Times Lauds "Hero" Kennedy, Downplays Michelle Obama's "Proud" Gaffe

The Times opens up the Democratic Convention and sees optimism for the party.

The first night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver was crowned a success in a two-column lead headline on the front of Tuesday's New York Times:

Appeals Evoking American Dream Rallying Democrats

Coverage in Tuesday's printeditionseems relatively thin (naturally onlinecoverage isbeefed-up from 2004,thanks tothe paper'sfrequently updated political blog "The Caucus").

Nagourney led with Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is suffering from a brain tumor but made it to Denver to make an emotional appeal to the Democrats. Although Kennedy's very appeal to his party is as a throwback to old-time liberalism, Nagourney's lead story didn't contain an ideological label. The only liberal label for Kennedy in the print edition came in a story by Jackie Calmes,in which Kennedywas seen as "more liberal" than his then-rival Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Nagourney touched on Michelle Obama's well-received speech and in the fourth-to-last paragraph of his lead story brought up Michelle Obama's notorious "proud" comment from earlier this year, in which she told a Wisconsin crowd that her husband's success meant that "for the first time in my life I am proud of my country." Nagourney argued that "her speech seemed designed to address that; she repeatedly spoke of her pride in America."

Jodi Kantor's feature story, "Michelle Obama, Now a Softer Presence, Takes Center Stage," didn't mention the "proud" gaffe at all, glancing by the controversy by saying she was a "softer, smoother presence on the trail than she was at the start of the race" and that she continues

...to refashion her occasionally harsh public image in warmer tones. Her basic message - the stirring life story, the full-throated advocacy for her husband, the maternal warmth - has remained constant. But instead of laying down challenges to her audiences, she solicits their concerns and showers them with empathy.

In June, Kantor defended Michelle Obama's comment against conservative critics, dismissing her "proud" gaffe as a mere "rhetorical stumble," and claming that cable news overplayed it "in an endless loop of outrage."

Surprisingly, the Times matched Nagourney's lead story with a front-page story one from Jim Rutenberg, "An Opponents Take the Stage, So Does G.O.P." on the "Swat team of Republican operatives dispatched to crash Senator Barack Obama's party" while noting two new McCain ads reaching out to disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters. Rutenberg also noted that the Democrats are planning the same thing for the Republican conclave in St. Paul. Reporter Patrick Healy delivered a "political memo" on the "embittered private drama" between the Clinton and Obama camps.

"For Some, Echoes of a Distant Past," Michael Powell's online Tuesday story on Ted Kennedy , was the most fawning, allowing Kennedy groupie Barbara Rom and conventioneer to call him a hero and a "real man."

Nearly three decades ago, Barbara Rom listened as her hero, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, gave a soaring speech at the Democratic Convention.

He had fallen in defeat in the 1980 Democratic primary to President Jimmy Carter, but his speech was luminous and defiant. And as Mr. Kennedy's words still echoed, she remembers, the men around her, laborers with the United Auto Workers, hurtled to their feet.

"These are fairly hard-nosed men and as they jumped to their feet these large hefty men were" - she pauses as she recollects - "crying."

On Monday night, Mrs. Rom, a delegate from Michigan, was the one in tears, as Mr. Kennedy, ailing with a brain tumor and buffeted by radiation and chemotherapy, journeyed perhaps a last time to the lectern of a Democratic convention. And once again the ailing senator brought 20,000 people in the arena to its feet for a sustained ovation.

Powell did identify Kennedy as a liberal (though not a "liberal lion" in the usual MSM parlance).

"For me, this is a season of hope," he told the crowd. "This is what we do. We scale the heights, we reach the moon."

There is a convention the feel of a ceaseless party, delegates tapping beach balls and boogalooing in the aisles. But Ted Kennedy is the perennial favorite uncle to this Democratic crowd, and the sight of him brought many to tears.

That speech in New York City was 28 years ago, and as time is remorseless, not many delegates now were there. But J. Paul Taylor, blue-eyed and lean and 88 years old, sat in the New Mexico delegation and Monday afternoon recalled the man he heard speak nearly three decades ago.

Mr. Taylor, a former state legislator from Mesilla, was a Kennedy man, an idealist, as committed to his liberal candidate was to the business of tossing out the incumbent President Carter and taking the liberal lance to Ronald Reagan.

"He gave a great speech" - Mr. Taylor balled his fists - "with a lot of gusto. He showed to me what a real man was, what a real liberal was."

Rom reflected back to 1980:

Ms. Rom mentioned much the same, the sight of that man with a full-head of dark hair and those piercing Irish looks conceding defeat after a bruising primary season. And then he gave a speech that is often numbered among the top 100 speeches in American history.