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Democratic convention Night 2 is a 'Biden cares' package

Joe Biden with his wife, Jill Biden, in

Joe Biden with his wife, Jill Biden, in a live video feed from Delaware after delegates formally nominated him for president Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention. Credit: Pool / Getty Images / Brian Snyder

Selling the human touch

The theme for the second night of the Democratic National Convention was "Leadership Matters," and the voices and images sought to paint a stark contrast: that Joe Biden possesses the empathy to care about everyday Americans, while President Donald Trump cares about himself above all and governs that way.

Former President Bill Clinton said in a takedown of Trump's stewardship. "The Oval Office should be a command center, instead it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos,” said Clinton. "In a real crisis, it collapses like a house of cards.”

“Just one thing never changes — his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there,” Clinton said. Biden, in contrast, is a "down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy," he said.

Biden's name was put in nomination Tuesday night by a New York City security guard he befriended. "In the short time I spent with Joe Biden, I could tell he really saw me, that he actually cared, that my life meant something to him," said Jacquelyn Brittany. Cindy McCain, wife of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, spoke of their "unlikely friendship." But the most compelling testimonial came from Jill Biden, the Democratic candidate's wife, speaking from a Wilmington, Delaware, school where she once taught.

She connected the nation's heartbreaking losses from the pandemic and "the failure to protect our communities" with the personal losses the Biden family has endured. Jill Biden said of her husband: "There are times when I couldn’t imagine how he did it — how he put one foot in front of the other and kept going. But I’ve always understood why he did it. He does it for you.” Never mentioning Trump, she said, "How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding — and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith." (Watch her speech here. Read a transcript here.)

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump has diminished America's standing in the world. "When this president goes overseas, it isn't a goodwill mission, it's a blooper reel. He breaks up with our allies and writes love letters to dictators. America deserves a president who is looked up to, not laughed at," Kerry said. Accusing Trump of failing to stand up to Russia over U.S. intelligence reports of bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Kerry said, "He won’t defend our country. He doesn’t know how to defend our troops. The only person he’s interested in defending is himself."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking from the Brooklyn waterfront with the Statue of Liberty in the distance, made reference to the president's comments earlier this month about the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus. "The president should never say, ‘It is what it is,’ ” Schumer said. "America, Donald Trump has quit on you."

No more 'presumptive'

Biden became the official nominee in an unconventional manner, a roll call reinvented by necessity because the coronavirus prevented an arena gathering.

Instead, the vote was conducted remotely in a video travelogue of 57 states and territories, with a diverse assortment of delegates announcing each tally. Some were politicians, but there also were a fisherman from Alaska, a farmer in Kansas and a bricklayer in Missouri. Rhode Island pitched itself as the “calamari comeback state” to promote a native seafood appetizer.

The nominating process was the forum for a one-minute appearance by progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx-Queens) — on behalf of runner-up Bernie Sanders. She affirmed allegiance to Biden in a follow-up tweet.

Responding to Republican razzing over her short time allotment, Ocasio pointed to her social media savvy as a sign she'd make the most of it. "If I can regularly roast Trump sycophants in 280 characters or less, I can speak to progressive values in 60 secs," she tweeted earlier Tuesday.

Trump's over/under review

It was inevitable that Trump would find some way to hit back at Michelle Obama's blistering convention speech from Monday night. His line of attack was unexpected.

Criticizing the address for being pretaped, Trump on Tuesday pointed out "she had the wrong deaths." The former first lady, who recorded her speech earlier this month, spoke of "more than 150,000" lives lost in the U.S. "because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long." The U.S. death toll has now surpassed 170,000. Why Trump would want to focus on that is a mystery, but — in a phrase that both he and Michelle Obama have now used with vastly different meanings — it is what it is.

Cody Keenan, the chief speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, tweeted: "I can confirm @BarackObama will have the most up-to-date figures for his turn tomorrow night."

The former first lady decried Trump's governance as "chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy." Urging Americans to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, she called Trump "the wrong president for our country," she said, and "he is clearly in over his head." (Read a transcript of Michelle Obama's speech.)

Trump's response? "She was over her head," he said of Michelle Obama. "I thought her speech was very divisive." He went on to say: "I wouldn't be in the White House except for Barack Obama. Because they did a bad job — Biden and Obama. And if they did a good job, I wouldn't be here; I'd be building buildings someplace and having a good time."

Postmaster general in retreat

A public uproar, a crush of lawsuits and pressure from Capitol Hill delivered a message that Trump-allied Postmaster General Louis DeJoy couldn't ignore. DeJoy announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics blamed for widespread delays and warned could disrupt the November election.

"To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," DeJoy said in a statement. He also asserted that “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are” and “overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed." 

