Friday, August 29, 2008

The Speech

I am still absorbing Obama's nomination acceptance speech a day later. Without trying to be melodramatic I believe it was one of the best speeches I have heard in my lifetime. I think it was that historic of a moment.

The punditocracy has not surprisingly moved on to the next story with McCain's surprising VP pick today. Frankly the selection baffles me -- at least from an initial impression standpoint. I really thought McCain would pick the Minnesota governor, Pawlenty, to counter the out-of-touch argument and score points with social conservatives.

I suppose choosing Sarah Palin will play well with the social conservative base. But I think choosing a two-year governor of a state with fewer people than metro Raleigh and a former mayor of an Alaskan town of 9,000 people is a knee-jerk reaction at best and a Hail Mary at worst. But I'll stop there -- need to remember to keep an open mind and get more information before passing judgment.

So back to the speech. I'm posting it on the blog really to document this moment. I hope to be able to look back on this years from now and tell my kids about the excitement, patriotism, and feeling of unity that Obama brought to America and the world in 2008.

More to come in the days ahead. Looking forward to a 3-day holiday weekend. For our readers who are sick of my fawning over Barack Obama I'll try to get some pix of the kids out here to break the political cycle! :-)


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Denver: Day 4 - The nomination

Tonight is the big night for Obama supporters as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President in front of 75,000 people at Mile High Stadium in Denver. There have been some rumblings that moving the acceptance speech from the indoor arena to a massive outdoor stadium further supports the "rock star" claim that McCain and the Republicans have made against him the past few weeks (think Paris Hilton).

Maybe there is some credence to that argument. But I like Obama's take that there have been so many people that have supported the movement behind his candidacy that he wants everyone who wants a chance to see the nomination to get a chance. No word on who the opening band is.

My favorite quote came from Obama's campaign strategist David Axelrod in defending the decision to move the acceptance speech to the cavernous confines of an NFL stadium:
“I know that Senator McCain and his people are shooting barbs on the opulence of our convention from the mountaintop in Sedona from the McCain estate,” said David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief strategist. “I don’t think it warrants a response.”

We'll live blog it here tonight.

Al Gore lighting up Bush/Cheney/McCain on energy, Iraq, torture, special interest ties and the Supreme Court.

"If you like the Bush/Cheney approach then John McCain is your man."

I doubt John Elway likes it that all these Democrats have invaded his stadium. Elway maxed out $2,300 to McCain.

The Republicans have Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman. The Democrats bring you Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late Republican president.

Wow, go Susan.

"Too many people in power have failed us. Belligerence has become the substitute for stubbornness. Stubbornness has been a substitute for leadership. And impulsive action has replaced measured, thoughtful response. "

Half hour away from the speech. Amy says the speech is "make or break" for Obama. There is certainly a lot of pressure on the guy as expectations is in the stratosphere.

Win over moderates, Independents, whites, Clinton supporters, swing voters, fence sitters, evangelicals, motorcycle-driving soccer moms and SUV-driving latte-drinking dads and do so in front of 75,000 people in person and 25 million people on television.

(CL) Boston infiltrating your family again...

(DR) Awesome. Welcome, good sir.

Did you hear Maddow's comment that McCain will not be leaking his Veep pick tonight but that he is having trouble filling the 10,000 seat arena in Minneapolis? That's one of the knocks of the coverage that the "enthusiasm gap" has not been properly covered.

(CL) That's great. I hadn't heard that.

This venue is great. People will take their shots at the "rock star" image but how can a 70,000 seat stadium full of screaming people not be a good thing for Obama. Great move...

(CL) Unfortunately, I think we can all go to bed because MSNBC has already read the entire speech.

(DR) You can always switch over to ESPN. State is in a barnburner with South Carolina -- 3-0 in the 3rd.

(CL) I can't believe Amy hasn't switched to the US Open yet. Roger must not be on tonight.

(CL) When did they decide that tonight would be in the stadium? Was it always the plan? I wonder if they made it on the fly knowing that it would contrast with McCain's much sparser crowd.

I think the Obama camp has a mole. They have been right on the money with every punch and counter-punch. Perhaps Belichick is secretly running the campaign.

(DR) Federer is tied up in my basement. Bet on Nadal.

Finally, here's Durbin.

(DR) Just got a sense of what 75,000 people screaming "Yes we can" sounds like. I predict some major chills coming in the next 30 mins...

(CL) A shout out to the Hillary team right out of the gate. Good move. She certainly did her part two nights ago.

(DR) "America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this."

(CL) My first cringe of the night. Obama starts a chant modeled on a 70's family TV series. (Eight is Enough). Dick Van Patten is smiling. I'm not...

(DR) Two thoughts. First, Obama is swinging. Doing exactly what he needs to do to CONTRAST Republican policies and ideas with what he stands for. And second, look at the diversity in all the crowd shots -- white, black, Asian, ethnic, young, old. There is a lot of diversity in this crowd. Symbolizes people from all the different walks of life that he has inspired.

(CL) "I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks celebrities lead, but this has been mine." Great line. It's on! You're right, he's on the offensive tonight. I love it. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...."

(DR) Do you think John McCain just leaned over to Cindy and asked her where she stashes her pills? There is no way McCain comes close to this.

(DR) Amy: You really get the impression that he has seen so much, that he really gets it.

I couldn't agree more. The thing that comes to mind as I listen to him is genuine empathy.

(CL) You're right, McCain can't match it. I love how they've preempted the experience attack but continually citing all of the failures that have occurred during his tenure. Granted, some of them probably aren't attributable entirely to McCain, but it sure is an effective campaign strategy.

