Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC Convention - First Day On The Pepsi Center Floor

Kennedy & Kennedy: bringing down the house

Caroline Kennedy took the stage at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on the evening of 25 August 2008 to remind those assembled for the Democratic Nominating Convention that the same values that define the Kennedy family resonate in Barack Obama's family, too: Justice, fairness, service and sacrifice, faith, and family. She stressed that we are all in this together, that we all have something to give.

She repeated what some have heard her say before in the context of the campaign, "I've never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them. But," she went on in a clear recognition of the pending nomination, "I do now!"

Ms. Kennedy was understated as she tugged at the heart-strings of the crowd, alluding to Ted Kenndedy's "early, courageous stand against the war in Iraq." Her uncle values family, she told them, and, "never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk a niece down the aisle." She mentioned, briefly, how his response to the recent surgery had served as a lesson in "dignity, courage, and the power of love."

The crowd was warm, and appreciative, then listened attentively to a video tribute thatSenator Edward M *Ted* Kennedy served segue rattling ovation ted took the Senator Kennedy spoke new season of hope in he renewed his call to that nation we healthcare as fundamental not a privilege."

Kennedy is confident that, when elected as the next President of the U.S., Barack Obama will "close the door on the old politics of race, gender... and straight against gay." He reminded us that as a result of his brother's leadership when he set the moon as a goal for the nation in the early 60s. "We have scaled the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again."

This November, Kennedy said, "the torch will be passed to a new generation." He told the delegates, and honored guests of the convention, that, "the work begins anew. The hope rises again, and the dream lives on."

Barack's sister had roused the crowd. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., had fired them up, Caroline gathered them with calm confidence into the palm of her hand, and Ted Kennedy brought them to a fevered pitch, daring to dream, to hope, to believe in the vision that Barack Obama has for uniting America.

Mental Health of concern to Denver Convention attendees

Chatting with convention goers outside the Colorado Convention Center on Sunday August 25 I met Hope Turlington of Raleigh, North Carolina, who has abundant concerns over federal funding for mental health, both in terms of military veterans, and non-military citizens of the USA. She is distrubed by the prospects for returning Iraq vets dealing with mental stress and trauma as a result of service to this country.

Dorothea Dix Mental Health Hospital Hope is deeply concerned about the effects of the scheduled "transition/closing" of the Dorothea Dix Mental Hospital. She pointed out that the great North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms has said that "our sick deserve a view from Dix Hill as much as anybody," yet developers are bidding to take that land away - to turn it into a money maker for a private entity at the expense of people suffering from various forms of acute and/or chronic mental illness. De-institutionalization is not a viable treatment protocol for many of the people who have been diagnosed and committed, yet the transition from John Umstead and Dorothea Dix Hospitals to Central Regional Hospital (CRH) began last month (July 2008.) The CRH-Dix Unit will be operational upon the closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital, but Hope fears a downscaling under the guise of the Olmstead decision that will force people out into society who are not able to cope without the support structures serving them today.

She was looking forward to the Health Care forum with Hillary Clinton later in the week, and hoping Elizabeth Edwards would be present as well. The looming upswing in U.S. citizens needing institutional care will place further pressures on the system - which is why any cutback in Raleigh is of overwhelming concern to Hope.

News happens all over Denver during the DNC

While waiting for a cab to get to the action from one of the media hotels this morning, I met Wallace Williams, a long time Democratic Organizer who has campaigned with former President Bill Clinton in Mississippi, among his other extensive achievements.

Wallace cites President Clinton's speech as one of the key points of the entire convention. President Clinton has a nearly unmatched ability to connect with certain constituencies that are considered key to assembling a winning coalition of voters in November. He's looking for the former president to "hit it out of the park" during his time on the podium. Clinton and Obama have often been compared in terms of presence, charisma, and the talent that allows them to correct with a crowd in a way that makes many people in a crowd each feel that they are the personal target of the speech.

Williams sees Biden as an excellent choice for the Vice President. Asked if perhaps the choice of a candidate thought to be stronger in areas that Obama might lack experience, he dismissed the notion that it represents any sort of problem. Biden is a formidable campaigner with a great track record, his skill set and experience blend will with Obama's own and srenghten the ticket in the synergistic way that the voters have a right to expect from a modern presidential ticket.

