WASHINGTON WATCH: The Impact Of The August Jobs Report & The DEM Convention On The Election (VIDEO)

What a week in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Democratic National Convention! Will Friday’s jobs report, the convention and the speeches have a major impact on the 2012 election?

This weeks Washington Watch roundtable features Joan Walsh, editor at large for Salon.com; Armstrong Williams, political commentator and host of “The Armstrong Williams Show;” political scientist Wilmer Leon, host of “Inside the Issues” on Sirius XM Radio; Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for “The Atlantic.”

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

What a week in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Democratic National Convention!  A lot more color than there was in Tampa – and I’m not talkin’ about the grass.

I was on the floor for three, great political speeches.  And with Friday’s jobs report, will the convention and the speeches affect the election?  We’ll talk the jobs report with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis later in the show, but right now let’s get to the political impact of all these factors with our “Washington Watch” roundtable.

Joining me is a newbie to our panel, Joan Walsh, editor at large for Salon.com com.  We will haze her appropriately on this show.

MS. JOAN WALSH:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Armstrong Williams, political commentator and host of “The Armstrong Williams Show,” who normally has a pocket square – but he screwed up this week.


MR. MARTIN:  There’s political scientist Wilmer Leon, host of “Inside the Issues” on Sirius XM Radio.  He desperately needs one.

MR. WILMER LEON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  His stitching probably is – [unintelligible] – popped in his pocket.  And Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for “The Atlantic.”

Steve, you get a reprieve.

I need y’all to get a shot of Steve’s socks –

MR. STEVE CLEMONS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — because he got a little creative this week with the socks, so he gets a reprieve –


MR. MARTIN:  — from being chastised by me.

MS. WALSH:  Nice!

MR. MARTIN:  But – damn – he needs a tan!

MS. WALSH:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

MR. CLEMONS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Let’s get – let’s get right to it.

Michelle Obama, Pres. Bill Clinton, Vice Pres. Biden, Pres. Obama.  You throw in Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.  You throw in Jennifer Granholm.  Strong week for the Democrats –

MS. WALSH:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — at the convention.

MS. WALSH:  Absolutely.  I was in Tampa, and I was in Charlotte, and there was no comparison in the level of excitement.  I mean Republicans very much want to defeat this president, but they are not in love with their candidate.  Those people in Charlotte are in love with their candidate – and with their whole roster of stars.  And, you know, John Lewis gave an amazing speech.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MS. WALSH:  I mean the speeches that weren’t prime-time were riveting, were – were holding people in their chairs much more than in Tampa.  People were drinking and milling about and ex- — I shouldn’t say that, but they were –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MS. WALSH:  — un- — until, you know, the – until the big spee- — whatever the one, big – or two, big speeches were.

MR. MARTIN:  Al- —

MS. WALSH:  And that wasn’t true at –

MR. MARTIN:  — also, I made the point on Twitter that [it was] not jealousy that’s evil or whatever, but I do believe the Republicans really wish they had a living president who could come out and bring the stature to their convention.  Obviously, Pres. George H.W. Bush [has] health concerns, [which is] why he’s not out there.  Pres. George W. Bush – too toxic for the GOP.  There’s always something about having a living president from your party able to address your convention, to be able to bring that sort of statesman role.  And Bill Clin- — Pres. Bill Clinton, I think, served it – served it very well when he spoke.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well, Pres. Obama needed that, given his credibility among the people that were excited – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  So, why did –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — did he need it?  Because, remember, Pres. Clinton spoke in 2008.  So, it’s not like this was, like, a shocker or something.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Pres. Clinton did a very good job, as history will tell, navigating the economy, compromising with Republicans, passing welfare reform and balancing the budget.   You cannot ignore that.  He has credibility as a president.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  The – you know, the – you’re right.  The – the Republicans were not having a love affair with Mitt Romney in Tampa – I was at both conventions – because you know what?  The American people are not having a love a- — love affair that’s going to really decide this election with any candidate.  If you notice, no matter how many speeches – great speeches that[’re] given at folks’ comi- — -ventions, there’s still a dead heat, deadlock.

MR. MARTIN:  Actually – actually, on that point, Gallup released their p- — they’re showing [a] 2- to 3-point bounce.  We didn’t see that last week.  That says something about how effective the Democrats were this week.

MR. CLEMONS:  Oh, they – I think they were really very, very effective here.  And there be – could be a little bit of slippage.

