Daily Archives: August 24, 2008

If your idea of fun is to spend five days standing in line with people who want to talk about nothing but politics, Denver is the place. A disinterested observer contemplating the vast steel cage that lines the convention perimeter might think, “There’s a good idea; shove them all in and throw away the key.” It’s a plan, but the problem is getting people in to start with. There are perimeter credentials and “pre-credentials” (they might be the same thing), plus, obviously, actual credentials, and far too few of the latter to go round. Or so it is rumoured.

Security for the event is certainly daunting. Supposedly 42, or is it 53 or 55, separate agencies are involved in the exercise, run from a “situation room” in a secret location. That is a characteristically American solution: the bigger the problem, the more agencies you apply to it. Even at altitude, these things breed. You need agencies to co-ordinate the agencies, and so on.

Picture the scene: 42 (or 53 or 55) agencies, licensed to inflict limitless inconvenience on anyone in their way, seamlessly pooling their resources and expertise, so that the whole thing runs like clockwork. What could go wrong?

The selection of Joe Biden, for all his merits, was something of an anticlimax, and the Obama campaign is mostly to blame. It overmanaged the announcement. The ponderous stagecraft of the delay in releasing the decision and all the teasing of the press (a good thing in its own right, by the way: we deserve to be teased) were intended to supply a burst of excitement as the convention began. Also, the promise to let campaign supporters who registered their cellphone numbers get the news first by text message has doubtless done wonders for the Obama database. (Not that most of them did get the news first that way, of course; unless they turned off TV and radio and stayed up into the early hours on Saturday, glued to their phones.) In any event, Biden had been so widely tipped that the fanfare fell flat. Oh, right, fine, Joe Biden.

He is a good choice but an unadventurous one–despite the fact that his verbosity and rapid-response opining can get him into trouble. (The Republicans have put a “Biden gaffe clock” on their website.) His knowledge and experience of foreign affairs fill a perceived gap in the Obama campaign, and his pugilistic style is something else the campaign can use. But it doesn’t fix what has been going wrong, which is the apparent failure of Barack Obama to connect with uncommitted voters. Biden does connect: he has that common touch. But if Obama cannot do that for himself, having a partner who can will not be good enough.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

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