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It's All Politics
Wed September 5, 2012
Live Blog: Wednesday At The Democratic National Convention
Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 9:24 am
Hello from Charlotte, N.C. Today is all about Bill Clinton.
Walking around Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, the former president was the talk of the town. Today marks the second day of the Democratic National Convention.
We're in the arena and we'll keep tabs on the proceedings. Make sure you refresh this page to see the latest.
Update at 11:25 p.m. ET. A Wonky Speech, With A Clinton Delivery:
The night ended with President Obama taking the stage, once President Clinton finished his speech.
It was a surprise for the crowd, which chanted "We are fired up!" for minutes after the two presidents had left the stage.
As expected, Clinton also received a roaring welcome when he came onstage to nominate President Obama for president.
But the speech he delivered was policy heavy and serious. Even though he threw in some jokes, Clinton consistently told the Democratic delegates and the television viewers to "listen."
"You all are having fun," he said at one point. "But this is serious. I want you to listen."
In a lot of ways, Clinton's speech was almost a checklist of issues that President Obama had to address during this convention:
-- Clinton started with a plea for compromise, by saying that Obama, unlike the Republicans, is committed to "constructive cooperation."
"Heck," he said. "He even appointed Hilary." That is Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Obama's 2008 Democratic primary opponent.
-- Clinton gave a point-by-point review of Obama's record: He threw out many numbers on the economy and on health care.
-- Then Clinton offered a rebuttal of Republican attacks, including ads that Republicans have been running nationwide.
-- And like the lawyer that he is, he then moved on to offer his criticism of Republican proposals. On the economy, he said, they can't compete, because their proposals don't pass the "arithmetic test" and they don't pass the "values test."
-- Finally, about 25 minutes after the program was supposed to have concluded, he offered an unflinching endorsement of Obama.
"Warren! Warren! Warren!"
That was the welcome senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren received tonight.
Warren has become a folk hero of sorts, one who talks tough against banks and talks about the need for more income equality.
"People feel like the system is rigged against them," she said in a calm, soothing voice. "And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them."
A lot has been made about this speech from Warren, because of the neck-and-neck race she's in the middle of in Massachusetts against Republican Scott Brown.
"This is very important. She's being given a national spotlight," said Shaw McDermott, a Boston lawyer in the arena. "It will focus the Massachusetts electorate that her race is ultimately tied to the fortunes of the party."
Earlier today, Liz Halloran wrote a bit of background for us on Warren. Here's what she reported:
Her race with Brown is still rated a tossup, and Warren will benefit from having Obama at the top of her ticket.
But Warren, 63, considered a liberal rising star, has struggled to break through in a state where registered Democrats hold a 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans. She also enjoys a nearly $10 million fundraising advantage over Brown.
Campaign finance reports show that she'd raised a whopping $28.2 million by the end of August to Brown's $19.4 million.
Brown, once a Tea Party favorite who has since tacked to the middle, won a 2010 special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant after the death of Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Kennedy had held the seat for nearly a half century.
Winning Massachusetts is a key to the Democrats' hold on control of the Senate. It's no accident she's appearing in prime time during an hour that features one of the party's most popular figures, former President Clinton.
An Oklahoma native and Harvard Law professor, Warren emerged as a political entity in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. She proposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the 2010 financial regulatory reform known as Dodd-Frank, and as a special assistant to President Obama helped set it up.
Warren was once thought to be Obama's choice to head the new consumer bureau, but Republican opposition led him to turn to former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
Warren was also damaged when she did not quickly or decisively answer opponents' questions about her past claims of partial Native American heritage.
In recent weeks, she has sought to link Brown with Republican proposals on Medicare and other programs, and their effects on women and the middle class.
Sandra Fluke was thrust into the national debate about contraceptives when Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut." Today, she said that at stake in this election are two different futures.
Here's a bit of her speech:
"During this campaign, we've heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women — and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They're not imagined. That future could be real.
"In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party. It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don't want and our doctors say we don't need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don't. We know what this America would look like. In a few short months, it's the America we could be. But it's not the America we should be. It's not who we are.
"We've also seen another future we could choose. First of all, we'd have the right to choose. It's an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance; in which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives; in which we decide when to start our families. An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters — not his delegates or donors — and stands with all women. And strangers come together, reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here — and give me a microphone — to amplify our voice. That's the difference."
NPR's Liz Halloran sends us this update from the floor:
Wednesday night the Democrats took their first real convention arena swipe at Romney's business record at Bain Capital.
A trio of former employees of companies that Romney's private equity firm managed or took over and ultimately closed took the stage to excoriate Bain and its effect on their lives.
The faces may have seemed familiar, because those onstage have appeared in videos highly critical of Bain. One, union organizer Randy Johnson, has dogged Romney since his 1994 U.S. Senate run in Massachusetts against Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Johnson worked for Indiana-based American Pad & Paper, or Ampad, eventually closed by Bain in 1995.
"What I fault him for is making money without a moral compass," Johnson said. "I fault him for putting profits ahead of working people like me. But that's just Romney economics."
