2012 Presidential Election
Tue September 4, 2012
Live Blog: Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention
Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 11:56 pm
Good evening from Charlotte, N.C., where Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz gaveled the convention to order promptly at 5 p.m. ET. in Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena.
Schultz, who is also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said that throughout the next three days, "we will demonstrate we need to keep President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden four more years."
We will keep tabs on the convention all night. I'll be joined by NPR's Liz Halloran, and photographer Becky Lettenberger will bring us some of the sights. Make sure to click your refresh button to see the latest.
There is no doubt that this night belonged to first lady Michelle Obama, who delivered a sweeping, personal and dramatic endorsement of her husband, President Obama.
It was a speech that built on the themes Julian Castro laid out earlier in the night. It was a speech that talked about the American dream and American exceptionalism. It was a speech that posited that an American president needs to have the solid values of family and hard work in order to have the empathy necessary to govern in a way that makes the American dream achievable for everyone. It was a speech that highlighted the deep differences in life experience between the two candidates, yet Obama never mentioned Mitt Romney by name.
"Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it," she said. "And he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.
"And he believes that when you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity ... you do not slam it shut behind you ... you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
"So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago."
That the night belonged to Michelle Obama was clear as soon as she took the stage. The first lady is the rock star of the party; it was evident by the number of flashes that overtook the arena when she walked in.
By the time she was winding down, the crowd had reached such a roar that her final line — the one in which she asked the country to give their trust to her husband — was hardly audible.
It was a momentous occasion for Julian Castro tonight. With his speech, he became the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
He introduced himself to the nation as a product of the American dream: His grandmother, he said, didn't make it past fourth grade. She never owned a home. But Castro's mother was the first to graduate from college.
And, now, here he is at the stage of the Democratic National Convention.
Romney, he said, just doesn't get that trajectory.
"Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it," he said. "A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. 'Start a business,' he said. But how? 'Borrow money if you have to from your parents,' he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that?" he finished to a great round of laughs from the crowd.
But Castro also worked the "hope and change" angle.
"The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans," he said. "It's a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality."
President Obama, he said, can help Americans attain that dream. He said:
"Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs. He knows better than anyone that there's more hard work to do, but we're making progress. And now we need to make a choice.
"It's a choice between a country where the middle class pays more so that millionaires can pay less — or a country where everybody pays their fair share, so we can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future. It's a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell grants — or a nation that invests more in education. It's a choice between a politician who rewards companies that ship American jobs overseas — or a leader who brings jobs back home."
If Ted Strickland delivered the strongest attack on Mitt Romney, Gov. Deval Patrick delivered the best defense of Barack Obama.
"If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it's time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe," he said.
"This is the president who delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American after 90 years of trying. This is the president who brought Osama bin Laden to justice, who ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan. This is the president who ended 'don't ask, don't tell' so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service. Who made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. This is the president who saved the American auto industry from extinction, the American financial industry from self-destruction, and the American economy from depression. Who added over 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last two-plus years, more jobs than George W. Bush added in eight.
"The list of accomplishments is long, impressive and barely told — even more so when you consider that congressional Republicans have made obstruction itself the centerpiece of their governing strategy. With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office — and neither should you, and neither should you and neither should you."
Liz sends us this report about Lilly Ledbetter's speech:
She became the symbol of gender-based workplace inequity when her pay discrimination case against Goodyear was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court because she didn't file her claim within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.
Since then, Ledbetter's name has become the rallying cry for gender pay equity, and she inspired the post-court legislation named for her. In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill Obama signed as president.
Ledbetter, who also spoke at the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, received a thunderous welcome.
"Some of you may know my story," she said. "How for 19 years I worked as a manager for a tire plant in Alabama. And some of you may have lived a similar story: After nearly two decades of hard, proud work, I found out that I was making significantly less money than the men who were doing the same work as me. I went home, talked to my husband, and we decided to fight."
Ledbetter, a mother and grandmother, recounted her decade-long fight for "equal pay for equal work," ending at the high court, which rejected her claim in a 5-4 decision.
Here's an excerpt from her speech:
"And that would have been the end of the story. But with President Obama on our side, even though I lost before the Supreme Court, we won. The first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I think it says something about his priorities that the first bill he put his name on has my name on it too.
