Catching up on a tidbit from Monday night’s coverage, CNN co-anchor Anderson Cooper actually wondered aloud whether the evening’s line-up of Democratic speakers -- Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Jr. -- was “too liberal” to attract independent voters. Usually, the networks never even label Democratic speakers, while constantly berating Republican speakers as extreme or right-wing, so this is either a refreshing change of pace, or a sign that Democrats have gone way over the edge if even CNN is worrying about a “too liberal” convention.
Responding to that suggestion, CNN analyst David Gergen admired how “Jimmy Carter has won a Nobel Peace Prize here recently. He's one of the two Democrats speaking at this convention -- Al Gore being the other -- who won Nobel Peace Prizes. That must be a first in history.” But, previewing Democratic consultant James Carville’s complaint two hours later, Gergen decried how the Democrats “have offered almost no substance” in their convention program: “We’ve had very little that's been compelling thus far.”
A few minutes earlier, the panel had been wondering aloud why former President Carter had not spoken, although he had starred in a convention video that CNN showed for several minutes. The video featured Carter’s scornful attack that hurricane Katrina showed “the world that our own government couldn’t take care of our own people.”
One of the most vivid lessons that we saw after Katrina was a sharp distinction in the economic and social status of citizens who lived here in this devastated area with tens of thousands of suffering poor people, most of them African-American, with no care, and the federal government practically ignoring their plight. And it was not only a demonstration to Americans of the inadequacy of the support from Washington, but it sent a signal around the world that our own government couldn't take care of our own people....It's a lesson we hadn't ought ever to forget in this country. And I don't have any doubt that when we have a Democrat back in the White House this January, Barack Obama, that he will make sure that this never happens again.
Gergen was upset that Carter hadn’t spoken live: “I think he should have been given the stage.”
Shortly after 9pm EDT, Anderson Cooper tried to pose the question of the Democrats’ “too liberal” line-up to conservative radio host Bill Bennnett, but wound up tossing it to GOP consultant Alex Castellanos who was apparently the only right-leaning analyst available:
ANDERSON COOPER: I want to go to some of our panelists in New York who have been following this convention along with us, in particular, some of the Republicans -- Bill Bennett.
What do you think the message that this convention tonight is sending out to Independents, to people around the United States?
I mean within this auditorium -- Alex Castellanos is there, I'm told. Within this auditorium, Alex, obviously, Jimmy Carter plays very well. Senator Kennedy plays very well. You had Jesse Jackson, Jr. speaking earlier.
But are they sending out too liberal a message on this, the opening night of this convention?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, if you did a ballot question -- if you asked the American people if they were going to vote today for John McCain or Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter probably wouldn't do so well. And that's the same thing with, I think, you know, John McCain versus Nancy Pelosi, or versus -- even Ted Kennedy, as much respect as I think we all have for him. You know, this is a very liberal evening for the Democrats. And I think that's what we're -- that's not necessarily the message, I think, that the convention wants to put out.
COOPER: David Gergen, do you think that's a mistake on the part of the Democrats?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN ANALYST: Yes. And I think for a couple of things.
First of all, Jimmy Carter has won a Nobel Peace Prize here recently. He's one of the two Democrats speaking at this convention -- Al Gore being the other -- who won Nobel Peace Prizes. That must be a first in history. And I think he should have been given the stage.
But more to the point, Anderson, what really has surprised me so far is that we're two hours into this and the Democrats have offered almost no substance for television purposes. You know, we've had very little that's been compelling thus far. I'm sure this is working well in the hall and the excitement in the hall is palpable, you know, in the coverage.
But for the large television audience that's watching and waiting to hear what the message is, to get two hours into a convention -- you know, it is really stunning to me. And I think -- having worked on the choreography of these before, you need to grab people's attention with a message early on and then build to your 10:00 hour, not let these hours sort of get frittered away in a lot of hoopla, which is -- you know, it's fun and interesting, but I don't think it's compelling.