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2 perspectives from Denver: Veterans, and youth

I've spoken with several veterans of U.S. military service in Denver, and unsurprisingly they mostly express strong support for the Democratic candidate. One outspoken Viet Nam vet was basing his support on his assessment of the lack of support for vets he percieved in Senator McCain's voting record.

Generally, however, I was hearing more "Pro-Obama" sentiment expressed than I was "anti-McCain" on Sunday, as the visitors to the city took on a distinctly Democratic leaning on the eve of the opening day's events. Oliver Lawrence, for instance, is an Air Force veteran of both Korea and Viet Nam, a fifth generation descendant of slaves who has lived in Georgia all his life. Taking in the pre-convention activities, he describes feeling a very different sort of energy among the delegates when compared to previous election cycles.

Oliver also spent the late 50s on duty in Wyoming, when duty sometimes meant babysitting ICBMs, as it did in his case. I chatted with him as we walked along Denver's 16th Street Mall Sunday evening. Most of the protesters had already left, (make no mistake, there were some present earlier in the day) on our way to listen to live music at "Jazz @ Jack's" where our waitress, Jenna, was looking forward to her first chance to vote in a Presidential election.

Asked about Biden as the choice for Vice President, Oliver replied immediately with entusiasm that, "He's a pit bull!" Suggesting that Senator Obama should "Feed him red peppers and turn him loose" to deal with those who are taking the low road in assailing Obama's suitability. He sees Biden as silencing most of the basis for doubting Obama had sufficient experience - a charge he obviously thinks lacks merit. Oliver's seen conventions and candidates come and go during his decades-long service in the Air Force. His assessment of Obama is that electing the Senator from Illinois will be a way to start correcting decisions that the current administration has made, though he notes that the extent of the correction needed means that progress will be slower than he'd like.

And All fired upJenna? She's caught the bug for politics from her mother, who is informed and active in Denver politics. They moved to Denver from Idaho over a decade ago, and she wasn't quite old enough to participate at the voting booth in 2004. As we talked it became clear that while her boss has asked the staff not to display political affiliation while at work, she and her working peers are excited by the prospect of Colorado leaning more toward Obama than McCain, and hopes the state will express a majority support for his candidacy - they'd be proud of Colorado's electoral votes went into the Democratic column as we select our next President.

Winning the West: News from the Democratic National Convention

The Westerm Majority Project made Governor Janet Napolitano available to the media on Sunday, 24 August 2008, prior to the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Governor Napolitano did a number of brief one-on-one interviews with mainstream media, and then conducted a short, somewhat informal press conference with bloggers who were on hand, too. So a number of us got the chance to ask her questions, snap photos, etc. Zennie should have video up soon, but we had a long, busy day meeting people in and around the Convention Center, and I don't see that he's gotten to that segment yet.

Janet Napolitano talking to bloggersWhen asked about the addition of Senator Biden as Obama's running mate, she was enthusiastic, saying Biden was a "great addition" to the ticket who would compliment Obama's skills and experience. She noted Biden is not a yes-man, and cited this because, "Obama thrives on hearing different voices."

She thinks the Native American voters will play a significant role in the 2008 election, noting the the Democratic Party has a very strong platform on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty rights, which are "not just a phrase" to Senator Obama. Obama's campaign has featured extensive communication with Tribal Leaders, who respect his stand on the need to leave the decision about the Cherokee Freedmen to Tribal processes rather than drag them into the U.S. Courts - based on the existing treaty - which has earned Obama some negative feedback from the Congressional Black Caucus. Napolitano said that the Native American vote could very well prove decisive in key southwestern states, where participation is running high.

When asked about the matchup with McCain, Napolitano pointed out that 25% of those eligible to vote in Arizona this November will never have seen McCain on a ballot, that Arizona is a younger demographic in terms of median age than many people realise, and the new Deomcratic voter registrations are running well ahead of Republicans. She says Obama can win Arizona by doing what she did, carry 60% of the independent voters.

She's looking forward to the Convention, including the speeches from the Clintons, and expects that the voters at large will start to take a renewed interest in the election as the summer draws to a close with the two conventions.