences, police barriers, and law enforcement checkpoints to walk eight blocks out of the way in a grand semicircle in order to reach the park. Once there, you find an encampment of several dozen tents, interspersed with small groups of people talking, making food, washing clothes, and talking to reporters. This, sad to say, is the heart of the protest movement at the DNC.
REPORTING LIVE FROM THE CHARLOTTE BOBCATS PRACTICE COURT/ TEMPORARY DNC PRESS CENTER, CHARLOTTE, NC—Welcome to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, gentle reader! Your correspondents have arrived, soaked by a freak rainstorm but unbowed, for
three about two and a quarter days of solid "on the scene" coverage of the Most Important Political Nomination Convention of 2012, Democratic Edition. Come along on our harrowing journey through artifice, won't you?
Keith Olbermann may have been pushed out of his gig anchoring MSNBC's election coverage, but the Countdown host actually made out pretty well, with the cable news network widely reported to be in the process of extending his contract. Far sadder is the case of Olbermann's fellow shouting head Chris Matthews, also ejected from the election team over his on-air feuds. Matthews' contract is up in 2009, two years sooner than Olbermann's, and yet no one is talking about buttering him up! That's probably because lantern-jawed Olbermann, by far the more overtly partisan of the two, has done more to gin up ratings. But apparently it's also because parent company GE's shareholders — that is, people primarily concerned with making money off a sprawling multinational corporation and with no expertise in running media operations — were unhappy with the network's convention coverage. Report the MSNBC haters at the Post:
It was unthinkable that MSNBC could come out of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions without a major, public shakeup of its political news team. The incessant fighting between the cable network's most opinionated anchors — Keith Olbermann, Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews — marred the chance to retain all those new young viewers Olbermann has attracted over the past year or two. But now that the other shoe has dropped, with the anchor team of Olbermann and Matthews being replaced by comparatively neutral White House correspondent David Gregory, it would be a mistake to think MSNBC has undergone some sort of deep existential crisis that will pull it back from the brink of becoming the Fox News Channel of the left. The network's ratings growth, driven by Olbermann, has been too good and too long coming, and the lefty anchor (according to the Times) is about to re-up his plush contract, which in any case has three of four yeas left on it. And MSNBC will have done plenty if it simply gets its big-name blowhards acting at a high school level of maturity rather than yelling at one another like a bunch of kindergartners. Network executives appear to appreciate this! From the Times:
It was a tricky rhetorical path before Barack Obama at the close of the Democratic National Convention Thursday and he walked it artfully. The official Democratic presidential nominee bashed John McCain hard, including rather boldly on McCain's core issue of Iraq, where the Republican opponent feels strong. The tens of thousands of hard-core Democrats at Invesco Field in Denver, all worked up into a frenzy, ate it up. Then there were The Bitters watching on their non-flat-screen TVs at home in swing states, who were reminded that McCain called them all "whiners" (so much worse than "bitter!"), that McCain wants to tax their benefits for healthcare, that Obama supports corporate welfare to teach GM how to make hybrids and that Obama's not going to coddle all these illegal Mexicans "undercutting" their wages. But the heart of the performance came toward the end.
Not all reporters are created equal at Invesco Field, where Barack Obama is about to close out the Democratic National Convention. John Koblin at the Observer printed a seating chart (left) and gave a rundown on the winners and losers. It looks like the Obama campaign continues to snub the New Yorker for its controversial parody cover, sitting the magazine's correspondents in worse seats than Jezebel/Glamour (team Megan!), the Nation and the New Republic. More delightfully, the campaign totally dissed those conssumate insiders at Vanity Fair, "which is stuck in the back row in Section J" behind basically everyone except the Gotham tabloids. Ha ha, I guess the entire free world is not actually obsessed with getting into the Waverly or your damned Oscar party, Graydon Carter! After the jump, early chatter among reporters, plus a list of seating winners.