(DR) My first chill moment.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

(DR) Wraps it up with Martin Luther King. Quite a moment.

(DR) Here's a parallel for you. Obama is like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ushering out what had passed for rock n' roll for so many years.

(CL) Great Nirvana reference.

Wow... what a speech. He nailed it flawlessly.

It's interesting... a few days ago I thought Biden would be the heavy and Obama would be more the good cop. Completely the opposite. He can bring it. Biden's speech makes a lot more sense now.

(DR) I'm still absorbing it all. The text is here. I'll be reliving this one for a while. Barack Obama is a special leader.

(CL) So Amy, what is your verdict? Did he make or break it?

(ABR) I think he did what he needed to do. My beef with Obama has always been that his soaring oratory was great but I wanted substance. He went after McCain and showed the contrast in specific terms on what he stands for and how he differs from McCain. My favorite thing was that he showed the world is not black and white.

Tonight I think he absolutely nailed it.


MSNBC has become the network of choice in our household -- and yes, probably because it is an Obama-friendly cable network compared to its competitors. I made the point last night that I thought MSNBC was vying to become the anti-Fox. The whole "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. That since MSNBC was perennially stuck in third place among the cable networks behind Fox and CNN that the network decided to go in a more partisan direction -- like Fox only to the other end of the political spectrum.

So as the convention has played out this week we have seen examples on the network where Republicans spouting GOP talking points have been shot down on live TV by MSNBC commentators. In addition to the partisan angle there is another sub-theme with the drama between the personalities over at MSNBC. Watching these spats happen live on the air has become a voyeuristic little sideshow that has kept us entertained between speeches.

I found these clips on YouTube at lunch to illustrate the point. All of these have taken place this week.

First, here is Olbermann interjecting a "Let's wrap him up" comment into an interview with Republican strategist Mike Murphy. Granted, Murphy was rambling with a silly point about how he thought Bill and Hillary Clinton would actually pull the lever for John McCain in the privacy of the voting booth. Then Matthews goes on to berate Murphy for making such an unsubstantiated claim.

Next, this clip illustrates the tension between Chris Matthews, the sometimes obnoxious but informed and frequently entertaining host of Hardball, and Keith Olbermann, the sarcastic, witty and very partisan host of Countdown who has rescued MSNBC from dismal ratings as his show has increased in popularity.

Finally, I found this one featuring a snip between Olbermann and Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman and host of MSNBC's Morning Joe program. I don't have the animosity that a lot of die-hard liberals have for Scarborough. I think he's much more down the middle than say a Lou Dobbs or a Sean Hannity/Bill O'Reilly. But if MSNBC is going in more of a partisan direction to win viewers and compete with Fox and CNN, people like Joe who try to pull themselves above the partisan fray are probably a dying breed.

Anyhow, for those of us who are political junkies this has been a fun diversion during the convention. If you watch MSNBC, see if you spot some of this kind of stuff.


Update: Of course The Daily Show does a much more humorous job of summing up the infighting over at MSNBC.

Stewart: "Wow, looks like the weather in Scarborough Country is partly bitchy with a chance of 'Reeooowwwrr'"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Denver: Day 3

These late nights are taking their toll with the lack of sleep. But hey, it's politico season -- when in Rome...

Wednesday night at the Democratic convention will feature President Clinton and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Today the pundit class is dissecting Hillary's speech from last night -- did she go far enough? Was she convincing enough? Was her heart really into it? Why didn't she reassure voters that Obama was in fact experienced to be President?

Personally I think the talking heads were going to ask these questions regardless of what she said. I thought her speech plain and simple was an attempt to unite her supporters behind Obama -- especially with that "I want you to ask yourselves. Were you in this campaign just for me or were you in it for the [cause]" line.

And in true melodramatic fashion the drama is building for President Clinton's speech tonight. Will he put his ill feelings on the shelf and wholeheartedly endorse Obama? (see "Obama and Bill Clinton: So Similar, So Distant") Again, I think too much is being made of this. I think Bill Clinton has everything to lose -- including the legacy of his accomplishments -- if he sulks and doesn't give a rousing full endorsement. But we'll see -- I could be wrong. Either way it is fun drama.

Hopefully we are treated to Mr. LeDuc's guest blogging again tonight.

Amy & I are dragging a bit tonight. We are loving all this wall-to-wall coverage of the convention and people talking about important issues of our day. Just need some sleep.

Here comes Bill.

"Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" -- shades of 1992.

Crowd giving him a HUGE ovation. Still going on 5+ minutes into it.

"You all sit down. We gotta get on with the show here."

"Sit down." (laughing)

So much for the Obama crowd not giving Bill any love.

Bill likes him some Joe Biden. "With his [Obama's] first presidential decision in selecting a vice president, he hit it out of the park."

"Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States."
There it is. That was our biggest question. He wouldn't answer this very question to an ABC reporter a few weeks ago ("You could argue that nobody is ready to be President."). Glad to see Bill has come around.

Clinton brings the house down:
"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."
Wow, what a line.

Clinton is crushing balls over the fence like they're slow-pitched softballs. He is drawing the line between McCain's (Bush's) policies and the Democrats like no speaker at the convention yet.

James Carville will sleep well tonight.

I cannot imagine any pundit saying the Bill Clinton didn't do his part to throw his full support behind Barack Obama. (Of course, I'm not watching Rove over on Faux News.) Seriously though, he showed how powerful of a politician he can still be when he wants to.

