Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 9, 2012

George Weeks: Granholm draws raves, ridicule

BY GEORGE WEEKS, Syndicated columnist
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---- — In her warm-up speech shortly before President Barack Obama accepted nomination for a second term, ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm pumped up delegates at last week's final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Vice-President Joe Biden, the next speaker, raved: "Wasn't she great? I love Jennifer." But her six-minute pitch, well-described by CNN as "wild and woolly," drew ridicule as well as raves from the press.

In a blog, editorial page editor Nolan Finley of The Detroit News called it "one of the more bizzare performances I've ever seen. "¦ She twisted, she shouted, she jumped and she jabbed her hands in the air as her face contorted and grew ever more red. She looked like someone possessed."-- maybe, he suggested, by Biden, " her long time admirer. Or maybe she had a squirrel up her pant leg." Frank Beckman of Detroit radio station WJR blogged that she was "totally unhinged." In Detroit Free Press coverage, political writer Kathleen Gray said Granholm "wildly gestured and winked and pointed fingers and hopped at the podium.

"This, wrote Gray, was "much to the delight of her audience," which gave her a standing ovation at the end. "Thunderous applause" headlined the News.

On Saturday, in reporting on all the coverage on social media, headlined that she was viewed "'round the world." "The stem-winder of the day," said a Wall Street Journal report.

One segment on CNN headlined that Granholm was "firing on all cylinders," and suggested she had "A Howard Dean moment"-- a reference to the former long-ago Democratic presidential contender who had a memorable "Dean scream" at the end of a public appearance.

The CNN anchor also quipped that it might have been the Democratic version of a "Clint Eastwood moment"-- a reference to the actor's weird speech-turned-viral sensation at the Republican National Convention.

Granholm's delivery was indeed unusual for the former two-term governor known as a poised and polished communicator. But Granholm, who now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley and hosts a California-based political show on Al Gore's Current TV network, met the Obama campaign wish that she fire up the troops and trumpet the federal $84 billion auto industry bailout.

She said Obama "made the tough calls and saved the American auto industry." Detroit News writer David Shepardson said there was no mention by convention speakers that the first $25 billion of the bailout was approved by President George W. Bush in the final weeks of his term.

Granholm's high-profile role has sparked renewed speculation that she might join the Obama's administration if there is a second term.

Dr. Dan vs. Farmer Gary

The congressional battle in Michigan's northernmost district is high priority for both national parties and has prompted dueling saturation TV ads by and for 1st District freshman Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and ex-state Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard.

In the rematch of the 2010 battle between surgeon Benishek and hay farmer McDowell, both are putting heavy ad emphasis on their vocations.

In his first ad, Benishek said, "career politicians can't fix Washington, but a doctor can." He has branded McDowell a career politician. Benishek appears in his latest ad wearing hospital garb, with a stethoscope draped on his neck, as others praise him, including a woman who says he "saved my husband's life." McDowell, appearing in his ad while farm hands move bales of hay in the background, said, "Washington can learn a thing or two from a hay farmer. And I'm going to make them listen." His ad asserts "no one is Washington is looking out for Northern Michigan"-- a curious contention by a Democrat since Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow represent all of Michigan in Washington.

Asked about this in a conference call with reporters, McDowell said Benishek is who "that's directed at."

In addition to the candidates' own well-crafted ads, the congressional campaign committees of the parties are running ads on their behalf. The League of Conservation Voters also has a spot criticizing Benishek for voting "with corporate polluters" and praising McDowell as a "fighter" for the Great Lakes.

Stupak miffed

After nine terms, 1st District Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, did not seek reelection in 2010. In his last term, pro-life Stupak held out against backing Obamacare but played a high profile crucial role in March of 2010 working out a compromise with the White House on abortion language that led to passage but has now been abandoned.

As recalled by the Washington Examiner, "He insisted that an amendment he co-sponsored to ensure that the individual mandate for insurance coverage didn't result in public funding for abortions remain in the bill despite objections from abortion-rights Democrats.

"Support for the bill was so thin that his backing was crucial for House passage. After many negotiations with the administration — and a heaping amount of pressure from his fellow Democrats — Stupak signed off on a deal that included an Executive Order from the president essentially restating the his amendment's language." But the Examiner said that at a Democratic convention sponsored by Democrats for Life, a pro-life group, Stupak lamented that the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services had walked away from the deal. He said:

"I am perplexed and disappointed that, having negotiated the Executive Order with the President, not only does the HHS mandate violate the Executive Order but it also violates statutory law."