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July 28 2016 2:51 AM

Conservatives Find Selves Shocked to Realize They Liked Obama's Speech

On Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, President Obama made a case for national optimism. In quintessential Obama fashion, the speech was realistic about the problems (economic, racial, political) that the United States faces but gung-ho about the country's capacity to make collective progress in spite of them. It was a reassurance, in troubled times, that most of our fellow citizens actually do share our beliefs in things like honesty, tolerance, not taking shortcuts, and not being ill-informed and insane. It was uplifting, and not particularly partisan. And a lot of conservative pundits who have not exactly been happy with the last eight years found, especially when compared to the kind of things the ostensibly conservative candidate in this election has been saying, that they liked it.

Blogger Erick Erickson:


Former Reagan and H.W. Bush speechwriter John Podhoretz:

Former Jeb Bush spokesman Tim Miller:

Republican operative Rory Cooper:

National Review editor Rich Lowry:

Times columnist Ross Douthat:

Commentary's Noah Rothman:

A number of the conservatives who praised Obama qualified their praise with caveats: That they still felt Obama had governed in a divisive way; that voters still have good reasons to be unhappy with the direction the country is heading. Their comments were not sudden change-of-heart endorsements of the current presidency. Which is understandable, given that they are conservative and Obama's policies are generally progressive. And yet. Could you have imagined any of the things above being said a year ago, or maybe even a day ago? Sometimes, the world surprises us.

July 28 2016 12:17 AM

“Time and Again You’ve Picked Me Up”: President Obama’s Powerful Valedictory to the Nation

President Barack Obama offered a stirring endorsement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, seeking at the same time to burnish his legacy and offer a stark contrast between the party’s message of optimism and the fearmongering and demagoguery of Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

Although he will campaign with and for Clinton in the lead-up to November’s election, the speech also seemed to serve as a valedictory address to the nation, summing up his accomplishments and handing over the leadership of the Democratic Party to the woman he hopes to be his successor.


“I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen, so this year in this election, I’m asking you to join me to reject cynicism and reject fear and to summon what is best in us to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation,” Obama offered at the end of the speech.

Speaking 12 years to the day from the 2004 DNC speech that made his fame as a politician, Obama offered a similar vision of hope, unity, and American patriotism as he did during that convention in Boston. He also offered his gratitude to his supporters.

“You are the best organizers on the planet and I am so proud of all the change that you made possible. Time and again you’ve picked me up and I hope sometimes I picked you up, too,” Obama said. “And tonight I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago when I talked about hope.”

In a critical passage, Obama also used the speech to compare Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, to some of America’s worst enemies (italics mine).

What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here. That’s what matters. And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does, every shade of humanity forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists, or communists, or jihadists, or home-grown demagogues will always fail in the end.

After the speech ended, Clinton joined Obama on stage and the two former rivals and colleagues hugged. Whether Obama’s political and governing legacy is held up or is dismantled in the years to come will depend entirely on what Clinton is able to accomplish in November, and whether Clinton is elected could greatly depend on Obama’s support. The pair seemed to take a big step toward accomplishing both of those goals in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

July 28 2016 12:02 AM

Watch Hillary Clinton Join President Obama Onstage After His Raucously Received DNC Speech

Barack Obama just finished a Democratic National Convention speech that, judging at least by the instant Twitter reaction, may go down as one of his best—a stirring and, yes, Reaganesque defense of American optimism. Hillary Clinton joined him onstage in a semi-surprise appearance as it ended. Your blogger’s cynical and Hillary-wary heart may have melted, if only for a brief second. Video above.

July 27 2016 10:25 PM

Joe Biden Brings House Down at DNC With Raging Fireball of a Speech Highlighted by Use of Word “Malarkey”

Joe Biden! Thanks to some blend of semi-ironic internet appreciation and his own emotional and pugnacious commitment to the goals of the Obama administration, Vice President Biden has become a liberal Democratic icon despite the presence of a few considerably non-liberal positions in his past. And Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Uncle Joe was in top form, delivering an old-fashioned humdinger of an address that got especially good about halfway through, building from a quiet observation about Donald Trump’s “You’re fired!” catchphrase into the most electifying use of the word malarkey in history into a halftime-speech-level riff about American potential. Here are those fiery seven minutes (the whole speech is at the end of this post):

An excerpt:

That is Hillary Clinton’s life story. Not just who she is, it is her life story. She is always there.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s say the obvious, that is not Donald Trump’s story. Just listen to me a second without booing or cheering. His cynicism and undoubtedly his lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in that phrase he is most proud of making famous: “You're fired.” I’m not joking. Think about that. Think about that. Think about everything you learned as a child. No matter where you were raised, how can there be pleasure in saying, “You’re fired?”
He is trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That is a bunch of malarkey.


Folks, whatever doubts, I mean what I say. But sometimes I say all that I mean. Let me tell you what I literally tell every leader I’ve met with—and I’ve met them all. It’s never, never, never been a good bet to bet against America.
We have the finest fighting force in the world. Not only do we have the largest economy in the world, we have the strongest economy in the world. We have the most productive workers in the world. And given a fair shot, given a fair chance, Americans have never, ever, ever, ever, ever let the country down. Never!

