Tammy Duckworth And The Value Of Veterans In Public Office

One of the more compelling speakers tonight at the Democratic National Convention was Tammy Duckworth, a disabled veteran who is running for Congress in Illinois.

I knew of Duckworth because Richard has done campaign work for her in the past, but tonight is the first time I’ve seen her speak.  What an impressive person she is!  It must be hard enough to walk out in front of a big crowd on national TV, but doing it while wearing a skirt that exposes your two artificial legs, as Duckworth did, would be incredibly difficult — yet she did it with grace, and good cheer.  She gave a fine speech that touched upon the helicopter explosion in Iraq in which she lost her legs and explained why she supports President Obama.

Increasingly we are seeing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who have sacrificed so much for this country, seek public office, running as both Republicans and Democrats.  I think that is a very positive development.  The political leaders who decide whether our country should go to war, and our soldiers and sailors should be placed in harm’s way, should have some idea of what war is really like.  Having veterans there in the room, who can use their personal experiences to tell those who don’t know already, is of enormous value.

Our Competitive President

The New York Times ran an interesting story on Sunday about President Obama.  Headlined “The Competitor in Chief,” the article addressed the President’s competitive nature and provided some perspective on his personality.

The article depicts the President as a proud man and perfectionist who wants to be the best at everything — and who apparently thinks he is the best or close to the best, whether it is playing pool, or reading children’s stories, or writing speeches.  He practices regularly and works hard to improve, even at things like bowling or golf.

I feel I have a better understanding of President Obama, the person, having read this article.  I’m impressed by his work ethic — but I also question whether hyper-competitiveness and believing you know more than any of your advisers really are positive qualities for a President of the United States.

Jimmy Carter Speaks

Kish and I are back in front of the TV, tuned in to C-SPAN — and this time, we’re watching the Democratic National Convention.

The first speaker we saw was former President Jimmy Carter, who gave some brief and heartfelt comments about President Obama, the challenges he has faced, and his accomplishments during his first term.  President Carter’s remarks ended with his endorsement of President Obama’s re-election and were warmly received by the convention delegates.

President Carter had not been closely embraced by some prior Democratic candidates, presumably because he was a one-termer and his presidency is largely considered to have been a failure.  Even now, more than 30 years after his presidency ended, President Carter still doesn’t get prime time exposure; his televised remarks to this convention were broadcast before the 8 o’clock hour.

I’m not sure how much weight President Carter’s endorsement carries, but I’m glad he had the chance to have his say.  It always seemed awkward for a former President to be kept in the background, even by the party that nominated him twice for President.

Neck And Neck In The Buckeye State Battleground

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in town on Saturday.  He did some campaigning before he went to the first quarter of the Ohio State-Miami RedHawks game — Miami being his alma mater — and then he jetted off to some other battleground state.  Ryan’s been in Ohio multiple times already, as have President Obama, Mitt Romney, and Vice President Biden. The New York Times reports that Ryan even carries a lucky Buckeye in his pocket.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of them all in the days ahead.

The campaigns are treating Ohio as a toss-up right now, and according to polling data, it is.  The most recent look at Ohio, a pre-Republican convention poll by the Columbus Dispatch, had the presidential race tied, 45-45, and also had the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel tied, 44-44.  What better definition of a battleground state than one where contests are not just within the margin of error, but literally tied?  The airwaves are full of ads for and against various candidates, and the campaigns seem to be scientifically targeting certain areas — even certain suburbs — as they look for votes.

It feels like a close race here, too.  In 2008, there was a remarkable outpouring of support in Ohio for President Obama.  You saw it in unlikely places like Upper Arlington, a Columbus suburb that traditionally has been a Republican stronghold.  The President won Ohio by nearly 5 percentage points.

This year I haven’t seen that same level of buzz for the President.  Activists and the professional pols are trying hard to drum up excitement, but many people seem to have backed away from politics a bit, perhaps because they believe the President hasn’t delivered the change he promised in 2008.  Whether they re-engage with the political process now that Labor Day has passed, the Republican ticket is set, and the traditional campaign season has arrived will tell us a lot about which way Ohio, the quintessential swing state, will swing this time around.