"As he said that day with me by his side, 'Making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone.'
"The president signed the bill for his grandmother, whose dreams hit the glass ceiling, And for his daughters, so that theirs never will. Because of his leadership, women who faced pay discrimination like I did will now get their day in court.
"That was the first step but it can't be the last. Because women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money. It's real money for the little things like being able to take your kids to the movies and for the big things like sending them to college. It's paying your rent this month and paying the mortgage in the future. It's having savings for the bill you didn't expect and savings for the dignified retirement you've earned."
She also took a broad swipe at Romney, who has not said whether as president he'd support the Ledbetter legislation.
"Maybe 23 cents doesn't sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars," she said. "But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can't just be measured in dollars."
The cause that bears her name, she said, "is bigger than me. It's as big as all of you."
We've heard quite a bit on why Democrats believe Romney is bad for the country. But no one has delivered such a strong indictment as Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio.
He delivered line after line of pointed attacks and he worked to a culmination in which he laid out what makes these two presidential candidates different. He said:
"Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, the scriptures teach us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. My friends, any man who aspires to be our president should keep both his treasure and his heart in the United States of America. And it's well past time for Mitt Romney to come clean with the American people.
"On what he's saying about the president's policy for welfare to work, he's lying. Simple as that. On his tax returns, he's hiding. You have to wonder, just what is so embarrassing that he's gone to such great lengths to bury the truth? Whatever he's doing to avoid taxes, can it possibly be worse than the Romney-Ryan tax plan that would have sliced Mitt's total tax rate to less than one percent?
"My friends, there is a true choice in this election. Barack Obama is betting on the American worker. Mitt Romney is betting on a Bermuda shell corporation. Barack Obama saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saved on his taxes. Barack Obama is an economic patriot. Mitt Romney is an outsourcing pioneer. My friends, the stakes are too high, the differences too stark to sit this one out. Let us stand as one on November 6th and move this country forward by re-electing President Barack Obama."
In perhaps the most emotional moment of the night, Stacey Lihn, a mother from Arizona, stood onstage flanked by her husband and her two kids. Zoe Madison, the youngest one, was born with a congenital heart defect.
Lihn said that Obama's Affordable Care Act gave her security. On the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision upholding the law, she also got a call from her health insurance, saying the lifetime cap on what the insurance company would pay for had been lifted because of the new law.
She says she is terrified that Mitt Romney will repeal the law and Zoe won't get the care and surgery she needs to survive.
"One in 100 children are born with a congenital heart defect," she said. "President Obama is fighting for them."
The crowd erupted into applause and for the first time tonight they chanted, "Four more years! Four more years."
One thing that's clear is that Democrats are embracing Obamacare.
As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius put it following Lihn, "For Democrats Obamacare is a badge of honor."
Yesterday, we wrote about a group of undocumented immigrants who rode cross-country on a 1970s tour bus, flaunting their illegal status.
We just got word that outside the Time Warner Cable Arena, 10 of them were arrested. According to the group, 10 of them hung a sign that read, "No papers, no fear," near the security checkpoint.
An arrest for an illegal immigrant is serious, because of the risk of deportation.
"We came out because we are tired of the mistreatment," the group said in a statement emailed to reporters. "We are tired of waiting for change and we know that it never comes without risk or without sacrifice."
In a video tribute to Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009, one of the prominent elements showcased was his 1994 Senate race against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The Obama campaign used the opportunity to showcase how Romney has changed his position on issues like abortion. It also allowed the campaign to showcase Kennedy's swift swipes at Romney during a debate.
Liz, who was on the floor during the video, tells us the crowd roared when the video showed Kennedy saying if given enough time Romney is such a flip-flopper that he "may even vote for me."
"They loved this. They're on their feet, some are chanting 'Teddy.' This is getting reaction prime-time speakers would die for," Liz tells us.
Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee quickly criticized the tribute on Twitter.
"Classless Dems use tribute video of deceased Ted Kennedy to attack Mitt Romney," Priebus tweeted.
But Liz tells us the delegates on the floor disagree.
"I thought it was fantastic — a way to show what the party has always been about," said Michael Crossey, a Pennsylvania delegate and president of the State Education Association. As for the Romney footage? "They're Mr. Romney's words. They're showing Mr. Romney for who he has always been: a flip-flopper."
