Daily Archives: August 27, 2008

Dave Barry is writing a column on the convention for National Journal. It is the most fearlessly truthful reporting I have seen so far. (What a ridiculous profession this is.)

Call me a courageous explorer in the mold of Lewis and Clark if you want, but I did something insanely brave here: I traveled alone, on foot, all the way across the convention floor.

This is actually a lot harder than what Lewis and Clark did. Yes, they had to cross thousands of miles of hostile wilderness surviving on pine needles and squirrel jerky. But that’s nothing compared with the obstacles I faced. Spike Lee, for example.

Here’s a minute-by-minute account of my ordeal:

7:40 — I get a temporary media floor pass, which allows me to be on the floor for exactly 30 minutes. If I don’t return the pass by 8:10, something bad happens, although they don’t tell you exactly what, so you have to assume waterboarding.

7:41 — I step onto the convention floor and am immediately caught up in a surging mass of humanity consisting of every Democrat who has ever lived. Grover Cleveland is in here somewhere. Yes, he died in 1908, but the crowd is so dense that he is unable to fall down.

7:43 — Somewhere in the distance is the podium, where an important Democratic dignitary is speaking about Change. He is for it. Down here on the floor, we are wishing that our fellow surgers would change to a stronger deodorant. We are pressed together so tightly that some of us could easily wind up pregnant by as many as eight different people, and I am not ruling out Grover.

7:48 — Through intense effort I manage to surge maybe eight feet, where the path is blocked by a TV network that has set up a platform on the floor so its reporters can report on the convention by talking to each other with their backs to the actual convention. There is huge excitement in the surge as people catch glimpses of both Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, who are, in this environment, the Beatles. The surgers all stop, whip out cellphones, and take pictures of the backs of the heads of people who are taking pictures of the backs of the heads of people who might actually be getting direct visual shots of Anderson and Wolf. It is a lifetime convention memory.

She was at her best. It was a fine speech, an urgent call for unity, and the delivery was phenomenal: passionate, forceful, and not the least bit false. (There was humour too: the twin-cities joke was great, and will linger in people’s minds next week.) From the various personalities she tried on during the campaign, she selected tough, resolute, never-give-up Hillary, and the tone did not deviate. This is much the best and most convincing of the Hillaries: one imagines, in fact, the real thing. If she had stuck with her throughout the primaries, she might have been giving a speech like that on Thursday night instead.

A lot of previously wavering Democrats will be wondering if they have chosen the wrong nominee; even more will be wondering if it was a mistake to deny her the VP slot. But one can hardly blame her for that. The convention wanted a great rousing speech and it got one.

Was it a whole-hearted endorsement of Obama? Having watched an hour or so of instant commentary–which for the most part said yes, it was–I find I disagree. Certainly, there was nothing mean in the speech (though I wondered about the repeated reference to “universal” health care: a coded rebuke, maybe, since her campaign continually stressed that Obama’s plan falls short of that). And she certainly told her supporters to vote for him. That was crystal clear. She did not give them tacit permission to stay at home, still less vote for McCain.

So she cannot be accused of sabotaging Barack. If he fails, after this, she will be available in 2012. But there was almost no praise. (Compare Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney on John McCain.) She made the case for a Democratic president, but not for Obama. What she said, in a superbly effective way, was that another four years of Bushism made voting for Obama necessary–in so many words, whatever reservations one might have about him.

I’m sure the speech helps Obama. Much as Hillary still wants to be president, she erred in that direction. Maybe she will get her reward in four years. But it was not an entirely selfless speech. I think she could have helped him more, had she chosen to.

I ran into Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics–a (truly) nonpartisan outfit that tracks money as it flows through the political system. Buying influence and access is not quite as straightforward as it used to be, he explains. You have to go to a bit more trouble over it. But the people in the skyboxes at this event (as for sure at the Republican convention next week) include many of the usual suspects.

Barack Obama’s 500-plus bundlers have raised at least one-fifth of his total cash. Most of the money John McCain has raised has resulted from the efforts of just over 500 bundlers–a plurality of whom are lobbyists. Bundlers, who are now listed for both Obama and McCain in OpenSecrets.org’s presidential section, collect checks from others for a single candidate and “bundle” them together. Starting with the conventions, where they’re invited to the best parties and given prime seats inside the hall, each bundler stands to be well connected should his or her candidate win the presidency.

Not that they need the boost. Among the bundlers are some of the richest people in the world, including hotel and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (third richest, according to Forbes magazine), oilman George Kaiser (ranked 26th) and filmmaker David Geffen (ranked 52nd). A decade ago such high rollers would simply write a check to their party of choice, but campaign finance reforms prohibiting that–ironically sponsored by McCain–now curtail party donations at $28,500. To get around that, these socialites are boosting their candidate’s bottom line with a little help from their friends.

Lax rules on corporate funding of the conventions also constitute a significant loophole in the campaign-finance rules:

Private money, expected to exceed $112 million for the two conventions combined, will pay for an estimated 80% of their cost. As of August 8, 2008, 173 organizational donors — overwhelmingly corporations but also several trade unions — had been identified on convention city “host committee” websites. These organizations have responded to solicitations from partisan elected officials and fundraisers dispatched by the host committees. These solicitors have dangled promises of access to grateful federal elected officials.

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

Comment: To comment, please register with FT.com. Register for free here. Please also read the FT's comments policy here.
Time: UK time is shown on Clive's posts.
Follow the blog: Links to the Twitter and RSS feeds are at the top of the blog.
Schedule: Clive's column appears in the FT on Mondays and you can read an excerpt of it on this blog.
FT blogs: See the full range of the FT's blogs here.

Archive

« Jul Sep »August 2008
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031