Sen. Barack Obama's speech last night in Denver is receiving nearly universal praise from political analysts and media commentators in particular when it came to assessments of the Senator's poise and delivery. A number of reports proclaim the address as something close to a home-run for Obama, seeing his sharp criticism of Sen. McCain as a shrewd political move. On its front page, for example, the Washington Post calls the speech "what many nervous Democrats were hoping for: a forceful challenge to John McCain and the Republicans, and a restatement of the message to change Washington and the nation that propelled him to the nomination." The New York Times similarly reports on its front page, "Good, great or something else," Obama's speech "unquestionably confronted two of his greatest challenges. One was to help voters, in emotion-laden language, to connect his promise of 'change' to more earthly policy proposals," and "the other to show he could take the fight to...McCain over Mr. Obama's own image and the best way forward for the nation."
In a front-page analysis titled "Obama Gets It In Gear With Acceptance Speech," the Los Angeles Times says that Obama's campaign "has seemed stuck in neutral," and the speech "was a desperately needed opportunity to relaunch his campaign and redefine his image," and the Times believes he did so with "a sharp-edged, almost populist, economic message, aimed directly at the middle-income voters who have been reluctant to sign up for his crusade."
USA Today describes the speech as "filled with promises of generational change and a better America," and the New York Times refers to Obama's "cutting language" and to the "cheers that echoed across the stadium." McClatchy notes "an estimated 84,000 people jammed the football stadium," and adds Obama "tied McCain squarely to President Bush." The Washington Times refers to Obama's "soaring oratory," with "the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop." In another front page story, the Washington Post says that the speech yesterday "proved the greatest testament yet to the intensity of Barack Obama's support and the enthusiasm for his candidacy that his party hopes will carry him to the White House."
A number of news reports noted the increased assaults on McCain and Bush. For example, the Rocky Mountain News reports that Obama "fired some of his most strident salvos at McCain," while the Denver Post reported on its website that Obama "said the crowd of 80,000 came tonight because 'we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight.' The audience began chanting, 'Eight is enough!'"
Commentators lavished praise on Obama's delivery. David Gergen said on CNN that the speech "opened up an important and legitimate debate the Republicans will carry on about issues," but "as a speech, I was deeply impressed. In many ways it was less a speech than a symphony." Carl Bernstein, on CNN, called it a "transformational speech, maybe the greatest I've ever heard at a convention since Kennedy." Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC immediately after the speech ended said, "Vote for him or do not, but take pride that this nation can produce men and speakers such as that." In her New York Post column, Fox News analyst Kirsten Powers writes Obama "hit all the themes he needed to."
The praise was bipartisan. GOP Pollster Frank Luntz, on Fox News said, "I have been to eight conventions. I have never seen a convention where there are more people standing throughout the entire speech because they felt this was so historic, so special." The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, on Fox News, said Obama's "direct assault on John McCain's campaign slogan was effective. He said, 'I got news for you, we all put our country first.' That is McCain's slogan 'Country First.' By directly confronting it, Obama is now challenging McCain... 'Are you saying that not only do you disagree with me, but I, Barack Obama, and those that are with me here, don't put country first?' I think that's a tough challenge for McCain."
Editorial reaction this morning is also positive. The Los Angeles Times editorializes, "Obama had to negotiate a fine line. The throng in Denver's football stadium was eagerly awaiting the eloquence and idealism that propelled him to the pinnacle of national politics. At the same time, he had to counter the Republicans' caricature of those qualities as nothing more than the callow charisma of a political rock star. ... To a considerable extent, Obama accomplished that feat." The New York Times editorializes, "One test of a presidential candidate's strength, and often his best shot at winning, is how much he can mold his party in his image and rally it around a powerful argument for his election." Obama "left Denver having made significant progress on both fronts." The Washington Post editorializes that Obama "left no doubt of his commitment, one that we share, to vigorous international engagement, the fight against terrorism and the urgency of promoting prosperity in the developing world." USA Today editorializes that Obama "helped himself Thursday night, but if the polls are right, he'll need to build his case further during the next nine weeks if he is to become the first black president, not just the first black nominee."