"Fantastic," quoteth Amy B.

Bring us out some Joe Biden. I bet we have to endure an hour of analysis and spin before JoeBi graces the stage.

Pundits -- you just have to love their sense of reality sometimes. On MSNBC Mike Murphy (former advisor to McCain) just claimed that Bill and Hillary Clinton would now leave Denver and vote for John McCain in the voting booth.

Chris Matthews: "Where would you find an audience in sane America that would believe what you just said?"

Filler, filler, until Biden speaks.

I really think that MSNBC is trying to carve out a niche as the antithesis to Fox News. Fox -- for all its bogus "Fair & Balanced" claims -- really champions Republican causes and points of view very, very well. My beef with it has always been that Fox claims to be down the middle when it is not. Now MSNBC has begun to lean Democratic. Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews -- these folks are definitely very -- ahem -- supportive of the Dems.

I think that's the trend we are in now that these cable networks are just saying screw it, we're not going to try to be something we're not. We can't please everybody so let's please a group of people really well.

David Letterman's Top 10 ways to make the Democratic Convention more fun:

10. Offer John McCain $1 million if he correctly guesses how many homes he owns.
9. Every night, one lucky lady gets to go home with John Edwards
8. In honor of party mascot, serve assortment of delicious donkey and mule treats
7. Each delegate gets a kitty, superdelegates get a super kitty!
6. Special appearance by the exhumed remains of Lyndon Johnson
5. Call the Pepsi Center something crazy like the Bird's Nest or the Water Cube
4. Give John Kerry's crazy wife five minutes to say whatever she wants -- remember her?
3. Kick things off with a song from Dennis Kucinich
2. Five words: hot volleyball babes in bikinis
1. Try to squeeze Al Gore into the same suit he wore at the 2000 convention

It's Biden time.

Rumor that Obama is about to make a cameo after Biden.....interesting. Most Presidential candidates build up the suspense until they speak on the last night of the convention. Obama has appeared Monday (after Michelle's speech), Tuesday (shown watching Hillary's speech), and now apparently tonight.

Biden (to his wife): "The only one who leaves me both breathless and speechless at the same time."

Biden takes a shot at Cheney. No longer will you have to dread the words, "The Vice President's office is on the phone." Funny.

Over/under on how long Biden will speak - 4 hours, 11 mins. He's been on for 7 minutes and he hasn't even stopped thanking his family.

I have never been a fan of the call & response in political speeches. Kerry/Edwards had "Help is On the Way" four years ago which I thought was corny. Biden tries to light up John McCain with the "That's not change, that's more of the same" chant in which the audience joins.

Maybe I just need some sleep...

Amy points out that Biden has the red light. He is just getting fiery in pointing out instances where he thinks Obama has shown better judgment than McCain.

"I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time."

I am reminded of Mikey's "It's Our Time" speech from the Goonies. I think the Democrats are like the Goonies -- the lovable, idealistic losers.

Springsteen sings Day 3 to a close. 70,000+ will be on hand tomorrow night from Mile High.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Denver: Day 2

Democratic Convention, day 2. The Rutledge household is tuned back in. Owen is ticked that he missed Michelle Obama, but that's what the internet is for, son.

Just got back from walking the dog. Amy has paused a segment on MSNBC where Chris Matthews gets snippy with co-host Keith Olbermann. This is classic. Apparently Olbermann was making fun of a long-winded diatribe by Matthews, and Chris just got testy with him right on the air.

This after Joe Scarborough went nuts on David Shuster on Morning Joe this a.m. What the heck is happening to MSNBC.

Our pal Chris thinks Matthews is keeping Olbermann's seat warm for him as the network's chief political anchor. Russert would have had these guys in his office and whipped them into shape.

We are now 15-20 mins behind what's actually going on since I've watched the MSNBC anchor soap opera over and over on the DVR. I'll catch up once they go to a network break and show the Matt Damon commercial a dozen times.

Matthews just cut Olbermann off cutting to Andrea Mitchell. This is great. Anything to kill the time until Hillary speaks in an hour.

Every guest now has to answer the token "What will Hillary say?" question. Personally I think she'll be good soldier Numero Uno and will pledge her support earnestly. Tomorrow night with Mr. Bill is the wildcard.

Spike Lee looks less than thrilled to be answering the 50th question on race relations in America.

Bob Casey is up. His dad (pro-life Dem) was snubbed in 1992 at Bill Clinton's DNC convention. Now he's trying to pitch the big tent message for the party. Interesting...

Casey just brings up the abortion issue as a difference between himself and Obama. Calls McCain Bush's "sidekick" rather than a maverick. Leads a "four more months" cheer instead of the traditional "four more years." Funny.

Testing, testing... CL

I'm in, DR. First of all, thank you for letting me be part of this historic occasion in the life of your blog...

Warner clearly watched the "John Adams" mini-series on HBO.

(DR) Sorry, I just had to do this.

(DR) Good line about Bush not tapping the resources of the American people to deal w/ our problems. I think that is a fair criticism. I have always thought that if you level with people with the truth then people can deal with these problems we face -- energy, environment, national security, etc. Just shoot straight for crying out loud.

Amy just mentioned that Warner has an estimated net worth of $200M. Wow. He tops Spuds McCain.

(DR) Line of the night:
"This election is not about liberal vs. conservative. It's not about left vs. right. It's about the future vs. the past."

Hear, hear....

(DR) Just about showtime. Warner wrapped up. DNC offers this reassurance in its preview of the highlights of Hillary's upcoming speech. I think she'll be a team player. If for nothing else it's in her own self interest. It will be interesting to see if her heart is in it.

