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July 29 2016 1:56 AM

Is America As Good As Hillary Clinton Says It Is?

PHILADELPHIA—On June 15, Politico ran a story about Hillary Clinton’s bureaucratic speechwriting process. It describes how she gets input from a handful of staffers, various consultants, and her husband. She tweaks it herself, usually to make it more prosaic. “Clinton is known for taking a draft of a speech and changing it some indelible way to make it more literal and less readable,” the piece said. Created in this fashion, the speeches are comprehensive but lack poetry, a sustained argument, or a narrative arc.

Anyone who expected her to transcend this clunky method was probably disappointed on Thursday night. Her speech was workmanlike, more a series of bullet points than a story. She seemed loosest when she was making fun of Donald Trump: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”

On Twitter, people complained about her voice. Wrote Steve Clemons, an editor at the Atlantic:

Tweeted Bloomberg View's Megan McArdle:

Both were quickly attacked, but my guess is that a lot of people felt the same way. If you’re a feminist, it’s deeply moving to see a woman in a white suit—one of the iconic colors of the suffragettes—hug her daughter and then accept her party’s nomination for president of the United States. Nevertheless, Clinton is never going to be a great orator. She’s certainly not an entertainer. She clearly prefers listening to others to talking about herself. As she said, “The truth is through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier than the public part.”

The question now is whether this matters. Clinton presides over the party of sanity and decency and whose convention showcased the best of America. It honored mothers who’ve lost sons to police violence, even as it left Republicans envying its optimism and patriotism. Its candidate is running against a cruel and unstable madman. If America is as great as convention speakers claimed, her citizens will not decide to blow it up because they don’t think Clinton is likable enough. This was precisely the challenge Clinton and the Democrats laid out this week for the country: Are you as great as we say you are?

July 29 2016 12:53 AM

Democratic National Convention Ends With All-American Tradition: Balloon Party!

The 2016 Democratic National Convention was inspiring, tough and cohesive, and it ended with the nominee and her running mate playing with balloons. A crucial part of any well-run campaign to be sure.

There were red balloons, white balloons, and blue balloons obviously, but also balloons of all different sizes, AND big blue bouncy balls with white stars on them. When you’ve tried pretty much everything else, raining down assorted novelty items becomes a totally reasonable attempt to address Hillary’s “likability problem.” Here are some of our favorite DNC balloon moments.

July 29 2016 12:35 AM

“No More War” Is a Good Thing to Chant at a Democratic National Convention

PHILADELPHIA—“No more war” is a perfectly fine thing to chant, particularly at a convention of Democrats. “No more war” was a fine thing to chant at Leon Panetta, and it was a fine thing to chant at that general who spent far too long wiggling his pecs at America from the stage of the Democratic (!) National Convention on Thursday night, as the Democrats wrapped themselves in bunting. If chanting “No more war” is inconvenient for the party, that’s nothing next to the inconvenience inflicted on the rest of the world in 2003 by many of the Democrats in the room, including the woman who was being fêted here, Hillary Clinton. “No more war” was a fine thing to chant at her, too.

“Sadly, still,” said MSNBC’s Brian Williams as Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg left the stage, “in the background you heard the faint voices of a few, the protesters chanting, ‘No more wars.’ ” This is the Brian Williams who developed his profound respect for the military after having survived an RPG attack at the Battle of Yeah My Ass. God, shut up. I will take the petulant and short-sighted Bernie or Busters any day over all the grave men wagging their fingers and telling them, no, no, that’s just not done. More Democrats should’ve been inconvenienced in 2003 and all the years since.

July 28 2016 11:35 PM

DNC Live Blog: Hillary’s Big Moment

Above: a live-feed of the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention. Below the jump: real-time reporting, analysis, and coverage from Slate's team in Philadelphia and those of us watching from home. Tonight's headliners include: Katy Perry, who will be performing live; Chelsea Clinton, who will be introducing her mother; and the woman of the moment herself, Hillary Clinton, who will formally accept the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America sometime after 10 p.m.

July 28 2016 11:05 PM

This Is What Bernie Sanders Looked Like When Hillary Accepted the Nomination

This is what Bernie Sanders looked like when Hillary Clinton thanked him while accepting the Democratic Nomination for the presidency on Thursday.

July 28 2016 10:19 PM

Father of Fallen Muslim American War Hero to Trump: “You Have Sacrificed Nothing!”

One of the finest and most damning addresses of the Democratic National Convention was delivered on Thursday night by one of the event’s lowest profile speakers. Khizr Khan addressed the Philadelphia crowd to recount the story of his son Humayun Khan, a Muslim American soldier who was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004.

Khizr Khan painted a portrait of heroism, patriotism, bravery, and sacrifice—one that stood in stark contrast to the invidious message Donald Trump has issued to describe American Muslims and the unconstitutional religious test he has offered to bar Muslim immigrants from entering this country. Quite simply, Khan put Donald Trump to shame.

“Our son Humayun had dreams … of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers,” Khan told the convention. “Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America.’ If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”

Humayun Khan was born in the United Arab Emirates and immigrated to the U.S. as a small child, growing up in Maryland and attending college at the University of Virginia. He was a 27-year-old Army captain when he was inspecting the gates of his camp in Baquba, Iraq, and a speeding vehicle approached. Khan told his fellow soldiers to hit the ground and he signaled at the vehicle to stop. He took 10 steps toward the vehicle, which had in it two suicide bombers and a large amount of explosives. The car exploded, injuring 10 of his fellow soldiers and killing Khan. The captain was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and Khizr Khan believes his son’s actions saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers.