Minnesotan David Foster headed United Steelworkers District 11 when Bain bought Missouri-based GS Technologies, a steel mill, in 1993; it filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Foster, featured in an Obama campaign ad titled "Steel," is now a Democratic activist who heads the BlueGreen Alliance in his state.
And Cindy Hewitt was a human resources manager for a Miami medical supply company that Bain held, and then closed, in the late 1990s.
Their themes, attempting to undercut Romney's claims of job-creating business experience, were similar: that Romney and Bain saddled functioning companies with debt in intricate transactions that enriched Bain's investors, but killed the original companies.
There's been quite a bit of Spanish spoken at this convention. The Latino vote, after all, is one that is expected to play an important role in this election. It all culminated with the appearance today of Cristina Saralegui, who is known as the "Hispanic Oprah."
Saralegui had already taken a lead role in supporting President Obama before this convention, cutting ads for the president.
Her message was that Obama "fights for us."
"He is on our side," she said.
Then she repeated a refrain that many of the women have repeated throughout these two days: "Pa'lante, pa'lante, pa tras ni pa coger impulso," she said. "Forward, forward, backwards, not even to gain flight."
CNN is reporting that President Obama will be in the arena for President Clinton's speech.
NPR's S.V. Date is outside the arena and he tells us that no one is being allowed inside.
NPR's Liz Halloran sends us this missive from the floor:
Longtime Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank was on tonight's list of speakers, but his scheduled time came and went. (He looks to have been a victim of a convention night that's running way behind.)
But Frank, who isn't running for re-election, seems to deserve some attention as his long career winds down.
Frank served in the U.S. House for more than three decades, and in the Massachusetts House for seven years before that.
Yet it hasn't been until this week that Frank, 72, the first openly and now married gay member of Congress, likely felt the full embrace of his party.
Speaker after convention speaker, including first lady Michelle Obama, has embraced the notion of legal same-sex marriage.
And the president recently expressed his support of same, with a little unexpected nudge from Vice President Biden.
None of that has happened before.
We caught up on the convention floor with Massachusetts delegate Lois Pines, a former state senator who was elected to the state House with Frank in 1972.
"He was willing to speak out and be public about his sexual orientation when he was the only one," said Pines, who with Frank co-sponsored the state's first gay-rights bill.
"Yes, it's taken people a very long time to accept the principle of equal rights for gay people," she said. "It was very, very difficult because people were very afraid."
For Frank, a cocky and acerbic Harvard Law School graduate, it wasn't so always so comfortable being "America's only left-handed gay, Jewish congressman," the title of his 2009 autobiography.
He was called "Barney Fag" by Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey in 1995. He was reprimanded by the House for fixing a male prostitute's parking tickets.
Recently, Frank, a longtime supporter of government housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, earned the enmity of many Republicans for co-writing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law,
Through all that, Pines said, "his district loved him."
Sister Simone Campbell just received one of the biggest standing ovations of the night.
She delivered a stealthy attack on Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Campbell started a bus tour to tell America about the Ryan budget, she said.
"During our journey, I rediscovered a few truths," she said "First, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are correct when they say that each individual should be responsible. But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families. Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another.
"I am my sister's keeper. I am my brother's keeper," she said to great applause.
Campbell said she felt comforted surrounded by other caring people.
"Together, we understand that an immoral budget that hurts already struggling families does not reflect our nation's values," she said. "We are better than that."
Ryan, who is Catholic, was hit hard by his church when he released his budget. It sent letters to elected officials asking them to vote against the budget.
Tonight is proceeding at much more leisurely pace. In fact, many seats are empty and the crowd is much calmer. As we said earlier, this night is definitely about Bill Clinton. Last night, the lineup was packed with stars. Today, many have delivered sober speeches with little red meat for the crowd.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has just delivered the snappiest line of the night. It also encapsulates the line of attack that Democrats are using against Republicans.
With Republicans in power in the House, said Richards, "It's like we woke up in a bad episode of Mad Men."
That is to say that they believe the policies of Republicans would send the United States into the past, when it comes to women's rights.
The female vote is important for Democrats, because it helps them make up the deficit they carry with men. As NPR's Alan Greenblatt told us earlier this week, Democrats haven't carried the male vote in some 30 years.
One emphasis that has remained from last night is women. Like they did with the women of the House of Representatives, tonight the Democratic women of the Senate took the stage in a show of solidarity.
They stood in a semicircle around Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who delivered the remarks.
"Every issue is a woman's issue," she said. Mikulski said that the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, believe that women's issues are simply a part of fundamental American values.
At the end of Mikulski's speech, the DJ pumped Katy Perry's pop hit "Firework" and the female senators held hands in front of the stage.
Note that we've added a separate post explaining that controversy that happened in the opening minutes of the night, when Democrats voted to amend their platform to include a reference to God and proclaim Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
The Obama administration released excerpts of the speech Bill Clinton will deliver. He'll echo a lot of what we've already heard from speakers so far: What President Obama wants is a country in which everyone works together, whereas Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants a country where everyone fends for himself.
Clinton will say:
"In Tampa the Republican argument against the President's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.
"I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.
"The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in? If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we're-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."