Gail Sias, a bank teller and pharmacy worker from Mississippi, took a more serious approach to the Kennedy tribute.
"If you've ever been sitting at that kitchen table, working every day with no health insurance, you're just praying and hoping nothing happens to you and your children," she said. "The 'what ifs?' — that's real life. Thats why the Kennedy family is so precious — they understood the 'what if' question."
We're going to step back a bit to note that Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., has gotten one of the most robust responses from the crowd.
His speech was a lot about the need for pragmatism instead of ideology.
"Our platform, crafted by Democrats, is not about partisanship but pragmatism; not about left or right, but about moving America and our economy forward," Booker started.
Then he went on to defend the Democratic platform and draw a disntinction between parties.
"Our platform and our president are not interested in petty political arguments. Instead, this platform of big and practical ideas sets forth an emboldened pathway toward the historic hope which has driven generations of Americans forward — it is our most fundamental national aspiration — that no matter who you are, no matter what your color, creed, how you choose to pray or who you choose to love, that if you are an American — first generation or fifth — one who is willing to work hard, play by the rules and apply your God-given talents — that you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.
"You should be able to afford health care for your family. You should be able to retire with dignity and respect.
"And you should be able to give your children the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger, go even farther and accomplish even more than you could ever imagine.
"This is our platform. This is our American mission."
One of the themes we're likely to keep hearing during this convention is that the Democratic Party is the party for women.
That point is being made dramatically at the moment: Twenty-five female members of the House are onstage, all of them dressed in bright primary colors.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi kicked it off, and then a parade of women reminded the audience of what they said was a Republican war on women.
NPR's Liz Halloran sends this report:
"Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is locked in a dead-heat Senate battle with former GOP Gov. George Allen, used his speech to give a point-by-point argument for Obama's promises fulfilled.
"Ended war in Iraq. Took out Osama bin Laden. Reformed health care. Fought for equal pay for women, fair treatment for LGBT Americans.
"And, with a nod toward his constituents, Kaine noted that Obama's drawdown of troops in Afghanistan has meant that 'every single Virginia National Guard is home for the first time in a decade.'
" 'And we're so happy,' he said."
Real Clear Politics has the latest polling in the race. It has Kaine leading by 0.6 percentage point.
Throughout this campaign, there's been a lot of talk about whether President Obama would be able to rekindle the kind of fervor he sparked in 2008.
As Ron put it earlier, that's one of the big questions during this convention.
Before the proceedings started, I took a trip down to the convention floor. It was a raucous scene with the Louisiana delegation's members leading the way.
They were loud and musical, and then suddenly, after a tweaked rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In," they segued into a familiar call and response.
"Fired up!" one side chanted. "Ready to go!" the other side responded.
Like "Yes, we can," that call and response was widely used by the Obama campaign in 2008.
"The spirit is high; the energy is high," said Jennifer Vidrine, a Louisiana delegate and the mayor of Ville Platte. She said times were tough right now but they were celebrating because President Obama had led the the country out of "such a big ditch."
"We're adding jobs," she said. "Maybe not at the pace we would like, but it's growing."
I found Donald Hughes, a North Carolina delegate, dancing on the side of the stage. He's 24 and sharply dressed: a black suit, cropped trousers accentuated by black-and-white sneakers. This is his second convention. His first was in 2008 in Denver, when Obama accepted his party's nomination buoyed by an outpouring of youthful enthusiasm.
Hughes said that in 2008, Obama was seen as the first president for a new generation. That hasn't changed, said Hughes. The president declared his support for gay marriage and he issued an executive order to halt the deportation of young undocumented immigrants, he said.
"All of that proves that he is courageous and bold even in situations that are politically risky," Hughes said.
Of course, tonight's featured stars are first lady Michelle Obama and the keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Just so you have an idea of how the night will unfold, here's a quick rundown of the notables scheduled to speak tonight.
At the 9 p.m. ET hour:
-- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
-- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
-- Of Harold & Kumar fame, actor Kal Penn
-- Fair pay activist Lilly Ledbetter
-- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
At the 10 p.m. prime-time hour:
-- San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro
-- First lady Michelle Obama