Mile High Letdown
Obama's non-memorable speech.
I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
MLK grafs also good. But not enough like those; 4) Gave voters little sense that he understands and can master the pressures--bureaucratic imperatives, unions, civil service rules-- that have often caused previous idealistic liberal presidents to fall short while sucking up taxpayer dollars. The only sentence addressing this concern (that I heard) was;
I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Actually, this sentence suggests he doesn't understand the problem. "Twentieth century bureaucracy" wasn't very effective at meeting twentieth century challenges; 5) The one carefully non-controversial mention of immigration was met with ... silence; 6) In general, Obama went all euphemistic and vague when discussing controversial domestic topics. On education, for example, he wants "higher standards and more accountability." What you mean "accountability"? Nothing here with the bite of his 2004 putdown of "the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." The implied message about Obama's character is that he's a bit of a wimp, at least in public. Or at least he chose to be a bit of a wimp on an occasion when he didn't have to; 7) Why the slow, angsty movie-music at the end? I thought someone in the Politburo had died. 8) Some of the professionals' doubts about the move to an outdoor setting were validated. The confetti immediately blew to one side of the stage and got tangled in the exploding Barackopolis, where it looked like a Halloween spider's web. Symbol of overreach! 9) Didn't you want to see Obama, more than previous nominees, "validated" by being surrounded by other more familiar Dems in the traditional group greet-and-hug scene (in which they implicitly both approve him and show that he will have support)?** Instead, he asks us to buy him as the unknown loner savior, striding on and off the stage with just his family and running mate. It's a tougher sale, and an unnecessary one I think. ...
**--Of course, then Hillary and Bill might have been up there. Still, it would be in a subordinate role. ...
P.S.: I'm not saying the speech won't help him. I expect it will. I'm saying it seemed flat. ... 8/29 Update: Bounce. ...
P.P.S.: Peggy Noonan notes the lack of "humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy." ... Michael Goodwin saw a mismatch between the speech and the stage. And the speech might have seemed better if the setting hadn't raised expectations of a monumental performance. ... Jeremy Lott: "This address was not nearly as good as his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. His lines this time ran from serviceable to pretty awful."
More: Obama said, "[W]hat I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes." Clever. It seems like a slap at netroots incivility. But taking positions "for political purposes" is actually a fairly honorable thing to do compared to the venality and other forms of bad faith of which politicians are routinely accused on the Web. (Think Halliburton.) And it's hardly a sacrifice for Obama to forswear this tactic. On issues where McCain has flip-flopped, such as immigration, taxes and torture--Obama plans to make precisely the opposite charge anyway: that McCain's new position reflects McCain's real views. Of course, McCain probably actually took these new positions "for political purposes"--but that's the argument McCain's defenders will make. ("Oh, he had to say that to get the nomination.")
Valued reader feedback: Emailer J.G. wonders why I didn't like this passage:
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
I agree the graf outlines an appealing compromise-based model of how President Obama might actually operate--a model that jibes with his state house history. But it still leaves his own views annoyingly vague and mysterious. ...
Photograph of Ann Coulter on Slate's home page by Brad Barket/Getty. Photograph of a wedding cake with two grooms on Slate's home page by Hector Mata/AFP Photo. Photograph of Princess Diana on Slate's home page by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images. Photograph of Barack Obama on Slate's home page by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.