Convention Couch Potato III

For the first time in history, a major political party on Wednesday nominated an African-American to be the nation's president.

That simple but extraordinary fact should not be lost or hurried by, but rather celebrated and savored, amid all the canned speeches, political calculations and 24/7 media analysis (including this one) of the Democratic National Convention.

A few minutes before 8 p.m. PDT, Illinois Senator Barack Obama made a brief, unscheduled appearance at the Pepsi Center in Denver, joining vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and his family on the podium for a quick tableau of the ticket and a few words of thanks to those who had spoken on behalf of his candidacy.

Although it will be quickly overshadowed by his Thursday night acceptance speech in a huge outdoor stadium, it was an historic moment, the nation's first glimpse of Obama as the party's official nominee, a few hours after thousands of delegates roared in acclamation to give him the honor.

The vote came 145 years and 238 days after President Lincoln ordered that slavery be ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, which concluded with these words:

"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God."

Hillary Makes It Official

After several months of political infighting and backroom brawling, the Obama camp and that of primary rival Hillary Clinton played out in public the piece of well-choreographed political theatre that gave her the historic privilege of having her name formally placed in nomination and him the triumph of winning without a dissenting voice.

Having scheduled the traditional call of the states during the afternoon, instead of in its usual prime time spot, convention leaders allowed states to begin casting their delegations' votes for either Obama or Clinton. But when Clinton arrived on the floor shortly after the roll call began, Obama's home state of Illinois, which had the floor, quickly yielded to the New York delegation, where Clinton was by now standing at the microphone to speak these words:

"Madam secretary, on behalf of the great state of New York, with appreciation for the spirit and dedication of all who are gathered here, with eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let us declare together in one voice right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president.

"Madam secretary, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the further conduct of the roll call vote....I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention, by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the convention chair, then called for a voice vote. The ayes had it.

Bubba Speaks

The Democrats' strongest warrior finally stopped sulking in his tent last night and came out swinging his impressive arsenal of political weapons against the Republicans on behalf of Obama.

Bill Clinton, after months of nursing grudges and perceived slights left over from his wife's failed bid for the nomination, delivered a full-throated endorsement of Obama's qualifications to be the nation's commander in chief. In the process he also defined more clearly and cogently than any previous speaker what the election is about:

"The job of the next president is to restore the American dream and to restore America's leadership in the world," he said. "Barack Obama is the man for this job."

Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton delivered a stirring address that included at least a dozen calls for the election of her former rival. But some media bloviators were unsatisfied, fly-specking her words and finding significance in her failure to state explicitly that he is qualified to be commander in chief, a test that she declared during the primaries Obama does not pass.

Bill Clinton last night left no room for anyone to suggest he'd overlooked that point:

"Barack Obama is ready to lead America and to restore American leadership in the world. Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States." To emphasize the point, Clinton noted that when he ran in 1992, Republicans also charged that he was too young and too inexperienced to be president.

One of the great synthesizers of political ideas, Clinton wove the issue of national security Obama's greatest weakness into the issue of the domestic economy, where Democrats see their greatest opportunity in the campaign.

"Barack Obama knows America cannot be strong abroad unless we are first strong at home," he said. "People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

Like other speakers at the convention, Clinton praised John McCain personally for his patriotism and his service to the nation as a Navy pilot and a Vietnam POW. Like others he also tied McCain politically to the Bush Adminstration and its "extreme philosophy" in support of supply side economics.

"They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years with four more years," Clinton said. ":thanks, but no thanks. In this case, the third time is not the charm."

Biden's Coming Out

The best thing about Joe Biden's vice presidential acceptance speech was the introduction offered by his son, Beau.

The attorney general of Delaware and an Army captain on his way to Iraq, Beau Biden was four years old when his mother and sister were killed in a car accident that left him and his brother badly injured and hospitalized for weeks. Joe Biden, a newly elected Senator then in Washington checking out office space, hurried to his sons' side and almost declined to take his seat, saying "Delaware can get a new Senator but my boys can't get a new father," Beau Biden recalled.

For years afterward, the senior Biden went back and forth between home and Washington almost every day, a four hour round trip on the train, so he could have breakfast and dinner with his sons. Beau Biden's recollections of the Democrats' vice presidential nominee as a father drew tears throughout the hall, including from Michelle Obama.

Joe Biden's speech was a double, not a homer, as he sketched a tough but hardly scorching critique of McCain and the Republicans. Biden and McCain have become good friends during their long time together in the Senate and Biden's attack framework of "John McCain is my friend but:" seemed awkward at times.

Biden, who is a better speaker without a text, also stumbled and misspoke at several points in his address, which NBC's Chuck Todd reported had been pulled together by committee, after Obama's handlers selected a new speech writer for him.

Based on last night, they're better off letting Biden wing it.

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