That may not be good enough to satisfy critics who want him to put the already-removed equipment and mailboxes back where they were and an end to the disruptions already occurring. According to Military.com, while the Veterans Affairs Department played down reports of delayed deliveries of prescriptions, Disabled American Veterans national commander Stephen "Butch" Whitehead said the VA confirmed to his group that such delays are running at almost 25% of total deliveries in the past year.

Trump inflamed fears last week when he said he would block funding meant to help the Postal Service cope with losses, as part of his drive to stop mail-in voting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing ahead with Saturday’s vote to prevent election-year mail changes and provide emergency postal funds. A group of Democratic state attorneys general announced they were filing lawsuits over the changes at the USPS.

DeJoy has been called to testify at a Senate hearing Friday and a House hearing next week.

Janison: Russia connivance no hoax

An exhaustive bipartisan report three years in the making by the Republican-run Senate Intelligence Committee explodes Trump's myth that allegations of links between his 2016 campaign and Russians running dirty-tricks operations to help him were fake witch hunts, write Newsday's Dan Janison.

The final Senate report documented many contacts between the Trump campaign and allies of the Kremlin. One of them was Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of Trump's convicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The report plainly identified Kilimnik as a “Russian intelligence officer.” This tie posed a “grave counterintelligence threat," the report said.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president,” the report states.

It portrayed the Trump campaign as eager to accept help from a foreign power in 2016. As for Trump telling former special counsel Robert Mueller in written answers that he didn't recall hearing from confidant Roger Stone about pending dumps of hacked Democratic documents through WikiLeaks, the Senate panel didn't believe him.

"Despite Trump's recollection, the committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his campaign about Stone's access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions," the report said.

Biden: Trump's no genius

Biden said in Zoom meetings with the Florida and Pennsylvania delegations that his thinking on Trump's failings have changed from believing "he was just mean-spirited" to "it’s because he’s just not smart enough to know what to do."

Earlier, during a fundraiser with actor Tom Hanks, an early coronavirus survivor, Biden ripped the president's frequent indifference to mask-wearing.

“This appeal to this macho notion, 'I'm not wearing a mask,' … this is just the most irrational, illogical and egotistical exercise I’ve ever seen a president enter into,” the Democratic candidate said. Blaming Trump for the depth and length of the crisis, Biden said, "We can’t go on like this, like the president’s had us do, half recovering, half getting worse, half wearing masks, half denying science, half of a plan, half hoping for the best.”

Coming Wednesday

The spotlight will be on Kamala Harris on the third night of the convention Wednesday, part of a program that focuses on women and touts a political party that’s become more inclusive than its rival, reports Newsday's Yancey Roy.

Harris, the California senator, will give her first speech as the party’s nominee for vice president. Other featured speeches will be delivered by Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Barack Obama also is expected to deliver a powerful address to revive the “Obama coalition” that drove his victories in 2008 and 2012.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond from Newsday staff, written by Lisa L. Colangelo and Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Five of the six members of the Postal Service’s board of governors are linked to GOP and Trump circles through various campaign, legal and financial connections, CNBC reports. The chairman, Robert Duncan, is listed as a director of American Crossroads, a super PAC that’s backing Trump in the 2020 election.
  • Trump granted a posthumous pardon Tuesday to women’s rights pioneer Susan B. Anthony, who was arrested in 1872 and fined $100 for casting a ballot when women could not vote. The Washington Post reports that historians who have studied Anthony’s life say the suffragist would not have wanted a pardon because the conviction was a point of pride for her. She died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th Amendment — ratified 100 years ago Tuesday — gave women voting rights. 
  • Viewership of the Democratic convention's first night on the major commercial networks and cable news channels was down 28% from four years ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. Audience data was not available for how many people watched on PBS and C-SPAN, which also carried the proceedings, or on streaming platforms.
  • The St. Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their mansion in June have accepted an invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention next week.
  • Pelosi indicated that Democrats might cut their stimulus proposal to seal a deal with Republicans and speed COVID-19 relief, then come back after the November elections with additional agenda items. "We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now,” though her spokesman Drew Hammill later said that she meant meeting Republicans “halfway, not cutting our bill in half.”
  • Trump tweeted during the Democratic convention his irritation over the constant reminders of the pandemic: "Tell the Dems that we have more Cases because we do FAR more Testing than any other Country!" Which still makes no sense. The cases would be there, whether detected or not. Testing is a vital tool to limit the spread.
  • Joe Lhota, the Republican who ran for New York City mayor in 2013 and was a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, tweeted an endorsement of Biden on Tuesday night. "America has the greatest Health Care in the World and the misguided belief that Health Care is not a right. We need to fix this in November." Lhota is currently an executive vice president for NYU Langone Health.

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