DENVER — If there was a theme to the two major addresses on the third night of the Democratic National Convention , it was the difference between making the right choices for America and the wrong ones.
On the eve of a history-making day, during which Democratic Senator Barack Obama became the first black major-party candidate for president, those choices were not just the decisions that vice-presidential nominee Senator Joseph Biden said were flawed ones made by rival presidential aspirant Republican Senator John McCain. In an attempt to heal raw wounds within the party, they were also the right ones made by the last Democrat to hold the White House: President Bill Clinton. The former commander in chief put aside the bitterness of the primary season and gave a positive, though not glowingly adoring, tribute to Obama and Biden in a speech that many party leaders were hoping would provide Obama a boost in the polls going into his pivotal convention-closing speech Thursday night at nearby Invesco Field (for which MTV News has enlisted guest live-bloggers, including Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, Bun B, Solange Knowles and other artists).
“Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world,” Clinton said in a speech during which, like the one given by Senator Hillary Clinton the night before , he also spent a not-inconsiderate amount of time talking about his own accomplishments alongside those of Obama’s. “Ready to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.”
Hustling through the Pepsi Center to get to his spot for Biden’s address while balancing a plate of desserts in one hand, Senate page Marcus Noel Daughtry Edghill, 19, said he thought Clinton’s speech was “wonderful” and displayed the unity within the Democratic Party. Wearing a dark-blue suit with a bright-pink sweater underneath and a white polka-dotted bowtie, the dapper New York-bred sophomore at North Carolina’s Guilford College said, “It really showed a connection within the party and that no matter who is the nominee, we are still a united party and we act as one base for the betterment of us all.”
Like many Democrats who worried that the still reportedly bitter and disaffected former president might not give a full-throated endorsement to Obama, Edghill was pleased that Clinton’s “beautifully stated” speech was nothing short of positive.
The response was not as positive from comedian Mo Rocca, who has been roaming the halls of the Pepsi Center all week with a camera crew. “I don’t think President Clinton looked all that excited when he talked about Barack Obama,” he said, wincing. “He sounded like a thesis adviser writing a letter of recommendation for a student to get a job as a first-year at some firm. It was a little bit tepid. But towards the end, he deftly managed to recommend Obama because of his own accomplishments. I didn’t think either of the Clintons were full-throated in their endorsements of Obama. They were kind of like Mad Lib endorsements: You could have filled in anyone’s name.”
Figuring that the speeches didn’t do enough to stop McCain from using the past digs by the Clintons against Obama in the future, Rocca was sure of one thing: “Chelsea Clinton … America’s next top Clinton!”
Biden’s speech both tugged at heartstrings and threw some roundhouses, as he spoke of his hardscrabble childhood as a stuttering boy who was picked on but was taught to always get back up when pushed down and later hammered his longtime friend and Senate colleague McCain as “more of the same.” The refrain, also printed on signs inside the convention center, echoed throughout the hall, as Biden ticked off a list of policies — from Iraq to Afghanistan, tax cuts for corporations and relations with Iran — on which he said McCain was in the wrong.
After famously saying during the primary that he thought Obama was not ready to lead, Biden unequivocally laid out the reasons why he thinks his former rival for the office is the right person for the job, often by contrasting the progressive efforts Obama has achieved in his short time in the Senate with McCain’s long tenure that he said included numerous failed policies and erroneous choices.
“You can learn an awful lot about a man campaigning with him, debating him and seeing how he reacts under pressure,” Biden said of Obama. “You learn about the strength of his mind, but even more importantly, you learn about the quality of his heart. I watched how he touched people, how he inspired them, and I realized he has tapped into the oldest American belief of all: We don’t have to accept a situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it. That’s Barack Obama, and that’s what he will do for this country. He’ll change it.”
Even on the concourse outside the main floor of the Pepsi Center, Biden’s attacks on McCain and praise for Obama drew whoops and claps and, in some cases, as when he spoke of his mother’s all-American creed that “No one is better than you. You are everyone’s equal, and everyone is equal to you,” a few tears among a group of women clutching small American flags to their chests.
In the end, on a host of issues, Biden said simply, “John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right. … Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Our people are too good, our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred. These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I’m ready. Barack Obama is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America’s time.”
Soon after Biden ended his address, thousands of conventioneers loaded up the three escalators down to the exit of the Pepsi Center, then, suddenly, a gasp went up and nearly everyone stopped in their tracks as Obama walked out onto the stage and put his arm around Biden. A collective roar went up throughout the building, and as convention volunteer Claire Johnston, 21, made her way home, she said Biden accomplished exactly what the party needed with his address.
“He’s incredibly charismatic. He has a really compelling story,” she said. “I think he’s going to be a great vice president.” Holding her hand was boyfriend Cody Gray, 22, also a first-time convention attendee, who agreed, saying Biden personalized himself and hit at McCain on all the right notes. “He pounded away at linking McCain to some of the failed Bush policies and tried to delineate Obama and things he’s done well from the past eight years.”
Don’t miss out on the action: MTV News and our Street Team ’08 will be on the ground at both conventions to sort through all the speeches, streamers and ceremony to find the information you need to choose our next president. And head to Choose or Lose for nonstop coverage of the 2008 presidential election. And after history is made in Denver, MTV News will help you make sense of it all in “Obama Decoded,” premiering Friday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET.