Clinton salutes Obama; Dems rip McCain
AP Special Correspondent
DENVER — Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote the final chapter in her failed campaign for the White House on Tuesday , making way for Barack Obama as Democrats at their national convention ripped into Republican John McCain as indifferent to the working class and cozy with big oil.
If he’s the answer, then the question must be ridiculous,” New York Gov. David Paterson said of the Republican presidential candidate.
Said Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, “It’s time to bring our jobs back and bring our troops home.”
“Call the roll!” urged Ted Sorensen, a party elder eager to propel Obama toward the White House as the first black president.
Obama’s formal nomination was set for Wednesday night. First came Clinton, his tenacious rival in a riveting battle for the nomination. She was closing out her own history-making quest with a prime-time speech Tuesday night.
The convention hall was packed in anticipation of her appearance.
Despite lingering unhappiness among some delegates nursing grievances over Clinton’s loss, party chairman Howard Dean declared the convention determined to make Obama the nation’s 44th president. “There is not a unity problem. If anyone doubts that, wait till you see Hillary Clinton’s speech,” he said.
In the convention keynote address, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said Obama will “appeal to us not as Republicans or Democrats, but first and foremost as Americans.” He added, “We need leaders who see our common ground as sacred ground.”
In contrast to many of speeches delivered earlier in the day, out of prime time, Warner’s remarks were more a sketch of the “post-partisan” possibilities that Obama often speaks of, rather than criticism of McCain and President Bush.
“I know we’re at the Democratic National Convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn’t matter if it has an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to it,” he said.
As keynoter, Warner’s task was the same one that Obama ” then an Illinois state lawmaker running for the U.S. Senate ” used four years ago to launch his astonishing ascent in national politics.
Obama, 47 and in his first Senate term, campaigned in Missouri as he slowly made his way toward the convention city. Speaking to airline workers in a giant hangar, he accused the Bush administration of failing to enforce health and safety laws and said McCain “doesn’t get it” when it comes to the concerns of blue collar workers.
There was more of the same ” much more ” as a parade of speakers criticized McCain at the convention several hundred miles away.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the Republican has voted against “real sex education, voted against affordable family planning. And if elected, John McCain has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said, referring to the landmark 1973 case that affirmed women’s right to abortion.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland focused on economic issues. “While families are losing sleep tonight trying to figure out some way to make their paycheck stretch through one more day, John McCain is sleeping better than ever,” he said, recalling that McCain had recently said Americans were better off because of President Bush’s policies.
And Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said oil companies were “placing their bets on John McCain, bankrolling his campaign and gambling with our future.”
“John McCain offers four more years of the same Bush-Cheney policies that have failed us,” summed up Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Sorensen was a link to some of the party’s glory years, John F. Kennedy’s closest aide. As was the case with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s emotional appearance on the convention’s opening night Monday, Sorensen’s presence on the podium was designed to strengthen the image of Obama as Kennedy’s worthy heir.
It was a recurrent theme.
“This is our time to revive the spirit of Kennedy,” said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.
Obama delivers his acceptance speech Thursday night at a football stadium. An estimated 75,000 tickets have been distributed for the event, meant to stir additional comparisons with Kennedy’s appearance at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960.
The Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., next week to nominate McCain and his still-unnamed running mate. That will set the stage for a final sprint to Election Day in a race that is remarkably close.
Tuesday’s rhetorical attacks seemed likely to put a stop to unusual convention week sniping from two well-known aides to former President Clinton who said the earlier speeches were too timid.
Paul Begala had spoken dismissively of Warner’s plans to go easy on McCain. “This isn’t the Richmond Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
“If this party has a message, it’s done a hell of a job hiding it,” James Carville told CNN as he reviewed the opening night’s program.
If Obama’s advisers had any reaction to the sniping, they kept it to themselves. The Illinois senator has cast himself as a different kind of politician, a “post-partisan” whose stock in trade is to forge a change in the way campaigns are conducted. Still, Obama has gone after Clinton and McCain sharply when aides thought it necessary.
“My inclination is you have to be careful about attacking McCain” because his life’s story buys him deference, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said in an Associated Press interview. The Republican presidential hopeful was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years.
Dean, the party chairman, added there were other imperatives for a week of convention speechmaking, principally “to make sure people know who Barack Obama is, who Joe Biden is.”
Biden, a Delaware senator, is Obama’s vice presidential pick, already making the rounds of the convention city.
Whatever tone the Democrats took, there was no mistaking McCain’s intentions.
For the second time in three days, his campaign sought to use Clinton to wound Obama. This time it was a television commercial that made use of a memorable ad she ran in the primaries.
It shows sleeping children and a 3 a.m. phone call into the White House portending a crisis. In the new ad Clinton is shown saying: “I know Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And, Sen. Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.”
A narrator adds: “Hillary’s right. John McCain for president.”
Some Democrats expressed concern about the potential for at least the appearance of disunity on television later in the week.
Don Fowler, a former party chairman, said there was more of a problem than he had anticipated.
“All you need is 200 people in the crowd to boo and stuff like that and it will be replayed 900 times. And that’s not what you want out of this.”
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