I think what was interesting when I listened to Pres. Clinton on the floor is you heard someone walk through all the reasons why America should be proud of what Barack Obama has achieved.  And if you step back, you think, “Wow.  Pres. Obama’s team has not been able” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. CLEMONS:  — “to tell that story.”  It was a bit of an indictment of the Obama machine.

That said, I think that Michelle Obama was amazing, but – but Clinton did something.  He said, “I’m still the master.”  And when you see the essentially – maybe a temporary alliance between the Clinton franchise and the Obama franchise, that’s a very powerful machine.  And when you were in – in Tampa, it – it was a mess, and you did see this antipathy that many Republicans have for their leadership.

MR. MARTIN:  I want to play some of the First Lady’s speech, and we’ll talk about it.  Here we go.


FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA:  Truth matters – tha- —


MS. OBAMA:  — that you don’t take shortcuts –


MS. OBAMA:  — or play by your own set of rules.


MS. OBAMA:  When people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, he – he’s the same man –


MS. OBAMA:  — who – who started his career by turning down high-paying jobs and, instead, working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work – because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make.  It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.


MS. OBAMA:  After so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could’ve imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are.  No, it – it reveals who you are.



MR. MARTIN:  Wilmer, somewhere Ann Romney was saying, “Oo-oo-oh, that woman is goo-ood!”


MR. LEON:  Everybody was –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. LEON:  — saying that.

MS. WALSH:  Yeah.

MR. LEON:  And what’s very interesting in the First Lady’s narrative is that it was a consistent theme throughout the entire convention, throughout the speeches.

When you listened to the Republican convention, they were off script.  Chris Christie is – is auditioning for 2016.  Clint Eastwood turned the convention into a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

MR. MARTIN:  Ma- — Sen. Marco Rubio – some people said that he was revealing his story, but also –

MR. LEON:  Exa- —

MR. MARTIN:  — a lot –

MR. LEON:  — he wa- —

MR. MARTIN:  — about him versus –

MR. LEON:  — exactly.

MS. WALSH:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — right.

MR. LEON:  Not – not about the candidate.

But one of the things that kept, I think, so many people in tune to the Democratic convention – first of all, the – the speeches themselves were incredible, but there was a consistent theme that ran from Monday through Thursday.

MR. MARTIN:  I want –

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — to g- —

MR. WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — I wanna get –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — you g- — go ahead.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — let me just say this.  You know, I find it amazing that you’re going to try to convince the American people that the Republican convention had nothing to say; it was boring.  When I made my comment that they did not have a – a love affair with Mitt Romney, there was incredible enthusiasm and respect and honor for this man.  They want leadership.  They don’t want a beauty contest.  They want substance.  They don’t –

MR. LEON:  But here’s –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — want style.

MR. LEON:  — the problem.  Here’s the problem –

MR. WILLIAMS:  The R- — Condoleezza –

MR. LEON:  — with that.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — Rice was very effective.

MS. WALSH:  She was.

MR. WILLIAMS:  You cannot –

MS. WALSH:  That was the best –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — ignore that!

MR. LEON:  She –

MS. WALSH:  — that was the –

MR. LEON:  — was the –

MS. WALSH:  — best –

MR. LEON:  — only one.


MS. WALSH:  — she was.  That –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — you didn’t mention

MR. LEON:  You can’t –

MS. WALSH:  — was amazing.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — her!

MR. LEON:  — you –

MR. WILLIAMS:  You – you –

MR. LEON:  — cannot –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — seem to have forgotten –

MR. MARTIN:  A- — actually –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — about her.

MR. MARTIN:  — actually, we talked about her last week.

MR. LEON:  — you can –

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.

MR. LEON:  — you cannot win – or, it’s very, very difficult to win an election when your narrative is the negative.  We –

MS. WALSH:  Yeah.

MR. LEON:  – coming out of the Republican convention, outside of Condoleezza Rice, we have no idea what Mitt Romney is for.  We know what he’s against.  We know what Paul Ryan is against.  When you listen to the narrative on the Democratic side from Monday through Thursday, you got a clear understanding of what the Democratic Party is about.

MR. WILLIAMS:  I think most people in this country [have] a clear understanding of what the Republican Party is about –

MR. LEON:  It wasn’t –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — and – and –

MR. LEON:  — articulated last –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — and I think –

MR. LEON:  — week.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — it was well articulated.  It depends on who was listening.