*You will see a completely unified Democratic Party tonight as Americans from all walks of life come together to work for change. Senator Clinton has been and continues to be a passionate campaigner for Obama, and will be important force for the Democratic Party throughout this election and beyond.

(DR) MSNBC pundits -- especially Buchanan -- can't fathom that Warner hasn't tried to "gut" McCain in his speech. "Where is the fire, the scream, the heart?"

Gene Robinson brings up the point that Dems need to bring up torture, Iraq, domestic surveillance. Good point.

I think there is something to be said for taking the high road. But there is also a time to draw that sharp contrast that clearly exists between Obama and McCain this year.

(CL) Okay, let's try this again...

Hillary coming up any minute. Let me catch up on a few things. Casey's speech was good. I loved how he was beaming when the "Four More Months" chant started. He looked like a guy who successfully started the wave at a ballgame.

To your earlier point about the little tiff between Matthews and Olberman. All kidding aside, I really feel like Matthews is being push out and he knows it. A bit later he went on some semi-coherent rant about how he longed for the old rhetoric where you tear your opponents down. Olberman just sat there smirking, giving Matthews just enough rope to hang himself.

(CL) I really resent the fact that the networks now get advance copies of the speeches and tell us the gist of what we are going to hear prior to the speech. Totally unnecessary. We can listen for ourselves. They always frame it like it's great reporting on their part. "We learned...". In other words, someone has handed them an exact copy of the text. Nice work... And then the run the sound bytes across the screen seconds after the speaker says them. Apparently we can't retain information either.

(DR) Showtime.....the hour is here.

(CL) I wonder if there are signs in the arena that que the delegates to chant, cheer, and quiet down. Seems like these things start and stop a little to abruptly. I'll bet there are...

(DR) Are you suggesting that there are rehearsed cheers at the DNC like Duke basketball? Or pumped-in crowd noise like the Dean Dome?

(CL) I am...

(DR) In the first minute of her speech:
"The time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team. This is a fight for the future and it is a fight that we must win together."

(DR) "We don't need four more years of the last eight years."

(DR) Zinger about McCain & Bush being together in the Twin Cities next week as it's hard to tell them apart.

(DR) What did you think CL? I thought she did what she had to do -- unite her supporters to the cause of electing a Democrat. Simple as that.

Olbermann: "Grand slam, out of the ball park, across the street." Would you expect anything less?

(CL) She did exactly that. In hindsight, all of the concern about her somehow undermining Obama or not coming over to him in this speech were ridiculous. She wasn't going to abandon the party. It was all media-driven.

(DR) Yep, the line (paraphrasing here) about "Were you in it for me or were you in it for the cause?" was core.

Now tomorrow night with Bill will be interesting...thanks for joining amigo. See you tomorrow!

Cheers everybody!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Denver: Day 1

At the request of my buddy Chris, the Rutledges are live blogging the Democratic convention from the comfort of our living room. Still waiting on Chris to accept the invite to be a guest blogger.

Amy & I just wagered a back rub on whether the kids that are pictured with Joe Biden are his kids or his grandkids. I think they are his kids from his second marriage. Amy thinks they are grandkids.

From the wonderful Wikipedia one of the kids is his daughter from his second wife; the other must be a granddaughter. I have a feeling I will be giving the back rub even though neither one of us was right.

Owen just got up for the second time -- doesn't want to go to bed. He says he wants he can't sleep without his dragon. But I think he's just stalling just to get a glimpse of Michelle Obama.

Just switched over to Faux News. I don't think I'd buy a car from Terry McAuliffe. Not the most believable or trustworthy individual I've ever come across.

The media is going nuts over this rift between the Clintons and the Obama campaign. Enough already. I am so ready to move beyond the Clinton grasp on the Democratic party.

Amy just informed me that the kids are Biden's grandchildren. just trumped Wikipedia.

Gus is singing "happy Birthday" instead of going to bed. Owen just came out to tell us that his toenails were too long. I'm telling you, he's got a thing for Michelle.

Caroline Kennedy is reading off cue cards. Emotion, dear, emotion. Nice tribute to Ted Kennedy though. I read today where he was supposed to make an appearance.

For a party that just nailed McCain on his gaffe for not knowing how many houses he owns, I'm not sure showing Ted Kennedy on a sailboat is quite the consistent message they were aiming for.

Fiery, emotional speech from TK. He looks great for a guy that just had brain surgery. "I pledge to you I will be on the floor of the Senate in January." That's how to bring a crowd to its feet.

Crowd is eating this up. "Ted-dy, Ted-dy"

Michelle Obama just emailed supporters. We have to stay up til 10:30 to see her. Owen will be disappointed.

Just had the third John Kerry sighting of the night over on MSNBC. For those of us that are still bitter about 2004 it's not a pleasant reminder to see Sen. Kerry. Boaters.

Amy just informed me that Joe Biden is married to a teacher. And also that he is 1 of 5 Senators that is not a millionaire. Respectable in this day & age. Gotta love those educators.

Olbermann is just shameless in his drooling praise on Kennedy's speech. I know he gets grief for being an unabashed liberal. But Fox has an army of hacks -- MSNBC can have its own as well.

The DNC is about to lose the "Thirty-something parents with young children who delay their bedtime with toenail & dragon stories" audience. A 45-minute wait for Michelle's speech for crying out loud.