However, a small minority disagreed. Fortune Magazine's Nina Easton, also on Fox News, countered, "I completely disagree with Bill Kristol. I thought it was a lost opportunity. ... I was thinking, how many times have I heard this same speech over 20 years?" The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes seconded Easton's appraisal, adding, "This was the same liberal speech, only better delivered." Also critical of Obama was Charles Babington, who writes in an AP analysis, "Obama, whose campaign theme is 'change we can believe in,' promised Thursday to 'spell out exactly what that change would mean.' But instead of dwelling on specifics, he laced the crowning speech of his long campaign with the type of rhetorical flourishes that Republicans mock and the attacks on...McCain that Democrats cheer." In his New York Daily News column, Michael Goodwin writes that Obama "fell short of the expectation he would be workmanlike and very specific about helping the middle class."
McCain Camp: Speech At Odds With Obama's "Meager Record" AFP reports "McCain's campaign swiftly dismissed Obama's speech. 'Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama,' said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds in a statement. 'The fact remains, Barack Obama is still not ready to be president.'" In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal makes a similar argument, calling the "speech before 85,000 at Invesco Field was as much coronation as nomination. Yet for someone who is so close to being the most powerful man in the world, the remarkable fact is that Americans still know very little about either his political philosophy or what he wants to accomplish."
Some Obama Raps On McCain Said To Have Lacked Context In a 'Fact Check' analysis, the AP (8/29) reports that Sen. Obama "added detail and context to his policies Thursday. Some of his criticism of John McCain could have used some, too." The AP goes on to provide "some examples" of Obama's knocks on McCain, and offers context to the Democrat's criticisms.
Obama Speech Said To Have Played Well On Television TV critics and analysts were in agreement that the Obama speech played well on the small screen. The AP reports that "Obama transcended politics on Thursday in accepting his party's nomination for president during an event that played out on television like a combination of a rock concert and Super Bowl." In a 'Critics Notebook' column in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd writes, "In the end, the stadium was a gamble that worked. The size of the venue brought out the bigness in the speakers, rather than dwarfing them." In a piece in the Washington Post, Style columnist Tom Shales writes, "This was Barack Obama's big night, and it was the nation's big night, too -- one of those times that watching the screen you may have felt a connection to all the other millions of viewers watching in all the other millions of homes." In a 'The TV Watch' column in the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley adds that Obama "brought the crowd to its feet many times to cheer and applaud, but perhaps just as importantly for audiences back home, for almost 50 minutes he silenced the ceaseless chatter of television anchors and commentators who had insistently put their own stamp and faces on one of the most exciting political conventions in modern times."
The Wall Street Journal reports Sen. John McCain is working to immediately draw the media's attention away from Barack Obama's press-saturating speech, preparing to announce his running mate this morning. In addition, the announcement "also serves to take attention away from Sen. McCain's birthday" he turns 72 today. The Washington Post reports McCain "will hold a noontime rally with his running mate today in Dayton, Ohio, kicking off his 'Road to the Convention' tour in front of thousands of supporters at Wright State University. The identity of McCain's partner remained secret last night even as McCain's campaign arrived in the crucial battleground state in advance of the rally, which will be followed by appearances at minor league baseball stadiums in Pennsylvania and Missouri."
The strategy may already be bearing fruit for McCain. The Politico reports, "Never mind history-in-the-making. It's all about news cycles. That was the import of rumors circulating today that the McCain campaign would try to crash the Obama party, or at least steal away with some airtime, with a leak of the Republican's choice of a running mate. It was either tactically clever, or foolish, but there's no denying that it ate up some of the airtime rightfully due to Obama."
Meanwhile, it appears that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a leading contender, isn't the choice. Jonathan Martin blogs on The Politico this morning that Pawlenty told a local TV station that he'll be in Minnesota today and not in Dayton for the announcement. Fox News, meanwhile, confirmed last night at 11:30 that Mitt Romney will appear with Sen. McCain at today's event in Dayton.
Though days away from its expected landfall somewhere along the Gulf Coast, Tropical Storm Gustav is already having a large impact on the US media, with many sources making allusions to Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans nearly three years ago. It is threatening to disrupt Monday's start of the GOP convention in St. Paul. The Washington Post reports GOP officials "said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention" over the storm, and "White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion." The Wall Street Journal reports a hurricane-strength Gustav making landfall in the US would likely turn "the public's attention...away from Sen. McCain's agenda and the celebration in St. Paul. Instead, Gustav can't help but remind voters of the last time a natural disaster befell a Republican administration, and the faltering response that ensued. Democrats are keen to make the connection." Fox News' Special Report adds, "Privately, top Republican officials acknowledge a real sensitivity about the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and the image of Republicans partying in St. Paul as another hurricane comes ashore on the gulf coast is a real potential political problem that has sparked many closed-door meetings."