Closed Biden: “We are America, second to none, and we own the finish line! Don't forget it!”

Hell yeah! I'm going to go lift a 1960s muscle car over my head. USA!

July 27 2016 9:38 PM

Leon Panetta Tried to Denounce Trump at DNC, but Hecklers Wouldn't Let Him

Former CIA director Leon Panetta attempted to warn the Democratic National Convention of the threat to the world posed by a President Donald Trump on Wednesday, but a small but vocal minority of conventioneers were having nothing of it.

A group of apparently pro–Bernie Sanders delegates heckled Panetta and interrupted his speech at key moments with chants of “No more wars!” and “Lies! Lies! Lies!”


The heckling appeared to be coming mainly from the Washington delegation. Some delegates were holding handmade signs that included slogans such as “Stop Pretending Everything Is Okay,” “Hillary for Fear,” “A Hawk Is Not a Dove,” “End the Drone Wars,” “Ban Fracking,” and “Rigged election? DNC email [illegible]? Kaine? Unity? B.S.”

When the lights were killed in a section with some of the most vocal hecklers, many of them held up their phone lights in apparent protest.

Again, Panetta was attempting to warn of the foreign policy dangers posed by a Trump presidency. “Donald Trump says he gets his foreign policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant,” he said. “If only it were funny. But it is deadly serious. Donald Trump asks our troops to commit war crimes, endorses torture, spurns our allies from Europe to Asia, suggests that countries have nuclear weapons, and he praises dictators from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin.” It was around this time that the protest got underway, and it certainly distracted from Panetta’s attempted message.

When you’ve lost the author of “Get Your War On,” maybe you’re being slightly counterproductive.

July 27 2016 9:32 PM

The Bernie Dead-Enders Have Found Their Martyr

PHILADELPHIA—Portia Boulger’s voice began to crack as she described the outrage visited on former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, the black Bernie Sanders surrogate who says that the DNC refused to let her deliver a planned speech Tuesday nominating Sanders for president. “They’re cracking the whip!” says Boulger, who runs the Women for Bernie Twitter account. “They might as well have taken Nina Turner and tied her to a damn post and whipped her back.” (Boulger is white.)

For the rump of Bernie die-hards who are having trouble reconciling themselves to Hillary Clinton’s nomination, Turner has become a martyr. The details of her mistreatment are still hazy, but it’s becoming a synecdoche for broader Sandernista complaints about disrespect from the DNC. Alongside their Bernie flair, some Sanders supporters are now wearing stickers saying, “I’m With Nina.”


On Wednesday afternoon, a quartet of movie stars—Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Shailene Woodley, and Rosario Dawson—joined Boulger and members of the pro-Sanders National Nurses United at a press conference protesting Turner’s treatment. It was a slow afternoon inside the convention proper, and a crush of journalists swarmed around them. “We’re here to say this is upsetting to us,” Sarandon said. “It seems as if there’s been a lot of difficulties executing the will of Bernie Sanders people and surrogates. We just want to say that this has not gone by lightly, that we’re upset, as she was.”

At this point, that seems to be what the hardcore Bernie people want most—a chance to express how upset they are. “We want you to feel welcome here,” one Missouri delegate said in a saccharine voice, mocking mainstream Democrats. “Well why in the hell shouldn’t we feel welcome? We’re Democrats. It’s our convention too. They are the ones drawing the dividing lines.” She spoke heatedly for a moment about how Israel denies citizenship to the Palestinians to keep them from political and economic power, which is true but also sort of irrelevant, since most Palestinians don’t want to be Israelis—they want their own state.

After the press conference, Turner appeared and gave an exclusive interview to Mother Jones. She said that no one gave her a reason why she wasn’t allowed to speak, and that she hadn’t submitted text in advance. “I am still trying to figure out all that happened,” she said. Some here already know all they need to.

July 27 2016 9:15 PM

Retired Admiral Owns Trump With “You’re Not Fit to Polish John McCain’s Boots” Burn

One of the most famously devastating burns in U.S. history was Lloyd Bentsen’s dismissal of Dan Quayle in a 1988 vice presidential debate: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” (It’s a burn so historic that it has its own Wikipedia entry.) Speaking at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night, Retired Adm. John Hutson referred to Donald Trump’s infamous insult of former POW John McCain in an homage to Bentsen. Video is above; here’s the transcript:

More than 120 Republicans, national security leaders—Republican national security leaders—recently warned that Donald Trump would, in their words, “make America less safe.” He even mocked POWs like John McCain. I served in the same Navy as John McCain. I used to vote in the same party as John McCain. Donald, you are not fit to polish John McCain’s boots.

Solid. By the way, isn’t it insane that a pluraliy of Americans endorse Donald Trump’s views on national security when perhaps his most high-profile comment on the subject involved mocking an American serviceman who endured more than five years as a prisoner of war? Weird election, this one.