Faux has Karl Rove on spinning. "The Architect......more like "The Train Wrecker" if you ask me. Split screen with Sean Hannity. Spin, spin, spin. Yawn. There may not be two more despicable human spinsters on the planet.

Preview of Michelle's speech.....great line here. I needed an uplift after slumming over to the Rovian gloom.

"And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love."

Rachel Maddow just reiterated a fantastic point that Maureen Dowd made in the NYT yesterday about McCain going to the well over and over again with the P.O.W. defense for any criticism he receives.

Apparently McCain will be on Leno tonight where Jay asks him about knowing how many houses he as. McCain's response? He was a P.O.W. for years so he can relate to average Americans' difficulties.

While we're waiting for Michelle Obama, here is the snippet from the Dowd column about McCain going to the well too often:

So it’s hard to believe that John McCain is now in danger of exceeding his credit limit on the equivalent of an American Express black card. His campaign is cheapening his greatest strength — and making a mockery of his already dubious claim that he’s reticent to talk about his P.O.W. experience — by flashing the P.O.W. card to rebut any criticism, no matter how unrelated. The captivity is already amply displayed in posters and TV advertisements.

The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor who married Jenna Bush and who is part of a new Christian-based political action committee supporting Obama, recently criticized the joke McCain made at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally encouraging Cindy to enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. The McCain spokesman Brian Rogers brought out the bottomless excuse, responding with asperity that McCain’s character had been “tested and forged in ways few can fathom.”

When the Obama crowd was miffed to learn that McCain was in a motorcade rather than in a “cone of silence” while Obama was being questioned by Rick Warren, Nicolle Wallace of the McCain camp retorted, “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous.”

When Obama chaffed McCain for forgetting how many houses he owns, Rogers huffed, “This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”

It's Michelle time.

Barack, on meeting Michelle for the first time: "I didn't see a ring on her hand."

Classic. As someone who met his wife on the job I have a soft spot for this story -- regardless of how sappy & produced it may be.

Craig Robinson giving the introduction to his sister. Great line on Barack, in the context of playing basketball with him: "He's confident but not cocky. He makes those around him better. He'll take the shot if he's open. And he won't back down from any challenge." I'm a new Oregon State fan. Go Beavers.

Michelle definitely comes across as a family person. Gives tribute to her mom, dad, brother, husband and daughters. Very genuine.

Amy: "Can we vote for Michelle?" Hear, hear...

"This time we listened to our hopes and not our fears...."

Cindy McCain just popped a couple of pills to cope with the stress of living up to that classy, genuine speech. (Low blow, I know, but I couldn't resist.)

Barack, via video feed about his wife: "Now, you know why I asked her out so many times....even though she said no. You want a persistent President."

The wrap-up. It's hard not to miss Tim Russert at a time like this. I'm sure he's smiling down....

In case you missed Michelle's speech, it's worth watching. Amy & I are fans.

Good night everybody....we'll try to blog this Tuesday night if we can stay up. ;-) Hillary's on tomorrow.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Politico Thursday

I have consciously taken a break from politics since June when Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination. The primaries were so long that I had to pace myself to make it to November. Now as we approach the Democratic and Republican conventions in next couple of weeks and Obama and McCain are about to choose their nominations for Vice President, I am gearing back up for the sprint to the end.

Here are a few good political reads I have come across in the past few days....

The first is a light piece from Slate on the parallels between the Obama campaign and Pepsi.
Perhaps more significant, the prevailing theme of Obama's campaign meshes well with Pepsi's corporate messaging. Pepsi's marketing has for decades tried to exude youthful energy, from the early '60s attempts to adopt baby boomers as the "Pepsi generation" to the '90s fantasy commercials depicting Pepsi as a veritable soda fountain of youth, transforming nursing-home residents into skateboarders. Pepsi's advertising slogan not too long ago was "The Choice of a New Generation," which could almost be Obama's. Certainly his strategy in the general election, as it did in the primaries, will rely on youth support that is almost as fanatical and fantastic as the fictional version in Pepsi's ads.
Personally I am a Coke-drinking Obama guy, but I digress....

The second read highlights the trend in the past few days where Obama is starting to go on the attack against the McCain campaign. National polls released this week have shown McCain pulling even with Obama, erasing a strong lead with a steady stream of forceful (I'll use that word instead of "negative") ads -- see Paris Hilton. The Obama campaign is starting to fight back. I wish I had the problem of not knowing how many houses I owned....

"Dems Pounce on McCain Admission He Doesn't Know How Many Houses He Owns"

Sen. John McCain said in an interview that he did not know how many houses he and his wife own, a comment that Democrats immediately seized on as evidence that the Republican nominee is out of touch with the economic plight of most Americans.

"I think -- I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told reporters for the Politico. "It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you."

Finally this blog post from a London Guardian writer hits hard, and personally I think there is a lot of truth to it. Republicans have always attacked much better than Democrats. Look no further than 2004 when John Kerry's perceived strength of serving in the Vietnam War was turned into a liability against a candidate who haphazardly showed up for his Air National Guard duties due to political connections of his family.

"Why GOP attacks are more effective than Democratic ones"
The McCain attacks, by contrast, are almost all aimed at character. Obama's a celebrity, he's like Britney, he's a lightweight, he's a hypocrite and so on. They throw in some policy stuff for good measure – he's gonna raise your taxes, he's to blame for high gas prices. But the gist of the GOP strategy is to turn the other guy into a person that most Americans just wouldn't want to have as president.


