Campaign 2008 Roundup

Historians’ Take on the 2008 US Presidential Campaign Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

Campaign 2008 Highlights: August 26, 2008

Posted by bonniekgoodman on August 26, 2008

The day that was….

  • August 26, 2008: Democrats bicker over how hard to hit McCain as Clintons take center stage next 2 days … Using Clinton’s words against Obama, McCain returns to that ominous 3 a.m. phone call … Obama sounds economic themes on way to Denver … Republicans debate platform shaped by conservative base, McCain … Former president warns of global warming, trying to float above convention fray … Biden offers mea culpa for past mistakes … McCain tells veterans he welcomes debate over Iraq — AP, 8-26-08
Mitt Romney in Colorado Leads G.O.P. Attack on Obama-Biden on Tuesday

Mitt Romney in Colorado Leads G.O.P. Attack on Obama-Biden on Tuesday

  • August 25, 2008: Hillary Rodham Clinton implores supporters to back the man who defeated her … In convention’s first major speech, Michelle Obama tries to connect with families … Voice firm, ailing Kennedy tells Democratic convention ‘the dream lives on’. – AP, 8-26-08 Ailing Ted Kennedy to be at convention’s opening, may speak … Obama ad ties McCain to Bush … Obama’s life story, tribute to Sen. Kennedy top convention’s opening night … Biden stops to wish Amtrak “family” well before leaving for Denver … Obama’s choice of Biden as running mate raises stakes for McCain’s vice presidential pick — AP, 8-25-08

