When I heard it on the radio news this morning, I thought John McCain had selected Michael Palin as his running mate. When I heard the female voice it was clear I was wrong (though I think the Yorkshire man would be a useful addition to any ticket). No, it wasn’t a stiff upper lipped Limey, instead it was the little-known Governor of Alaska and “mom of five” Sarah Palin that was now a good shot for the Vice Presidency. Andy Borowitz explained best McCain’s reasoning in his imagination of the senator’s own in-no-way defamatory words. "Let's say a constituent calls you and says that a caribou has wandered onto his front lawn," he said. "My friends, Barack Obama wouldn't know what to do."
But Sarah Palin would indeed know what to do. She’d shoot it. The 44 year old cleanskin and winner of the Miss Wasilla pageant must be a very formidable woman to get to be governor of a wildcat alpha male state like Alaska. Nevertheless, Palin is a long shot; but interestingly now, the Republican package is a good mirror image of the Democrats one as this long electoral war of attrition nears its end.
The war is taking its toll on all the players. Obama has lost his near impregnable lead over the last few months and is hoping the Clinton fairie dust works its magic after the Democratic Convention. The elephants are slowly clawing their way into the contest as John McCain seems most intent on provided nothing more exciting than an error-free campaign. Perhaps the biggest error is the name at the top of the ticket. McCain is barely tolerated in the Republicans and may not even be the best candidate in his family. The UK Independent asks why isn’t Cindy McCain’s name the one on the ticket?
Of course, the rest of the media ran with glee the offering about the McCain’s inability to remember how many houses they have (ten, apparently), the donkeys hee-hawed in Denver. This was an important moment. The fourth anniversary of Obama’s coming out speech at the 2004 convention. This time round, he set a TV record as 38 million people watched what he had to say. That was more than watched the Olympics or American Idol. And well more than ten million up on either Bush or Kerry in 2004.
The four-night Democrat convention ranks as the most-watched convention of either party since ratings began watching Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. The party had rejoiced in the But while American were happy to watch the asses in action last week, the elephants outside the room were being ignored. The Grand Old Party’s convention begins Monday in Minneapolis Saint Paul (Actually its in the state capital Saint Paul, but its Minnesota twin city Minneapolis, like the elephants, must always be mentioned in dispatches).
There is talk that the start may be delayed if Hurricane Gustav strikes New Orleans. Apart from the potentially embarrassing memories of Katrina, profit-driven media units are full stretch to cover two major stories in the same timeframe. The Republicans are worried that their precious news time will be stolen by all those great pictures of heavy seas and rooves coming clean off. Hence the move to announce Palin early. The sheer novelty value alone will eat bandwidth, broadcasting spectrum and column inches for the whole weekend until the storm hits, as well as killing off the buzz created by Obama’s own convention speech.
Nonetheless it is important to consider what this black-and-white scion Barack Obama had to say. He began by reminding his audience of the speech he made four years earlier. This was the story about “the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known.” The product of that union described the promise that set the US apart. Apart from what, he didn’t say. But the promise involved “individual dreams (that) still come together as one American family”.
Obama claimed we were in a defining moment – “a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.” He claimed to speak for the unemployed, suffering home owners, those with credit card bills, and the poorly educated. While Obama said Bush was not to blame for all these people’s predicament, he said their lack of decency, generosity and compassion mean that America had to show it was “better than these last eight years”.
Many wonder whether Obama has the capability to match the fervour of his words. His extraordinary ratings numbers alone suggest this is a phenomenon that will be rewarded with victory in November. His voting record as a federal and an Illinois legislator shows him comfortably in the Democratic mainstream of sympathy for lower-income people. He has voted against Arctic and Gulf drilling and also against Bush’s choice for Chief Justice John Roberts. Obama was sceptical about Roberts’s deepest values and his “broader perspectives on how the world works” and his empathy. Why? “He has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak,” said Obama. Come November we will finally see who Obama’s own formidable skills will be used for.