For example, we now know that John McCain wears $520 shoes, owns an obscene number of homes (variously placed at seven to 10) and has probably never written a check to a utility company or a home contractor or a dentist in at least 26 years (since he married La Hensley). And Saturday we learned that he thinks someone with a net worth of only $4.9 million is not rich. He can be painted as – and indeed is – out of touch with what regular Americans go through every day.

If he were the Democrat, everyone in America would know the above. The Republicans would have run ads featuring those Ferragamo loafers and aerial photographs of the seven, eight, nine or 10 houses. For good measure, the script of these ads would have cleverly made sure that viewers knew that this emasculated sissy-man didn't earn a penny of the fortune that purchased all this. He married it!


In general: Democrats try to turn the Republican into someone you disagree with on the issues. Republicans try to turn the Democrat into someone you wouldn't want to live on your street or let near your children. Is it any wonder the latter is more effective?

Finally the Veep picks are coming in the next week. My prediction is an Obama/Biden ticket on the Democratic side and a McCain/Pawlenty pick for the GOP. Speculation is heavy that McCain will pick Tom Ridge or even Joltin' Joe Lieberman (who is speaking at the Republican convention). But I can't see McCain sticking it to the social conservatives with either of those picks. We'll see.

Veep predictions in the comments?


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Genius of Jon Stewart

I am all over the web today. Great article on one of the gems of television, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart.

"Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Name in America?"

Over time, the show’s deconstructions grew increasingly sophisticated. Its fascination with language, for instance, evolved from chuckles over the president’s verbal gaffes (“Is our children learning?” “Subliminable”) to ferocious exposés of the administration’s Orwellian manipulations: from its efforts to redefine the meaning of the word “torture” to its talk about troop withdrawals from Iraq based on “time horizons” (a strategy, Mr. Stewart noted, “named after something that no matter how long you head towards it, you never quite reach it”).

For all its eviscerations of the administration, “The Daily Show” is animated not by partisanship but by a deep mistrust of all ideology. A sane voice in a noisy red-blue echo chamber, Mr. Stewart displays an impatience with the platitudes of both the right and the left and a disdain for commentators who, as he made clear in a famous 2004 appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire,” parrot party-line talking points and engage in knee-jerk shouting matches. He has characterized Democrats as “at best Ewoks,” mocked Mr. Obama for acting as though he were posing for “a coin” and hailed sardonically for “10 years of making even people who agree with you cringe.”

It's in the Mail

Hat tip to my buddy Scott K. for this find.

"Postal carrier pleads guilty to delaying mail"
Steven Padgett, of Raleigh, was a veteran mail carrier, employed with the postal service since 1995, and began an Apex route in 2001.

Recently, a utility worker spotted a large amount of mail in postal boxes at his home. The postal service was contacted and agents from the U.S. Postal Services' Inspector General's Office went to Padgett's house. On May 6, they discovered dozens of mail pallets stacked to the top of his garage and filled with third-class mailings, mainly store circulars and coupons.

Padgett had been under pressure to deliver all his mail in a timely manner and began skipping the sorting of junk mail in order to save time, his lawyer Andrew McCoppin said.

Personally I think this guy should get a medal and is welcome to deliver mail to my house any day.


Garfield's Wisdom

When I was growing up I thought Garfield was the funniest creation in the history of man. An overweight cat who ate nothing but lasagna, hated Mondays, pelted the goofy dog Odie and the cutesie cat Nermal, and made fun of his dorky owner Jon -- what could be funnier? I used to take the Garfield books into church and try to suppress my laughter during the sermon. Garfield was my elementary hero.

Looking back on the comic strip now the humor just doesn't stand the test of time like a Far Side or a Calvin & Hobbes. Perhaps my funny bone has matured or maybe it has just hardened. But today as I drove into work I couldn't help think of that little fat cat and his loathing for the beginning of the week.

Amy & I are sleep challenged today as Tess had us up at 3am. We think her stomach has been bothering her since we started introducing more cereal in preparation for the pureed vegetable diet she's about to embark upon. Then Gus was up this morning at 6am wanting to make cinnamon rolls. Amy & I unknowingly pawned him off on each other as we barely raised an eyelid from our respective sleeping places where we had settled from caring for Tess. Suddenly from upstairs I heard what sounded like the jingling of knives and my eyes shot wide open. From downstairs where Amy had settled with Tess she raised up out of bed hearing the same thing.

I bolted down the steps to find Gus at the kitchen counter with his array of skillets (thankfully not knives) preparing for his early morning cooking adventure. He was happily arranging all the things one would need to cook canned Pillsbury rolls -- skillets, cream cheese, Crayola markers and construction paper -- chirping and boasting about how he was going to make breakfast all by himself. What these two parents wouldn't give for his energy.

So the wife and I are putting our game faces on today for the week ahead. We will get Tess acclimated to solid foods this week so her sleep will return back to normal. She did get a great report last week at her 6-month checkup. Right now she's long & lean -- 25% in weight and 75% in height. The boys have one more week of summer freedom before school starts. And we are keeping an eye on the weather as Tropical Storm Fay may impact a potential weekend beach trip that we had in the back of our minds. On one hand we desperately need the rain; on the other, it would be nice to be able to get a little R&R for just a couple of days to send off the summer in celebratory fashion.

Maybe that little fat cat was onto something.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The best things come... those who wait. Good Riddance, Roger.

"Blake Finally Breaks Through Against Federer"
BEIJING — Roger Federer walked off of Center Court at the Olympic Green Tennis Center to a quick burst of applause. The fans looked like pieces of confetti in their pastel-colored rain ponchos, but this was not the kind of going-away party Federer wanted. He moved quickly out of sight.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The Olympics have been a fun to watch the past few days. Where else can you watch sports like swimming, women's field hockey, and badminton in one sitting other than the Games every four years? The records that these swimmers are breaking are unbelievable. Really fun stuff to watch.