The Stats

  • FactCheck: Claims omit details on McCain record – AP, 8-26-08
  • August 26, 2008: A new Gallup Polls shows John McCain besting Barack Obama by a 46% to 44% margin — the first time McCain has led since June. Christian Science Monitor, 8-26-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Robert Dallek on “Biden to recast foreign policy from centre stage”: But Robert Dallek, professor of history at Boston University and the pre-eminent scholar on US presidents said yesterday that while vice-presidents never used to be important, “all changed in 1960 when Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate”. The subsequent trend culminated in Dick Cheney’s accumulation of immense power under George Bush. Dallek thought that the degree of power attained by Cheney “will make the next president cautious about giving the vice-president too much authority”. Guardian, UK, 8-27-08
  • Robert Rupp: Convention Highlights Its History – Wheeling Intelligencer, WV, 8-26-08
  • Richard Norton Smith on William Jennings Bryan: Father of the Modern Democratic Party: “It’s hard to think of a single speech that did more,” said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. “On a personal level, it catapulted this unknown young congressman to the party’s nomination. On a broader level, it redefined the nature of what it meant to be a Democrat.” – PBS, 8-26-08
  • Peniel Joseph: Jackson Speech Sets Stage for Obama Run: Presidential historian Peniel Joseph explains how Jesse Jackson’s 1984 speech at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco introduced themes of diversity into the party and paved the way for the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. – PBS, 8-25-08
  • Michael Beschloss; Richard Norton Smith, scholar in residence at George Mason University; and Peniel Joseph, professor of history and African-American studies at Brandeis University: “Historians Reflect on the Democratic Party’s Fractious Evolution” – PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-26-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Well, it’s almost as if — imagine the two parties swapping identities. First of all, this is the oldest political party in the world. It was for 100 years the party of Jefferson and Jackson, the party that said the best government is the least government. That began to change dramatically with William Jennings Bryan 100 years ago, here in Denver, who brought the populist strain, who became a champion of the dispossessed. And then, of course, Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s, transforming the role of government in the economy, and critically bringing African-Americans into this party after being part of the party of Lincoln… Well, no, absolutely. And, I mean, the last 40 years, frankly, since Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, broadly speaking, have been a period, a conservative period in American politics. We’ve had two Democratic presidents, both southerners, relatively speaking conservatives. This has also been a party torn apart more than once regarding American foreign policy. You know, there’s the Woodrow Wilson messianic quality — America, in effect, preaching to the world — and then, of course, Vietnam, which tore this party apart, brought us George McGovern and a host of reforms, which, in many ways, lead to the diversity that we see in this hall tonight…. Well, that’s fascinating, because this party looks much more diverse than it might have 40 years ago…. Ideologically, I think you could make a very strong case that it’s far less. And by the same token, the same thing applies to the Republican Party. For years there were people in this country who said, “We need a liberal party and a conservative party.” Well, guess what? You’ve got it. And it has led to all sorts of unintended consequences. So I think there is a much less degree of ideological diversity in this hall, which, as Michael says, leds to sort of head-scratching about the intensity of the Clinton-Obama fight. – PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: He was…because Roosevelt was liberal in all sorts of ways, but he sure wasn’t on civil rights. Roosevelt would not even support an anti-lynching bill; 1936, when Roosevelt was re-nominated, there was an African-American preacher who gave a prayer at the convention. Southern senators walked out. They thought this was outrageous that you would have an African-American on the podium. That all changed with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, civil rights and voting rights, mainly Johnson. In 1965, Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act. He hoped that African-Americans would come into the mainstream in a big way. On that floor, 24 percent of the delegates are African-American…. And that’s the irony, because there should be no conflict here this week. You know, they’re not arguing over big issues. They agree on economics, Iraq, foreign affairs, all sorts of stuff. Yet we’re hearing about this roll call vote, and angry delegates, and factions, and all sorts of stuff. That’s so amazing that this long conflict between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has ended this way…. The people who voted for Hillary Clinton this spring are very different for the most part from the people who voted for Barack Obama. So the great irony is that, while ideologically Democrats think pretty much the same, those voters are in different enough groups that it’s a hard time getting them together. That’s what’s sad about that. – PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University: Absolutely. Lyndon Johnson transforms the Democratic Party, especially in terms of racial diversity. 1964, at that Atlantic City convention, Fanny Lou Hamer and the African-Americans who came to represent the true interracial Mississippi, were actually disallowed from being seated. By 1984, Jesse Jackson delivers his very famous rainbow address, telling the party that diversity is actually its strength rather than a weakness…. Democracy is messy. So when we think back to 1948, when Truman supports a civil rights plank, the Southern Dixiecrats actually leave, and Strom Thurmond has a third-party run. 1968, the whole world is watching, according to the new left, and Mayor Daley actually calls in troops to basically harass and assault new left demonstrators. 1980, the very fractious convention between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. But, again, by 1984 and ‘88, you have Jesse Jackson, who was the consummate outsider finally on the inside of the Democratic Party, and he’s actually invoking people like Fanny Lou Hamer and different civil rights activists…. Well, the liberal wing of the party reaches its heyday in the early ’70s, with people like George McGovern and people like Walter Mondale. So that liberal wing has really been — I don’t want to say beaten into submission, but certainly they’ve seen better days. In a way, Obama has written himself that people see him as a Rorschach, and they read whatever they want into him. So people who are liberals see Obama as a liberal in the party. Conservatives in the party actually say, “Obama’s on my side.” People who are moderates or centrists actually say, “Obama’s my guy.” So Obama actually has united, I think, a three-part party. It’s a tri-headed party of liberals, centrists, and conservatives who see in Obama a person who they can all appropriate. – PBS, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 8-25-08
  • Sean Wilentz on “Obama Hope of Audacity Means Race Isn’t About Losing Liberals”: Obama has shown an “enormous ability to arouse the intense admiration and affection of his base,” says Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. “Exactly what he means by change, hope and transformation — all the sort of big-payoff words that appear in his speeches — he has yet to clearly define.” – Bloomberg, 8-25-08
  • Fred Siegel on “Obama’s ideological elusiveness”: Some critics voice skepticism. They see an ambitious fellow who remains intentionally undefined. “His philosophy is ambition,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at the Cooper Union in New York. “I see him as having a rhetoric rather than a philosophy.” Senator, what is your view of the Supreme Court decision barring the execution of child rapists? The question was standard fare for a politician who has questioned the equity of the death penalty. But Obama’s answer set reporters to typing furiously. “I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” he said. “I think the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime.” – International Herald Tribune, 8-25-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • McCain campaign regional communications director Tom Kise on “Angry Clinton supporters toast McCain, roast Obama”, August 25, 2008: Four years ago, if you said we’d be at a Hillary happy hour at the DNC, I would have called you crazy. But today is a great opportunity for people who … agree that Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t have the experience to be president of the United States. – CNN
  • Rudy Giuliani speaking with CNN

    Rudy Giuliani speaking with CNN

    Rudolph Giuliani discusses Obama-Biden ticket, CNN, 8-26-08: The normal political thing to do, in terms of the best decision to make to win, would’ve been to pick Hillary Clinton. It is a no-brainer. She got 18 million votes, Joe got 9,000 votes. She commands about 45, 48 percent of this convention. That’s what the choice for a president comes down to. It doesn’t come down to a choice between the abstract and the abstract; it comes down to a choice between two people. You can’t avoid that comparison. You’ve got one [candidate] with a lot of experience and one with virtually no experience.

  • Mitt Romney discusses Obama-Biden ticket, CNN, 8-26-08: He’s a charming guy, he’s a celebrity, but does he have the judgment and experience that comes from a life-long service in one sector or another? Joe Biden is an impenetrable thicket of words. I can’t imagine anybody who is ready to debate Joe Biden. I’m not sure when John McCain will make his vice president announcement or who it’ll be. I have confidence in his instincts. He’s proven time and time again that those instincts serve him well, and I think he’ll make a wise choice.

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