MR. LEON:  No.  You know what –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Yeah – [crosstalk] –

MR. LEON:  — it –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk].

MR. LEON:  — no.  We know what they’re about.  They’re –


MR. LEON:  — about the negative – not about –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Are you saying –

MR. LEON:  — the positive.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — the Obama campaign is not negative?  Come on!  Who do you think you’re –

MR. LEON:  No.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — fooling!

MR. LEON:  What I –

MR. WILLIAMS:  They all are –

MR. LEON:  — that’s n- —

MR. WILLIAMS:  — negative!

MR. LEON:  — that’s not


MR. WILLIAMS:  They all

MR. MARTIN:  [Crosstalk] – but – but –

MR. LEON:  — what I said.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — are negative.

MR. MARTIN:  — but –

MR. LEON:  That’s not at all what I –

MR. MARTIN:  — but –

MR. LEON:  — said, and you know

MR. MARTIN:  — but – but –

MR. LEON:  — that’s not what I said.

MR. MARTIN:  — but, Joan and Steve, when you check polling numbers, Romney’s negative numbers [are] far higher than the –

MS. WALSH:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — President’s.  The President’s likability numbers [are] far higher than Romney’s.  That plays a role in how people vote, because when it – when it comes down to – if you say, “I think both of you are alike.  Who do I like the most?”

MS. WALSH:  Well – and also, “Who cares about me?”  And that’s the other thing that polls have consistently shown – is that when people are asked that question – they may be worried about the economy.  They may not be entirely happy, but the specific question, “Who cares about me?” – “Who empathizes with me?”  “Who will take care of me and my family?” – Barack Obama is off the charts.  Mitt Romney – and that’s the –

MR. MARTIN:  O- — o- —

MS. WALSH:  — thing that was so effective about Michelle Obama – the First Lady’s speech – is that she was showing you a picture of people who’ve struggled.  Her father –

MR. MARTIN:  — right.

MS. WALSH:  — that story, Barack, his single mother, the grandmother who hit the glass ceiling.

When the Romneys – and Ann Romney, in particular – talked about struggle, it was as though – economic struggle; I know they have struggled – it was as though it was a story that had been told to them by someone else, not something that they had lived.  And I thought that that’s – the – the Democrats really got that empathy that, I think, bolsters Pres. Obama’s –


MS. WALSH:  — numbers.

MR. MARTIN:  [Crosstalk] — ho- — hold on one second.  I want to play some of what the President said, because it – it goes right into what you just talked about.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world’s ever known.  But we also believe in something called “citizenship” –


PRES. OBAMA:  — a word at the very essence of our democracy.  My fellow citizens, you’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage.  You did that!


PRES. OBAMA:  You’re the reason a young man in Colorado, who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree, is about to get that chance.  You made that possible.  You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home –


PRES. OBAMA:  — why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love –


PRES. OBAMA:  — why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely, “Welcome home.”

You did that!



MR. MARTIN:  Steve, the last time I recall any Democrat effectively breaking down the argument of “we, the people” was Congresswoman Barbara Jordan at the Watergate hearings when she said, “I wasn’t included in that original document, but I’m now included in ‘we, the people.’”  That’s all I heard from many of the speakers there –

MS. WALSH:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  — really leaning on that “we, the people.”

MR. CLEMONS:  They want to expand the participants in the electoral game.  That’s what they did last time, and that’s how they won the election.  They’re trying to reach out to confused Americans, stressed-out Americans and new Americans who haven’t participated before and bring them in.  You heard exactly the same kind of line – I would argue even more effectively – from Michelle Obama, who talked about not – ‘My husband’s not just about Democrats.  He’s about the’ – you know, ‘have-’ – ‘haven’t decided,’ and – and really trying to sort of create a much larger – larger tent.

And – and to Armstrong’s point, some Republicans did this in Tampa, but not nearly in the same level and degree that you felt throughout the Democratic convention.

MR. MARTIN:  I was even stunned, frankly, that the Democrats for the first time truly ma- — truly outshined the Republicans when it came to foreign policy and the military.

MS. WALSH:  That’s a big change.

OFF CAMERA:  Oh.  Amazing.

MR. MARTIN:  I mean I was –


MR. MARTIN:  — surprised by that.

MR. LEON:  Well, that’s because –


MR. LEON:  — Mitt has no experience, nor does Paul Ryan –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. LEON:  — and – and you’ve got a sitting president that has gotten Osama bin Laden and been through two wars.