DENVER Dwight Eisenhower was speaking of war when he said: "Plans are everything -- before the battle is joined. Once it begins, plans are worthless."
But he might also have been speaking of the 2008 version of the Demolition Democrats.
The best-laid plan for a come-to-Jesus unity gathering here in the Rockies got off to a rocky start. Emotional though it was, the Ted Kennedy appearance Monday night never hit the crescendo organizers expected. And Michelle Obama's speech, while presenting an all-American portrait of the Obama family, drew decidedly mixed reviews otherwise.
It's not that there's a lack of energy among the delegates at the cavernous Pepsi Center. It's that much of it is being wasted on the blame game.
Pick an image of in-house fussin' and feudin' and it fits Dems like a glove. Circular firing squad, shootout in a lifeboat, Hatfields and McCoys, civil war.
The Dems came here to whip up the faithful against those evil Republicans, but they're spending an awful lot of bile on each other.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are, naturally, at the center of the discord. There is ample evidence to bolster the suspicion that neither would be heartbroken if Barack Obama lost to John McCain.
Yet their bold mischief would be made irrelevant if they were Obama's only problems. He has others, namely his own liberal background and thin resume, and the Clintons are exploiting the doubts about him that many Americans harbor.
All of which made Joe Biden's speech last night a key test of whether Obama can establish firm control over the convention and the party. While it is unusual to put such a burden on a running mate's speech, especially with Obama himself being such a gifted orator, the Clinton drama is raising the stakes on even lesser acts.
In a nutshell, Biden still has to persuade many Democrats that he, and not Hillary, deserved to be on the ticket. Frankly, it's still an open question, given the fact that her primary vote dwarfed Biden's. For many of her supporters, he got the spot through affirmative action for white men.
If the convention ends with significant grumbling that Obama goofed in his first and most important decision, the general election becomes an even-greater uphill battle.
Biden's challenge is complicated by timing. With Hillary speaking last night and Bill before him tonight, Biden will take the stage in a sea of Billary memories and emotions.
Can he tame them? Can he focus the energies back on McCain? Can he get the delegates, some of whom will have just had their cathartic moment of voting for Hillary, thinking of the future and not the past?
Equally important, can Biden avoid the gaffes and bombast that often taint his talent?
Those are not small challenges. Although the convention is a made-for-TV event, an infomercial for the Democratic product, it will fail on the small screen if the delegates in the hall are bored, distracted or unimpressed. Even phony energy, ramped up on cue, generally plays well on TV and is always preferable to no energy.
To get the adrenaline surging, expect Biden to become Joe the Butcher and serve up heaping slabs of red meat. Look for him to slice and dice the Bush years, tie McCain to every real failure and a host of imagined ones and to push every partisan button.
Although he will make continued efforts to "normalize" Obama as a mainstream American patriot, Biden's role as designated hit man against the GOP doesn't give him a lot of wiggle room. It's draw Bush and McCain blood, lots of it, or flop.
The slaughterhouse scenario won't be pretty, but it's the only way for Biden to make a real contribution toward uniting the party and proving he belongs on the ticket.