Friday, August 29, 2008

A Stupendous Night

Our skybox was just out-of-control with energy, as of course was the entire Invesco Field. I was was doing commentary with Sirius OutQ News director Tim Curran and our producer David Guggenheim for OutQ (Later, Diana Cage, of course of the Diana Cage Show, and Keith Price of OutQ in the Morning joined us from New York), while actor and comedian Jamie Fox and his crew of comics were doing it up for his Sirius channel Foxhole right next to us, and Mark Thompson of Sirius Left was offering his observations for his show, interviewing activists, politicians and others who were coming in and out. All over the box people were mingling and cheering and we were all yammering on our shows, and yet we weren't stepping on each other, and all sounded great. It was amazing to watch. But nothing could top what we were watching down across the crowd of 80,000 and on that stage.

Bill Richardson's speech was pretty good -- well-written and great delivery and surprise coming from the low-key, often low-energy Richardson, as it was a full-throttle attack on John McCain. Al Gore blew things up when he came out, and like Richardson amplified the message that Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden put forth, making the case against Bush, Cheney and McCain.

Obama's speech was vintage Obama -- on steroids! (And I thought I was the one who got the steroid shot in my throat). We all expected a great speech but this far exceeded that. It was masterful in the way that Obama finally went for the jugular against McCain -- and Bush -- showing that he can hit hard, and yet it did not in any way have a negative, petty feel. One of my favorite lines was when Obama, in describing McCain bravado on terrorism yet his and Bush's failure to really take on Al Queda and of course having diverted us to Iraq: "John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell -- but he won't even go to the cave where he lives."

Obama laid out his agenda much more clearly, with more of those details people have been asking him for, and he talked about what he really means by change. We took calls from a lot of people across the country after the speech and it was clear that he had moved many Democrats who were Clinton supporters, and others who weren't completely behind him, to be a part of what he is trying to do. This speech capped a convention that did everything it needed to do in bringing the Democrats together and bringing the message out to rest of this very dissatisfied country.

When Obama talked about "our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters" it sent a tingle through me, because I don't think any presidential candidate has ever talked about us as family in that way. We were not cast as just another constituency group, in a laundry list, wanting some rights: We are, according to Obama, part of the American family, a family that has been severely physically and emotionally damaged and one that Obama was laying a plan to help heal. I've read some takes on the exact line he used which criticized him for seeming to want to telegraph a message to those who are not fully in support of marriage for gays and lesbians (as well as people who might be antigay) that he is with them. Here is the line Obama used: "I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination."

It's true that he could have been trying to reassure antigay or ambivalent types, and I thought about it right away and asked our panel and put it out for listeners as well. The sense was that if that was the case he could have and would have said "I don't support" marriage, but instead simply referred to the very real differences people have. He was being realistic in talking about the struggles and differences we have on a lot of issues -- he had discussed immigration, and guns in the same context -- but noted that there are surely things we can all agree on now. I think it was a way of bringing people in on the issue. And certainly, as things happen incrementally, we're going to get our rights bit by bit, and slowly. I think he was simply referring to that reality.

We stayed on the air for an hour after the speech, taking calls, and pretty much closed the Invesco Field. I remember thinking, as we were packing up, that, no matter what happens in this election, I was so glad to have been here for this historic speech and this historic moment.

Now, on to St.Paul next week. Yikes!