“We still wonder what made him take those 10 steps,” Khan’s father has said in the past to the web site Vocativ. “Maybe that’s the point where all the values, all the service to country, all the things he learned in this country kicked in. It was those values that made him take those 10 steps. Those 10 steps told us we did not make [a] mistake in moving to this country.”

In the convention hall this message was pointed sharply at Trump, who has called for a full ban on Muslim immigrants (he recently said the ban would be based on specific territories, but his campaign has said his position hasn’t changed). After the Orlando attack, Trump also accused Muslim Americans broadly of refusing to expose terrorists in their midst.

Khan’s message to Trump was more damning than anything delivered by any previous speaker at the DNC thus far.

“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” Khan said, pulling out a pocket Constitution as the crowd erupted in applause.

“In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law. Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending [the] United States of America. You’ll see, all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

It was this moment that should make every Republican politician who opposes that Muslim ban and still supports Donald Trump to feel a sharp, stabbing sense of shame.

July 28 2016 9:27 PM

This DNC “Bullies” Video With Trump as Biff Tannen Absolutely Killed It

Unless you consider Austan Goolsbee the height of charisma, the Democratic National Convention bumper videos haven’t been the most entertaining things in the world. On Thursday, though, the DNC knocked it out of the park with this montage video comparing Donald Trump with some of cinema’s all-time most awful bullies.

From Biff Tannen, to Buzz McCallister, to Nurse Ratched, to the end where Clinton addresses a young girl’s question about bullies, the whole thing is just killer stuff (Biff’s character in Back to the Future Part II was actually based on Trump).

Good job, DNC.

July 28 2016 9:15 PM

Why Is Everyone at the DNC Shouting?

PHILADELPHIA—There’s been a lot of shouting at the Democratic National Convention. Cory Booker and Andrew Cuomo, in particular, abused eardrums of people tuning in to the TV broadcast. Jennifer Granholm—a notable shouter at the 2012 DNC—just did it again.

If you’re wondering why these folks don’t think to modulate, the answer has to do with balancing the needs of the room with the needs of the TV audience. What plays as vigorous and engaged inside a cavernous arena can play as loud and shrieky when observed from the comfort of your living room sofa.

This is actually something the speakers get coached on. There’s no need to yell to be heard over a raucous convention crowd—the mic is sensitive and plugged directly into the TV soundboards, so anyone watching at home will hear you just fine.

I spoke to veteran speechwriter David Litt—who worked in the 2012 DNC speechwriting operation—about this dynamic. Here’s what he told me:

If the crowd gets into it, you have to be more controlled. You don’t want to sound like you’re yelling. What Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton did really well is speak to the viewer at home. It’s a different set of skills. They’re not matching the energy of the crowd—they’re a little less, they’re letting the crowd come to them. Jennifer Granholm in 2012 had a good speech, but people in the room were going crazy. And what seemed energetic from her in the room and got people fired up, on TV it was adding 10 decibels. The Dean scream is another good example of that. To people in the arena, it didn’t sound like a huge moment, but if you’re right in the mic, it’s very different.

July 28 2016 7:15 PM

We Hereby Nominate Emanuel Cleaver’s “She Won’t Stay Throwed” as HRC’s New Slogan

This was very fun. It might be the most fun moment of the Democratic National Convention. Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was addressing the convention on Thursday when he went on an animated, righteous riff about Hillary Clinton’s tenacity in the face of adversity.

In it, Cleaver compared Clinton with President Andrew Jackson and baby Jesus, and in the process came up with what I feel should be immediately made Clinton’s new campaign slogan.

The portion of the clip in question begins at around the 1 minute, 55 second mark in the video above when Cleaver starts recounting an “old story about Andrew Jackson as a child.”

Jackson, Cleaver says, used to lose to his friend Jim Brown in wrestling 3 out of 4 times, even though wrestling matches are supposed to be best of 2 out of 3.

In Cleaver’s retelling of a story by a friend of Jackson’s, “Jim would throw old Andy, but he’d get right up because Andy just wouldn’t stay throwed. He wouldn’t stay throwed.”

Cleaver continued, growing more excited.

“Now, the first person in history who wouldn’t stay throwed was a little baby born in Bethlehem of Judea,” he said. "Now that little baby grew up, created a tumult. They put him in a grave and three days later, the world knew he wouldn’t stay throwed.”

Finally, here’s where the Democratic nominee for the presidency and the potential new slogan comes in.

“Now here’s a warning to those who might be tempted to spend the next four years trying to knock Hillary Clinton down. You better get ready for a woman who won’t stay throwed,” Cleaver said as he grew more and more impassioned. “They threw her down as the first lady, but she didn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a U.S. senator, but she wouldn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a secretary of state, but she wouldn’t stay throwed! They threw her down in this very campaign—this campaign—but she won’t stay throwed! No, she ain’t gonna’ stay throwed! She won’t stay throwed! She won’t stay throwed!”

Cleaver then left the lectern for a brief second, immediately returned and said this: “You better listen to me—I said she won’t stay throwed!”

If Clinton receives a 10-point polling bump in the next few days, I will attribute it entirely to Cleaver.