August 28, 2008
Like many critics of Hillary Clinton’s performance during this Primary season, I was very skeptical about whether she would deliver a whole-hearted endorsement of Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. My reaction to her speech on Tuesday night was similar to what I heard from the voices in my TV. My first exclamation at the close of her speech, was: “Out of the park and 300 feet above Waveland Avenue, all the way across!” Keith Olbermann’s voice then came out of the TV, saying: “Grand Slam!” repeatedly. After a minute, David Gregory asked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to critique the speech. Richardson described it as “a 500-foot home run”.
After hearing her speech, I felt motivated to apologize for publicly doubting her loyalty to the Democratic Party. She really did “deliver the goods” by giving what was, perhaps, her best speech on the campaign stump. Although many of us were surprised by the substance of her speech, I was particularly impressed by her delivery. Hillary had always addressed her audiences with Lieberman-esque stiffness. Imagine someone saying “let us go forward” with a groaning, insincere tone for the 10,000th time. That was the way Hillary used to speak. In defeat, she really did find her voice. Although she claimed that happened after her “close call” in New Hampshire, I believe that deep in her heart, she must have known she would not really find her voice until she would be completely vanquished in this campaign. Once the weight of the world was (literally) lifted off her shoulders, she was able to freely and candidly express herself to the voters. She needs to review the videos of this speech to reinforce her better public speaking skills, as an example of “how it is done properly”. The look in Bill’s eyes told the story: Hillary had finally cultivated her public speaking skills to the level where they belong. Right on the heels of the Summer Olympics, where we saw so many American women win so many medals, we saw an American woman who ran for the Presidency, delivering a solid performance for Team U.S.A. I’m sure the audience saw it this way and it was reflected in the sports metaphors used by so many, expressing their reactions to this speech.
I was glad to see the individuals mentioned in my “Women To Watch” article (June 19) behind the podium during the first two days of this Convention. At the Republican Convention, we will not see this many women speaking, unless they run some sort of “Abortion Confessional” feature. (John Waters would be the perfect director for such a piece.)
Bill Clinton’s only challenge at this Convention was to show that he still has “the old magic”. It was not unlike an extended, Keith Richards guitar solo at a Rolling Stones concert. All he had to do was go out and give the audience a little of the old … “little of the old”. It worked. Bill was back with his unique ability to enrapture a crowd. The audience responded warmly to him.
By this point in the Democratic Convention, no speaker had yet really slaughtered John McCain or the Republicans to the extent many Democrats had anticipated. Patrick Buchanan of MSNBC voiced his criticism that McCain had been “getting a free ride” at this Convention. His remark drew a round of applause from the largely-Democratic, outdoor crowd at Union Station in Denver.
Finally, Joe Biden stepped up to serve the audience some petit filet mignon. Democrats aren’t big on red meat. They’re mostly a “fish” crowd, preferring high levels of mercury over the risk of colon cancer. The avoidance of “red meat” had been obvious all week. It was beginning to show. Had the arugula vegans taken over Obama’s campaign once and for all? Biden gave the Convention program just what it needed: some hardball pitches at McCain’s failed foreign policy positions, contrasted with Obama’s foreign policy ideas, some of which were ratified by the Bush Administration even after McCain had dissed them as nonsense.
For his part, Obama educated his Republican critics about the characterization of him as a “celebrity”. They just can’t get a handle on it. On Wednesday night, Obama made it clear that he is not just a celebrity … He’s an “M.C.” (This means “master of ceremonies” to all of us still using SPF 30 sunscreen in late August.) “M.C. Barack” had things under control by the end of Wednesday night. Let’s see how he does on Thursday.