The Gallup daily presidential tracking poll shows Barack Obama leading John McCain 48%-42%. Earlier this week, McCain had led 46%-44%. Gallup surveyed 2,753 registered voters from August 25-27. The Rasmussen Reports automated daily presidential tracking poll for August 28 shows Obama leading McCain 45%-44%, with the candidates tied at 47% apiece when leaners are included. McCain briefly held a 1 point lead earlier this week. In a blog posting on the website of U.S. News & World Report (8/28), Bonnie Erbe notes the Gallup bump, and writes, "The question now is whether it lasts and if so, for how long. The next question is whether Sen. John McCain gets a smaller, bigger, or similar bounce from his vice presidential nominee selection and his convention that starts almost as soon as the Democratic convention ends.
With the convention complete, Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden are taking to the campaign trail in the 68-day sprint towards the election. The Wall Street Journal reports in a front page story that Obama's speech last night "opens a stretch run toward Election Day in which Sen. Obama...will try to capitalize on the most positive backdrop for Democrats in years. Yet he must confront challenges that no presidential contender has ever faced." Obama "has to win over more working-class white voters and turn out all those young voters who say they are for him. In the eyes of many in his party, he also must shed some of the cool facade that makes some voters see him as aloof. And he must zero in on the key handful of normally Republican red states he can turn Democratic blue." USA Today reports Obama and Biden "are launching their general election campaign this weekend with a bus tour of battleground states. ... The mode of transportation is also appropriate for a swing through working-class territory that will highlight Biden's ability to attract voters who didn't support Obama in the primary."
There may also be a new tone on the campaign trail. The Washington Times reports Obama will use the "sprint to the election finish line to unleash a hard-hitting campaign attack that casts Republican opponent Sen. John McCain as a well-heeled, aging war hero who is out of touch with most Americans."
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The Wall Street Journal reports the Bush administration "is weighing an executive order that would eliminate a union-preferred method of labor organizing at large government contractors, according to people familiar with the situation. Labor leaders prefer a card-check system in which workers can form a union if a majority of them sign a union-authorization card. Companies generally prefer a secret-ballot election." According to the Journal, "The executive order would require large government contractors to use secret-ballot elections for union organizing or risk losing government contracts, say people familiar with the order."
The Financial Times reports that the US economy "grew much faster in the second quarter than first reported. ... Economists had predicted gross domestic product growth for the second quarter of 2.7 per cent," but "thanks to stronger exports and healthier business inventory figures, Thursday's revised figure rose to an annualised rate of 3.3 per cent." ABC World News briefly noted the "surprisingly strong reading on the economy," and AFP quotes Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC World Markets, as saying, "For a recession the economy is certainly growing very quickly."
The Wall Street Journal, however, says "forecasters say GDP could decrease again in the fourth quarter of this year, as global demand for US products slows and the American consumer cuts back on spending." Like the WSJournal, a number of press outlets cast doubt on the significance of yesterday's data. The Washington Post says that "whether that pace of growth continues,...is another issue," because the recent stimulus checks "helped boost consumer spending compared with the previous quarter -- but won't be available to sustain it going forward," and "a recent recovery in the value of the dollar" and "slowing growth abroad could temper what has been a rapid rise in exports." In a similar story, the New York Times claims "the report from the Commerce Department also suggested that the health of American businesses has become heavily dependent on customers abroad." And the AP says that while "the economy pulled out of a dangerous rough patch in the spring, thanks largely to strong exports...the rebound isn't expected to last," because "economic slowdowns overseas could make exports tail off just as Americans are hunkering down after the bracing impact of rebate checks wanes, plunging the country into another rut later this year." The Los Angeles Times runs a similar story.
Jobless Claims Down Again The AP reports, "The number of people signing up for jobless benefits declined last week, the third straight drop from a six-year high reached earlier this month. ... Applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 425,000, down 10,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported. That was a slightly better figure than the 427,000 analysts expected."
