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Democratic convention platform debacle: How much will it matter?

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

(Read caption) Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa calls for a vote to amend the platform at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

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It’s a good thing for Democrats that former President Clinton gave such a memorable speech last night. Because in the absence of that, the biggest headline coming out of Wednesday might not have been a positive one.

We’re referring, of course, to the debacle over the party platform. Now this might seem like a tempest in a teapot – after all, who reads party platforms, anyway? But it was a big, fat gift to Republicans that could actually linger for a while (certainly, the right-wing blogosphere isn’t going to let it go away anytime soon).

For those who haven’t been following all the drama, the mess started Tuesday, when right-wing outlets noticed that this year’s Democratic platform for the first time did not include any references to God, or to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Never mind that the 2008 Democratic platform’s sole reference to God was a throwaway line about “God-given potential.” Or that this year’s Republican platform also seemed to soften its position on Jerusalem. (It did call Jerusalem “the capital of Israel,” but it dropped language from the 2008 platform calling for the US Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem). Republicans still pounced.

Democrats called the changes an unintentional “technical omission,” but were clearly thrown on the defensive. "If the narrative being presented on your station ... is the Democrats are godless people, they ought to know better," Sen. Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois blustered on Fox News. But of course, that's exactly the point: Republicans have exploited the image of Democrats as "godless" for decades – and in this case, Democrats gave them an opening to do it again.

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