Obama has finally started to get a modest bounce out of his convention. Senator Biden gave a stirring speech, rhetorically effective both in its attack of John McCain and in its praise of Barack Obama. Moreover, Biden’s address was a considerable improvement upon Senator Clinton’s in that he hailed specific legislative accomplishments. Senator Clinton’s praise for the nominee could have been given to any generic democratic candidate. She did not give Obama specific praise (other than noting his proven ability to draw a crowd and create excitement). In other words, she didn’t go far in undoing the most damaging claim against him: that he brings insufficient experience to the job of Commander in Chief. Both Biden and President Clinton were more pointed in their support last night: by highlighting accomplishments, they raised Obama’s credibility. So now Obama has a modest bounce.
But while the loquacious Senator Biden heaped praised last night, I kept wondering: Are Obama’s accomplishments being exaggerated? If not, why is this the first I’ve heard of them? Karl Rove examines the vice presidential candidate’s remarks, both on Saturday (at his first rally with Obama) and last night at the Democratic Convention:
…Saturday and again Wednesday night, Mr. Biden also praised Mr. Obama for three specific legislative accomplishments. One of them was an ethics bill, called by Mr. Biden in his acceptance speech “the most sweeping in a generation.” However, many critics–including Hillary Clinton–criticized it as weak. For example, under Mr. Obama’s bill, lobbyists may buy politicians meals if they are eating standing up but not if they’re sitting down. Mr. Obama’s bill didn’t ban privately funded travel for congressmen or authorize an independent investigation office. But Mr. Obama did help draft, negotiate, and push the legislation that passed. The other two supposed accomplishments are more problematic.
Saturday, Mr. Biden asserted Mr. Obama “made his mark literally from day one, reaching across the aisle to pass legislation to secure the world’s deadliest weapons,” a claim similar to one Mr. Obama made earlier in the campaign. Wednesday night, Mr. Biden was more expansive, claiming Mr. Obama was a leader “to pass a law that helps keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.” This implied a big, important controversial measure, passed with difficulty after the intervention of an extraordinary leader.
In reality, the Lugar-Obama Bill was passed on a voice vote on December 11, 2006. It was so routine, there was no recorded vote. The media didn’t consider it important or controversial. Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported its Senate passage, though the Post ran a 798-word op-ed by Senators Lugar and Obama the week before it was approved. It was not the subject of a story on the CBS, ABC or NBC evening news–not when it passed, not when it was signed, not ever. No story about it appeared in Roll Call or The Hill, the daily newspapers that cover the minutiae of Congress. It drew only one squib in Congressional Quarterly–and that story didn’t mention Obama, just Lugar. The Bush administration supported it. The legislation required the administration to report to Congress within 180 days “on proliferation and interdiction assistance” to secure the mostly conventional weapons stocks littering the nations born from the collapsed Soviet empire. It created a new State Department office to support the Bush administration’s “Proliferation Security Initiative” aimed at interdicting weapons of mass destruction and conventional weaponry. And the bill authorized $110 million in funding. But this legislation didn’t require a profile in courage to co-sponsor or hard work and powerful persuasion to pass, as Mr. Biden implied.
Read the whole thing.