July 27 2016 6:49 PM

Harry Reid Wants Intelligence Agencies to Give Trump "Fake" Briefings After Russia Comments

Harry Reid has a message for the U.S. intelligence officials who will soon be giving Donald Trump national security briefings: Just fake it.

“How would the CIA and the other intelligence agencies brief this guy? How could they do that? I would suggest to the intelligence agencies, if you’re forced to brief this guy, don’t tell him anything, just fake it, because this man is dangerous,” the Senate minority leader told the Huffington Poston Wednesday. “Fake it, pretend you’re doing a briefing, but you can’t give the guy any information.”


Reid’s comments were in response to the request Trump made earlier in the day asking Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton. Let me say that again: The Republican nominee for the president of the United States of America publicly asked a foreign government to conduct cyber-espionage against his political opponent. Making that public plea even more frightening were the celebrity businessman’s additional comments suggesting he longed for the type of power it would take to coordinate the recent hack of the DNC computer system and subsequent politically timed leak of roughly 20,000 emails. “I wish I had that power,” Trump told reporters while dismissing the Clinton camp’s suggestion Russia pulled off the hack to aid his chances this November. “Man, that would be power.”

Now that he’s officially his party’s nominee, Trump (like Clinton) is set to begin receiving national security briefings as soon as next week. As NPR notes, while not officially required by law, the ritual of sharing sensitive information with major-party nominees dates back to the 1950s and is meant to prepare the candidates for the transition of power should they be elected. Given Trump’s, let’s say, unpredictable speaking style, a number of U.S. intelligence officials has voiced serious concerns about him receiving the routine briefings.

Interestingly enough, House Speaker Paul Ryan—a Trump endorser, albeit one who is on the record voicing the Washington consensus that it would generally be a bad thing for the Kremlin to involve itself in an American presidential election—wrote a letter to National Intelligence director James Clapper earlier this year asking that Clinton be denied the security briefings. Ryan said then that it would “send the wrong signal to all those charged with safeguarding our nation's secrets” given that an FBI investigation found Clinton’s decision to use a private email server as secretary of state to be “extremely careless.” Clapper, however, denied the speaker’s request, saying the briefings would be “provided on an even-handed non-partisan basis.”

Elsewhere in Slate:

July 27 2016 6:34 PM

The Democratic Foreign Policy Establishment Goes on the Offensive

PHILADELPHIA—“In my over 50 years of public life,” said former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, “this is the screwiest damn election I have ever seen.”

Panetta was speaking at a foreign policy event Wednesday afternoon on the University of Pennsylvania campus with, essentially, the rest of the Democratic foreign policy establishment. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was there, as were former Obama administration national security adviser Tom Donilon, Clinton campaign senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan, former Under Secretary of State and Iran nuclear deal negotiator Wendy Sherman, and others.


The Democratic foreign policy establishment did not wake up Wednesday morning expecting much in the way of cogent geopolitical analysis from Donald Trump. But right now it finds itself shocked at Donald Trump’s open invitation to Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “30,000 emails that are missing.” The panel offered a sort of workout room for the lines Democrats intend to fling at Trump over the next few news cycles, or at least until he says something worse. Umbrage and outrage were the order of the day. While it is comforting that Trump hasn’t been so normalized that we’ve lost our capacity to be appalled by him, you also wonder if there are few things that would delight him and his Trumpkins more than the sight of an indignant Madeleine Albright.

Still, Trump grooved one right down the plate for Democrats and their PR operation on Day 3 of their national convention. The theme of the day is national security, and Panetta himself will address the convention. The news cycle may be all about Trump now and his playing footsie with the Logan Act for a laugh. You can be sure that a lot of speeches will be hastily edited before their primetime delivery.

The Clinton campaign took immediate offense with the comment, releasing a statement from Sullivan saying that “this has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. That's not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

“This is the first election,” Panetta said at the panel, “where there is only one candidate who has the experience, temperament, and the understanding of the world to be commander-in-chief.” Trump “doesn’t have any experience, doesn’t know the world, and shoots from the hip. … He shot from the hip in asking Russia to do a cyberattack against the United States,” Panetta added, “for God’s sake.”

Donilon said the U.S. will have to consider “consequences” for Russia, if indeed it hacked the Democratic National Committee. “The way not to deal with this, of course, would be to encourage an adversary, a foreign power, to engage in hacking” domestic political organizations like the DNC, he said. “I don’t know of any public elected official who’s ever made such a statement.” Sherman, meanwhile, said that any commander-in-chief needs to have more than a 10-minute attention span.

“I know it seems funny,” Panetta said, “but this is serious. This is deadly serious.”

July 27 2016 6:07 PM

No, Donald Trump Did Not Commit Treason When He Suggested Russia Hack Clinton’s Emails

At a press conference in Miami on Wednesday, Donald Trump said something outrageous. (Can you believe it?) “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said in reference to the emails deleted by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”