The Olympics are a huge deal for China too. The media has focused on this being China's moment as an emerging superpower to highlight the country's progress. I work with a team of people in Beijing, and they are extremely proud of the fact that their country is playing host on such a grand stage. They are excited to show the rest of the world how much they are growing.

China obviously has a ways to go -- you can't see more than 3 blocks in Beijing the air pollution is so bad and reporters there can only access government-approved internet sites. Now stories are starting to emerge showing the lengths that China went to make the Olympics successful.

"Young Olympics singing star didn't really sing"
A 7-year-old Chinese girl was not good-looking enough for the Olympics opening ceremony, so another little girl with a pixie smile lip-synched "Ode to the Motherland," an official said.

In the latest example of the lengths Beijing took for a perfect start to the Summer Games, a member of China's Politburo asked for the last-minute change to match one girl's face with another's voice, the ceremony's chief music director said in an interview with Beijing Radio.

"The audience will understand that it's in the national interest,"

"Well-Trained Fans Are at the Ready, if Seats Need to Be Filled"

Part of the organizing committee’s plan all along was to distribute tickets at little or no expense to thousands of Chinese, from school children to government workers, mostly for lower-profile events. And as part of a grand pre-Olympic effort to build enthusiasm and teach proper fan etiquette, they were instructed how to cheer.

In the first few days of the Olympics, clusters of Chinese fans with matching shirts and perfectly timed cheer sticks have become regular sights at many of the lower-profile venues, particularly prominent at events without Chinese competitors. They provide quick bursts of noise and an air of neutrality, showing little allegiance beyond the person leading their cheers. They are noticeable mostly for packing tightly into various sections of venues otherwise dotted with mismatched fans and empty seats.

“Not many people know handball,” said a woman who identified herself as Ms. Zheng. “That is why we come here — to cheer both sides. We are friendly Chinese.”

Maybe we should give China a break. So they took queues from Duke basketball fans and packed the stands with phonies with rehearsed cheers. And so they didn't learn the lesson from Milli Vanilli and lip-synched the national anthem with a cuter kid. China's heart is in the right place, right? ;-)

Enjoy the Games. Cheers!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Vacation

Just a couple of weeks of summer left before the boys head back to preschool and life becomes a bit more organized. On one hand I think Amy and I are ready for school to start so we can get the boys back on more of a schedule. As a parent it is a challenge some days to keep the boys entertained during the morning so Amy can work. On the other hand children have a lifetime of schedules and routines ahead of them so we want them to enjoy their summer break as much as we can.

The Rutledge clan was fortunate to have GJ with us the past couple of weeks to help out with the kids and visit with us. She kept the boys busy with trips to the library, the swimming pool, Hopper's House (how great a place like this is for a kid), and lunch outings. GJ also gave Gus dancing lessons to silly songs as the two of them pranced around the house, stomping, dancing and singing. Like grandmother, like grandson.

Pappy joined GJ this past Friday before driving down to Charleston to see the Crumpton crew. As always we appreciate the helping hands & nuggets of parenting wisdom.

After company leaves the boys typically have a down day so Amy and I tried to line up a "nature walk" for Owen and Gus on the American Tobacco Trail to divert their attention. We loaded up a backpack for Gus and an insect net for Owen with the thought that the walking would wear them out and they would nap hard later that afternoon to catch up on sleep. The boys really enjoyed the walk, collecting leaves, pine cones and checking out spider webs. But neither of them really napped that afternoon so Amy & I were stuck with two high-strung kids while we were dragging tired. Funny how things don't go as we parents plan them no matter how hard we try!

Tess was just incredible on the walk. I strapped her into the Baby Bjorn, and she happily tagged along checking out all the trees and smiling at the people that walked by. The little girl didn't cry once. She continues to just amaze us with her mellow disposition -- she is certainly a content little child.

Finally on Friday night Amy & I treated ourselves to a night out as one of our favorite bands, Wilco, was playing over at the amphitheater in Cary. It was a gorgeous night under the pine trees next to the lake as the temperature dropped comfortably down into the 60's. We had seats under the pavillion 20 rows back so we had a terrific view of the stage. The band treated us to many of our favorites, including several songs off the early A.M and Being There albums. What a fun night -- it was good to hang out as husband and wife and take the night off from being mom and dad.

Many of the Wilco fans were in their 30's like Amy & me, and several brought their kids to the show with them. It was funny on the way out when Amy & I overheard a girl complaining to her boyfriend that "there were too many kids and babies at the show." We could not have disagreed more. For the parents with their children in tow, they were giving the kids an appreciation of good music and the great spirit among Wilco fans. I look forward to the day when we can pack up a blanket with our three and have our whole crew singing along!


Hot summer nights call for ice cream in the driveway. The boys' strategy was to see if they could get more ice cream in their mouths or more down the front of their clothes. Tess has to settle for a plastic chew toy. Your time is coming for ice cream, dear.

The slip n' slide -- another tried and true method of keeping cool on hot, humid North Carolina summer days.

The 8/8/08 show at Koka Booth.

