In the Arena

About Last Night…and Tonight

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Denver, Co.

I was thrilled to see Ted Kennedy up and about, and passionate as always. I thought Michelle Obama was spectacular in every possible way…but I had this one little problem with the speechifying on the first night of the Democratic National Convention: the word used most frequently was dream, and that is not a particular good one for Democrats, especially in these hard times. Indeed, if the Democrats have a problem, it’s the notion that they are dreamers, idealists, airy sorts. That is not quite what a freaked out nation is looking for at the moment. Of course, John McCain’s bellicosity overseas and free-range cluelessness on domestic policy issues doesn’t cut it, either, which is why this has become a close election.

So I’m wondering how Barack Obama is going to deal with delivering his acceptance oration on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. My guess is, his best course of action would be to use the King speech to push off from: “Martin Luther King’s dream helped change a nation…but we’re at a different moment now. American families are facing some harsh realities. We can’t afford to dream about them, we need to solve them.” My esteemed colleague David von Drehle suggested that the line should be, “King had a dream. I have a plan.”

As for tonight, the alleged tensions between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–and just what Senator Clinton will say tonight–has been the subject of a collective nervous breakdown on the part of my colleagues. It’s been the least nutritious, most over-covered political story since…well, since the vice presidential selection process.

To put things in perspective: In the era during which primary elections have determined the nominees–since 1972, in other words–we have had three knock-down drag-out primary battles. Ford-Reagan in 1976, Carter-Kennedy in 1980, Clinton-Obama this year. Of those three, Hillary Clinton has been the most gracious loser–the other two weren’t very gracious, at all, and the afterburn of those battles turned out to be disastrous for their parties. Clinton, by contrast, has been exemplary, going around the country campaigning for Obama, encouraging her staff and donors to work for him. (Her husband hasn’t been too terrific, but he’s been a problem for her all year.) Let me fearlessly predict that tonight she will give a passionate, enthusiastic–fighting–speech about the necessity of an Obama victory this November. End of non-story.