Roundtable: Obama Rocks Denver; McCain Picks VP On today's reporters' roundtable: Sen. John McCain chooses Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, and Sen. Barack Obama accepts his presidential nomination to cheers of thousands in Denver last night. For more, NPR's Tony Cox talks with Marcus Mabry and Clarence Page.
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Roundtable: Obama Rocks Denver; McCain Picks VP

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Roundtable: Obama Rocks Denver; McCain Picks VP

Roundtable: Obama Rocks Denver; McCain Picks VP

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TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox, and this is News and Notes. Senator John McCain has chosen Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate as we've been saying, and Senator Barack Obama accepts his nomination to the cheers of thousands in Denver.

Joining us for today's Reporters Round Table are Marcus Mabry, and editor of the New York Times, and Clarence Page, a nationally-syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Gentlemen, welcome. There's a lot to talk about, isn't there?

Mr. CLARENCE PAGE (Columnist, Chicago Tribune): Thank you. Yes, there is.

COX: Absolutely.

Mr. MARCUS MABRY (Editor, New York Times): Absolutely.

COX: Well, let me start with you, Marcus. McCain. The strategy of picking Palin. Smart? Risky? Maybe a little both.

Mr. MABRY: Absolutely. You know, I would say actually it's an inspired choice with risk. It's interesting, because, number one, of course, it guts McCain's argument that Obama doesn't have enough experience to be president of the United States. That's out the window. It's the Republican saying, we acknowledge, this is a change election year.

Secondly, last night the Democrats made history. This is the Republicans effort to say, we too, are going to make a bid for making history, because if we win, we'll the first ever woman vice president of the United States. Thirdly, it both allows McCain to reach out to that conservative base that he so badly needed, that conservative Republican base that was never too happy with John McCain.

He actually now has a pro-life, mother of five - she call herself a hockey mom - who couldn't look more kind of middle American as she wanted to, who's young and 44 years old, who apparently, reportedly, even though she knew her last child was going to be born with Down's syndrome - reportedly again, I say, because I have not reported this myself - she'd learned this early enough to have terminated that pregnancy, and she decided to keep the baby and have the baby born with Down's syndrome.

Again, pro-lifers as Ralph Reid told us at the New York Times, are ecstatic about that bid of history about her. And then finally, of course, it is the bonus. As picking - by picking a woman, John McCain may allow himself to also reach out to the aisle - which what Barack Obama did so effectively last night at the end of his speech.

He said, you know what, we may disagree on abortion rights, we may disagree on gun control, we may disagree on same-sex marriage, but there's a middle ground that we truly can find as Americans, we can respect one another's beliefs. He reached out to moderates last night, that's where he's going to be going with this campaign.

COX: Yeah, but that's...

Mr. MABRY: On the other hand...

COX: See that's - that's the question though, isn't it, Clarence Page, whether or not this pick will allow the Republicans to cherry pick as it were, the females who were supporting Hillary Clinton, and who are still, to some extent, disaffected with Barack Obama.

Mr. PAGE: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I agree with everything Marcus has just said, first of all. But, you know, it also reminds me of what Harry Truman used to say. You know, why vote for a fake Republican, when you can get the real thing.

You could say the same thing in reverse in this case, why should women vote for a woman who is anti-abortion, anti-choice, going to pick very conservative Supreme Court justice. You know, still a heartbeat away from the presidency, is gender everything. I rather doubt it and, as Marcus also said, this knocks aside McCain's experience argument.

And it also upsets moderates who both parties are trying to reach, who were impressed that Barack Obama went pass the usual cynical, political strategizing, you know, I'm getting a big state running mate, and going for Joe Biden who's perfectly well-qualified to step in on foreign affairs, security, domestic affairs, et cetera.

McCain obviously picked a woman who is - no first-termer, got a lot of promise, but it was obvious he was trying to cherry pick women, and how many ranks in he is going to have condescension (unintelligible).

COX: Let's talk about Barack Obama's speech last night, because there has been interesting reaction to it, both positive and some negative. I talked to Reverend Jesse Jackson earlier today, and raised a question whether or not Obama's speech last night elevated itself to the inspirational level of the civil rights speech that preceded it 45 years ago to the day.

Reverend JESSE JACKSON: To use a Reagan expression in Berlin, pound down that wall. Dr. King's speech was focused on tearing down that wall. We tore down those walls. Now Barack is building those bridges, and that's the fundamentally different season of our struggle.

COX: Did he leave black folks out of the speech last night, Marcus?

Mr. MABRY: You know, I think in a very objective way one has to say, yes. I mean, it was only at the end of that speech he really made direct inference to it. But as also many commentators have said, especially African-Americans, Barack Obama doesn't have to say I'm black. We all can see he's black. We were there with him.

The number of African-Americans speaking as African-American, who were moved last night to tears is probably greater than any number since the death actually of the Reverend Martin Luther King. So I think Barack Obama - you know, that resume is on his face. He doesn't have to talk about that, and I think the Reverend Jackson actually was absolutely right, and it's very interesting to hear a leader of Reverend Jackson's generation talking about how this is not our generation, this is something different. And that - with that goes something more evolves, what he's suggesting. That's really interesting, because that suggests a certain unity in the black leadership that we have not seen before around Barack Obama.

COX: You know, our time is running short, but I wanted to get one more point in with you, Clarence, before we talk briefly about Katrina. And it's this, this was 40 years since the big convention in Chicago that just went crazy because of the demonstrations. Haven't heard that much about it, haven't seen that much about it. This time, is that because nothing happened or because it wasn't covered much?

Mr. PAGE: Covered, you mean the '68 convention?

COX: Yeah. This convention versus the '68.

Mr. PAGE: Yeah. Well, there were some references and the usual video dragged out of the police officers dragging students down the street and this sort of thing. Remember, we had a convention in Chicago in '96 that was a stunning success that wiped away the negative aspects of '68 convention to a large degree.

But what was more significant from a Chicago point of view, is that bringing Democratic convention this week, Jesse Jackson, Jr. led what everybody's calling a Hug fest with the mayor Richard M. Daley and other Democratic Party leaders from Illinois, who had been feuding for ages, who all co -spontaneously got up and hugged each other one after another.

It was a great symbolic gesture. We'll see how well it holds, but the reason why they were doing this was so that Illinois Democrats could come together to fan out to the rest of the country, and help Barack Obama get to the White House. So, you know, Chicago's tried to move on from '68, I hope the rest of the country has too.

COX: All right. We can't get out here without mentioning in a minute or so that we have left about Katrina, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast, and as we all know, tropical storm Gustav is bearing down just as the Republicans are planning their convention in St. Paul, on - beginning on Monday.

Marcus, it could be - we don't want to say good thing or bad thing, but the response of the Republicans to Gustav, if it does come ashore, gives them another opportunity, doesn't it?

Mr. MABRY: Well, you know there's no question. I think this time, the leadership in the state, not to mention of course in the federal government is going to be prepared. We are not going to see anything like what happened last time.

However, still, I mean some people are going to look at this and say, whoa, this is - you know, this is the hand of God dealing a bad hand to the Republicans, because we will all be talking while John McCain is doing - is being coronated next week as the nominee of his party. We will all be talking to the press about Katrina every single night.

COX: Certainly will be the case. I appreciate both of you coming on. We could talk more, but time just will not allow it. Marcus...

Mr. PAGE: Invite us back.

COX: I will do that for sure, next week as a matter of fact. Marcus Mabry is an editor for the New York Times and the author of "Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power." He joined us from our NPR studios in New York City. And Clarence Page is a nationally-syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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