"If I could you know I would just hold your hand and you'd understand...."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Heavy Metal Drummer

Shiny shiny pants and bleached blond hair
A double kick drum by the river in the summer

--"Heavy Metal Drummer," Wilco

August 5, 1988

Twenty years ago today as a thirteen year-old I piled into the car with my middle school friends and ventured down to Nashville's Starwood Amphitheater for my first concert ever -- the one, the only Def Leppard. My bedroom was plastered with glossy pictures of long-haired lead singer Joe Elliott. MTV showed the "Pour Some Sugar on Me" video 500 times a day. Girls sporting a gallon of hairspray in their teased mullets worshiped these rockers and thus so did mullet-touting teenage boys.

Touring to promote their comeback Hysteria album, the band featured one-armed drummer Rick Allen, who had learned to play an electronic drum kit with his feet and one arm after a car accident. The seed was sown for my affinity for the drums, and years later I would save up my money for my own drum set. I remember the lead-up to the show as my group of friends called each other on the telephone for tips on the proper way to shred & bleach our blue jeans so we could dress like our beloved rock star heroes. I vividly recall begging my mom for an advance on my allowance so I could buy both a Def Leppard and a Europe (the opening band) t-shirt. My parents accepted chaperone duties to drive us down to the show as long as my then 17 year-old sister agreed to go to keep us out of trouble. (Belated thank you to Mom, Dad & Melanie for appeasing my irrational teenage quest.)

The show as I remember it was everything a 13 year-old could hope for -- loud guitars, raucous crowd, lights, lasers, a Rick Allen one-armed drum solo. I remember wearing those t-shirts proudly for months.

Eventually the love for hair metal music -- thankfully, oh so thankfully -- wore off. Grunge and substance replaced glitter and glam in my musical tastes. Def Leppard is still around, albeit playing to much smaller audiences. (The mullets will never die though.) A couple of years ago I heard on the radio where these guys played the parking lot at the grand opening of a Super Wal-Mart in Fayetteville, NC.

Ah, how times change.

Do you take sugar -- one lump or two?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Brutal Bitter, Ron Paul & Baseball

Twice a year TMOTT (Triangle Mothers of Twins and Triplets) rents out a massive building at the NC State Fairgrounds, and members can participate in the clothing and equipment sale. The place is filled with all kind of kids' gear that accumulates in the first few years of modern life -- onesies, pajamas, shirts, pants, coats, strollers, car seats, bottles, big wheels, toys, souvenir messy diapers from embarrassing potty-training incidents. Ok, so maybe not everything. But the piles of things that people sell were massive.

Amy normally goes to the sale as a buyer as we have stocked the boys' closet with some really good buys over the years. I'm sure the day will come when the kids will demand that everything be brand new, hip, fashionable and name-brand. Until then we have no qualms about second-hand.

This year Amy decided to be a seller as well and spent the better part of last week compiling, sorting, pricing, tagging, organizing, etc. three years worth of boys' clothes that had accumulated. As a seller you also have to work the sale -- either in an 8-hour shift supervising one of the areas or in a 4-hour shift setting up all the racks and tables for the sale.

So Friday I took a vacation day to help at the sale (spouses can sub for the wives if they volunteer for the 4-hour setup). I arrived Friday morning bright and early only to be handed the keys to a Budget rental truck so I could drive it to a storage facility where all the metal clothing racks were stored. I must admit I was dreading this setup work and after my last experience driving a U-Haul (where I got a 26-foot truck stuck behind a line of impatient cars at the solid waste disposal site only to then drive over a pole) my stomach quickly sank even further.

But driving the truck and the whole setup ended up being much easier and more fun than I thought. I got to meet two interesting people. First was a mom of identical twin girls that was wearing a Rogue Brutal Bitter t-shirt -- one of my absolute favorite beers. She explained that back in the days before kids when she played on a traveling ice hockey team (!) she and her husband had developed a pallet for craft beers. And second was a University of Georgia grad with a Ron Paul sticker on his truck. He hailed from Macon, Georgia which was the site one of the funnier episodes many years ago that deserves its own blog post someday. I bonded with the guy immediately as he was the only other guy there and had three small kids himself that provided him with adventure. (I didn't show him my Obama sticker on my car though.)

The whole experience was another one of those where the things you dread in your mind end up being really pleasant experiences. Maybe I should be more positive......


Amy sold most of the clothes and bought some things for the boys & Tess for winter. It's hard to believe how big the kids are getting when you look at the sizes they are about to be in. Where did the time go?

Finally I stumbled onto a great column over the weekend - Non-Prospect Diary. On Bob Edwards' weekend show on NPR a sportswriter recommended it as it is written by Dirk Hayhurst, a minor league relief pitcher for the AAA affiliate of the Padres. The guy is a great writer and his posts focus on his observations living the life of a minor leaguer -- from how fans' impressions of people change once the uniform is put on to the daily grind of traveling in buses, staying in cheap hotels, and pursuing the major league dream. A couple of recommended posts -- Gorillas are Cool and the Offeseason job.
One gentleman is larger than the rest. I call him Hammer Pants because of what he wears: baggy, American flag print, Hammer Pants.

Hammer Pants is freakishly bigger than any man ought to be, like something out of a cartoon. It seems as if he tried to cut his shirt sleeves off but missed, because all that remains is a thin strip of fabric and collar.

Chest hair, arm hair and back hair all are there to be seen, beads of sweat dangling off each follicle, eagerly awaiting their chance to slather over any equipment I may want to use.

Watching Hammer Pants ride the exercise bike is like watching a bear ride a unicycle. Hammer Pants probably could bench my car. He's pretty impressive, if only a tad scary. Yet, I'll bet no one showed up last night to watch him take a whiz.

Have a good week everybody. Cheers!