DNC, Night 1


Q. Is Bill Clinton the last living Democrat with any sense of how to present the Democrats' case and vision in non-bloodless-policy-wonk, non-defensive-sounding, non-speech-on-Senate-floor terms?

A. Evidently not.
    For further research, consult the appearances tonight of: Lily Ledbetter, Deval Patrick, Julian Castro, and Michelle Obama. Among others.

Bonus Q. What was the most interesting network on which to watch the speeches and after-action commentary?

A: Fox, by a mile. Highlights: Karl Rove considered Julian Castro's speech "so-so," and he was more generous than Chris Wallace and Charles Krauthammer.

Details tomorrow, but if anyone in the "persuadable" bloc was watching, the Democrats made their case as well as anyone could have expected.

Also: unspoken subtext of several big-showcase RNC speeches was, "Hey, forget about this year, but think of me for 2016." That was the practically spoken-out-loud point of Chris Christie's "stand with me and I will stand with you -- and, oh yeah, vote for Romney" speech. In a subtler way it was Marco Rubio's point -- and, necessarily in most discreet form, of Paul Ryan's.

None of the Democrats tonight was saying, "Hey, forget about this year."

Also: the only thing more impressive than working "marathon" into a number of speeches was the absolutely straight face all speakers kept when using that word.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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