Forget the speeches and the platform, the delegate votes and the big Barack Obama speech tonight. Political conventions are nothing if not stages on which the craziest campaign volunteers — both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have them! — can strut around in their wildest costumes. No one's been spotted with a sticker on their forehead yet, even though that's a trademark move of Clinton's crazier supporters, or wearing an Abercrombie shirt, even though that's the preferred apparel of Barack Obama's emptiest young volunteers. But the hoi polloi are coming to the big stadium event tonight, so anything is still possible. So far the DNC has seen hats and other attire in flavors vaguely gay, cowboyish, flag-desecrating, Mexican and just plain insane. There's a photo gallery after the jump, culled (mostly) by our own Richard Blakeley from the sea of convention footage.
Here's Kal Penn as captured by the LA Times at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. You may recognize Penn: He's the famous pothead "Kumar" from that famous pothead movie series, Harold & Kumar. Apparently someone asked him to be a "political whip," herding delegates while wearing a headset, and he totally went for it. "The majority of kids I've met on the road are struggling," Penn told the newspaper. Well, fine, but when the Republicans want to portray Democratic politicians as of vapid, decadent, amoral Hollywood types, they won't have to go after Paris Hilton and Britney Spears anymore. They've got Penn working the convention floor. And something tells me they won't be emphasizing his role as a physician on House. Anyway, whatever, if you try to mold your self-expression around how political extremists might twist things you'll never come up with culture gems like Harold & Kumar. Enjoy a sampling from their more terroristic oeuvre after the jump.
It comes as no huge shock to hear that the on-air bickering that has characterized MSNBC's coverage of the Democratic convention has carried over into behind-the-scenes tension and backbiting. The reports poured in last night. Politico quoted a "high-ranking journalist" who said "the situation at our channel is about to blow up." Jossip reported that both staff and top brass believe network host Keith Olbermann is way out of bounds in bashing other anchors. And the Wall Street Journal quotes former MSNBC host Connie Chung thusly: "Grow up! They have to just grow up." Whose fault is all this? Probably MSNBC chief Phil Griffin, whose staff (judging from all the reports) have a hard a time trusting. Well, he is the fellow who keeps rather ridiculously insisting MSNBC isn't becoming the left-wing Fox News. But the Journal has found another guilty party: Tim Russert, who had to go and die:
We told you Joe Biden was going to say something inappropriate and crazy sooner or later, and he has proven us correct, spectacularly, very quickly. In his Democratic Convention address tonight, Biden almost referred to John McCain as "George W. Bush." before catching himself halfway. Not that the two men aren't politically similar, but there's not much point in taking potshots at the one who isn't running for anything. But here's what we didn't anticipate: Biden has put his foot into his mouth so many times that he's gotten really fast at recovery. In this case, Biden only needed a split second to apologize for his "Freudian slip," which is sufficiently clever that the gaffe almost looks pre-arranged. Now he gets the press frenzy that comes with a screwup plus the message control that comes with a carefully scripted statement! Crazy like a fox, this one. Also, clean. Click the icon for the video, which includes bonus footage of Barack Obama very nearly uttering the rock-star words, "HELLO DENVER!!"
The cheering for Bill Clinton went on for about five hours at the Democratic National Convention tonight before he could finally start his speech. (OK, seriously, for 3 minutes 48 seconds.) He pretended to get a little frustrated, but you know the ex-president, who tends to feel persecuted and under-appreciated, just ate it up. Clinton was remarkably well behaved, his foreign policy address not going grotesquely beyond the alloted 10 minutes and, hey, even occasionally touching on foreign policy, in between statements on the American Dream, Hurricane Katrina, unions and corporate cronyism. Clinton laid the Obama praise on thick — he's ready! to be president! also, unique! young and "inexperienced" like Clinton was! — then got into the serious Republican bashing, which is the focus of this clip and really the best part of the convention so far. Sometimes you need Hope and inspiration, but sometimes you just want to see some well-landed punches and nice memories of the resurgent 1990s. Video of the endless applause after the jump, along with bonus footage of him actually saying things.