Slatest PM: Your Democratic Convention Primer

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 4 2012 4:42 PM

Slatest PM: Your Democratic Convention Primer

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*** NOTE: We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. Tuesday's edition, the 11th under the new format, is below. You can sign up here to receive it in your inbox daily. ***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

OPENING ACT: The Democratic National Convention kicks off this evening in Charlotte, where tonight's prime-time speaker will be Michelle Obama. While the first lady's remarks are sure to get their fair share of coverage, they'll likely serve mostly as a placeholder for the week's two biggest moments: Bill Clinton's expected economic-policy throwdown on Wednesday, and President Obama's DNC finale the following night.

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STAYING ON SCRIPT: If there's currently a story of the moment at the DNC, it's Clinton's speech, which has at least a few Democratic operatives a little jittery given no one but the former president appears to have seen a draft of it yet. Word from the Obama camp is that they're not expecting to see a copy until shortly before showtime

That would normally cause some Democratic anxiety given Clinton's past willingness to depart from the company line when the mood strikes, but it is undoubtedly generating a few more upset stomachs after the lesson about unvetted speeches Clint Eastwood and his chair delivered to the political world last week.

KEEPING IT IN CONTEXT: John Dickerson: "This is not just inside baseball; it's inside the atoms as they bounce off one another in the cork at the center of the baseball. It must be said, though, that Bill Clinton's endless speech in 1988 (which may still be going on, for all we know) was a major miscue, so maybe the people who are obsessed with the vetting issue should be. But when I last wrote about the bouncing ball that is Bill, pretty much everyone I talked to said, 'He’s a former president of the United States. Some staffer doesn’t tell him what to do.' "

THE MAIN EVENT: The other big question hanging in the air in the Queen City is exactly where President Obama will deliver his speech. Most of the week's official DNC events are being held in the 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, but the show is set to move to the 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium when it comes time for the president to take the stage. 

Given Obama's relative difficulty repeating his turnout success of 2008 on the campaign trail this time around, some are wondering aloud whether Democrats will be able to pack the house, or if they'll be left watching their candidate address a crowd checkered with empty seats.

RAIN OR SHINE: A Drudge-hyped Daily Mail story claims that there are "strong indications" that the speech will be moved indoors to the smaller venue. "Democrats are poised to avoid the danger of President Barack Obama accepting his party’s nomination before a partially-empty stadium by shifting his speech to an indoor arena and citing ‘severe weather,' " the British paper reports.

But if you keep on reading down to the eighth graph or so, you see the actual quote in question stakes out the DNC's position pretty clearly: "We do have a contingency plan, though, for lightning or other severe weather," the Democratic official explained of what could force a move to the TWC Arena. "We don't want to put anyone in harm's way so that's really what we're looking for, not if it's going to rain but if it's going to be really bad."

THURSDAY'S WEATHER.COM FORECAST: "A mix of clouds and sun with the chance of an isolated thunderstorm in the afternoon. Humid. High 86F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%."

BACK TO TONIGHT: The New York Times on what to expect from Michelle's speech: "Behind the scenes, Mrs. Obama’s advocacy for her husband can be so forceful that speechwriters have had to tone it down over the years for public presentation, aides say. But despite the scathing critiques of Republicans that she had been known to deliver in private, her advisers believe that she is most potent when she does not appear overtly political and that she comes across best as a gracious noncombatant in the red-and-blue wars. So at the convention, they say, she will try to present herself as a caring, wifely figure and appear above the partisan fray." 

Happy Tuesday and welcome to the Slatest PM, where the entire @slatest team hopes you had a relaxing Labor Day weekend. You can follow your host at @JoshVoorhees, or fill his inbox with whatever's on your mind at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

NONCONVENTION INTERMISSION: Slate's own John Dickerson, David Weigel, and Sasha Issenberg are on the ground in Charlotte this week. We'll check in with them in a moment, but for now let's check the traps.

Reuters: "Syria is calling up former soldiers from the reserves to active army service in growing numbers, a sign of the strain of efforts to crush the 17-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad."

Detroit News: "Detroit's Big 3 exceeded analysts' expectations in August, posting double-digit sales increases in a better-than-expected month for automakers."

Wall Street Journal: "Apple Inc. invited the media to a product announcement Sept. 12 at which it is widely expected to announce a new iPhone."

Associated Press: "Michael Jackson's estate and a businessman working with the singer's mother settled a copyright infringement lawsuit for $2.5 million on Tuesday, shortly before a trial in the case was scheduled to begin."

BBC: "The standard-bearer of the hamburger, McDonald's, is bowing to local demand and is opening a meat-free restaurant in India." 

"INCOMPLETE": That's the grade Obama gave himself on the economy when asked a question from a local TV reporter in Colorado on Monday. That response is already drawing fire from Republicans who say a president's handling of the economy is a pass/fail proposition.

BACK TO CHARLOTTE:

Dickerson: "I'm going to weigh in on something else here for a minute: Politico has a story about how all the reporters hate this election. I don't agree and am kinda puzzled by it. The campaigns do feel smaller and cheaper than before. ... But the thing is: We control the window. This is an interesting campaign! Big issues are at stake. They always are, but this time we've got a chance to talk about how we reorient the relationship between people and their government. The programs of the New Deal need a redo: There will be winners and losers. Who decides which is which? The promises of American life need a big, messy conversation."

Weigel: "I think that the 'worst campaign ever' arguments imply that this sort of base-rousing is uninspiring. Sure. It's not inspiring. But it's substantive. People elected Barack Obama and some Democrats. Barack Obama and some Democrats passed a series of laws that put burdens on employers to give birth control to employees, to raise pay, et cetera and et cetera. Lots of white male voters dislike this stuff, understandably. It goes to what John was saying—this is an interesting campaign, and whoever wins it has to confront the costs of the welfare state."

Issenberg: "I wonder if part of this may be a good time to disassociate the words election and campaign, two words that we often use interchangeably but that political scientists have been wise enough to separate. I think you both have been right to note the ways in which this is a big, important, interesting election: real differences, high stakes. But the campaigns are really dreary in all the ways you and others have itemized."

See you back here tomorrow. In the meantime, tell your friends to subscribe here.

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