Stocks Rally The AP reports, "Wall Street barreled higher Thursday after a better-than-expected reading on the gross domestic product and a drop in jobless claims gave investors some reassurance that the economy is holding up. ... The Dow rose 212.67, or 1.85 percent, to 11,715.18, bringing its three-day advance to nearly 330 points. Still, for the week, the Dow is up only slightly after a big decline Monday on credit worries." The S&P "advanced 19.02, or 1.48 percent, to 1,300.68, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 29.18, or 1.22 percent, to 2,411.64." The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal run similar stories.
Yesterday Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin broke his silence on the conflict between Russia and Georgia, blaming the US for emboldening the Georgian leadership and suggesting that the fighting was engineered by Americans hoping to boost Sen. John McCain's election hopes. The Washington Post reports that in his first "extended remarks defending Russia's military intervention in Georgia," Putin "blamed the Bush administration for failing to stop Georgian leaders from launching the Aug. 7 attack on the breakaway province of South Ossetia that sparked the war." In comments that are being widely quoted in US newspapers, Putin told CNN "that the US policy of training and supplying weapons to the Georgian army had emboldened the country to abandon long-standing negotiations over the future of South Ossetia and to try instead to seize the region by force." Putin also "suggested that US military advisers were working with Georgian forces that clashed with the Russian army," a prospect he described as "very dangerous." While Putin offered no evidence, according to the AP, the deputy chief of Russian military general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, "showed off" at a briefing "a color copy of what he said was a US passport found in a basement in a village in South Ossetia among items that belonged to Georgian forces."
The New York Times says Putin "suggested that the Bush administration may have tried to create a crisis that would influence American voters in the choice of a successor to President Bush." Putin "did not specify which candidate he had in mind, but there was no doubt that he was referring to Senator John McCain," who "is loathed in the Kremlin because he has a close relationship" with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Calling Putin's remarks "the latest sign of escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington," the Financial Times reports the Bush Administration "dismissed his comments as 'ludicrous.'"
In fallout from the rising tensions, the Wall Street Journal, on its front page, reports the Bush Administration "'has placed under review talks with Moscow focused on missile defense and nuclear-weapons disarmament," according to US officials. Washington and Moscow "had been planning a round of talks, tentatively expected for mid-September," but one US official said "all of these meetings could now be frozen" during the remainder of the Administration. The New York Times describes the "imminent collapse of the nuclear deal, once a top Bush priority," saying it "represents the most tangible casualty so far of the deteriorating relations with Russia. ... It also would mean unraveling an initiative that was critical to Mr. Bush's vision of safely spreading civilian nuclear energy around the world, a program that relied in part on Russian involvement."
The Wall Street Journal reports the Justice Department Thursday "formally barred prosecutors from pressuring companies and individuals under investigation to waive legal protections." The new internal guidelines are "intended to assuage criticism that prosecutors have unfairly wielded the threat of criminal charges against companies to pressure them during investigations of company employees.'" According to the Washington Post, "The shift is a victory for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bar Association and other groups that have spent more than three years arguing that the Justice Department tactics violated employees' constitutional rights and gave prosecutors unfair leverage to force settlements with companies." The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial, writes, "Whether Justice anticipated its legal defeat before the surrender is less important than the fact that it has now restored a measure of due process fairness to corporate defendants and their employees."
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Jay Leno: "Did you see that Mount Olympus-style backdrop they had for Barack's speech, with the big columns on it? Little over the top, do you think, huh? Like, when they introduced him as 'Barack, son of Zeus,' that seemed over the top."
Jay Leno: "At one point this week, police in Denver had a showdown with over 300 protestors, ended up pepper spraying them. And since, of course, it was Denver and they were Democrats, it was only fresh ground pepper spray."
Jay Leno: "Well, there was a rumor that McCain might pick former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as his running mate. That makes sense. You know, she's an expert at selling Americans really old stuff."
David Letterman: "Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the convention last night." And it "was sort of sad" when "in the middle of Clinton's speech," John McCain wandered "out on stage...in his bathrobe."
David Letterman: "Sad. I do like that John McCain though. John McCain looks like the kind of guy who turns his business over to his son but still shows up at work once a week. 'Hey, Randy, let me, uh Randy, can I see the invoices? Randy?'"
Conan O'Brien: "Last night...at the Democratic convention, Bill and Hillary Clinton were in" an "elevator...when it got stuck between floors for five minutes. ... A spokesman called it 'a minor technical glitch,' while Bill called it 'my own personal hell.'"
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