Lift-Off

I missed the convention in real time last night, choosing to catch Mamma Mia! at the local bargain theater (and trust me, that's where you want to catch it). So I had to catch up with the speeches via the Internet. I particularly regret missing Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, who was apparently a hoot, and Bob Casey, whose one liner about McCain's record of support for the Bush agenda--"That's not a maverick-- that's a sidekick!"-- is fantastic: it not only aptly describes McCain, but makes him look like the small, whiny kid that he truly is.

Senator Clinton spoke tonight. I didn't vote for her in the Ohio primary, and I found myself immensely frustrated and annoyed by her campaign this past spring. This, however, is a great speech:



Structurally, it's incredibly effective, starting by acknowledging her star power within the party; moving those in the convention hall (particularly her supporters) through her campaign history as a reminder of its electoral victories and historic resonance; shifting from a focus on her to a focus on her supporters, and then the larger issues the country faces; then, after all of that memory and emotion and policy need has been built to a fever pitch, turning the question back on the audience-- do you support me, or do you support my agenda?

It allowed any of her die-hards in the crowd to have the "catharsis" we'd been hearing about for two months, while also gently nudging them towards an important self-analysis. And in doing so, it became a variation on what Carter and Kennedy did last night-- deploying the emotional power of the Democratic past at the service of its future. Like the brilliant lawyer that she is, Clinton wove an argument rich with both anecdotal and statistical evidence, marshaled both logical and emotional argument, tied her audience to her speech in a deep way, and then turned and released all of that in supoort of Obama. "If you believe in me," she seemed to be saying, "You should believe in him." That slow build of the first half suddenly became a fast-moving wave of rhetoric in the second. This included a litany of what Obama would do as President; sly nods-- "when the ads are finally off the air"-- to McCain's ridiculous PUMA ads (no links to idiots, sorry); crucial reminders of the policy successes of the Clinton years that linked that success to Obama without feeling nostalgic; nods to Michelle Obama and Joe Biden; and a number of good one-liners (my favorite was the "Twin Cities" joke about McCain-Bush).

Would I have liked her to talk about Obama a bit more specifically? Sure, but the other speakers are and will continue to do that (and Michelle did it as well last night as any surrogate could), and Obama will do that for himself on Thursday night. This speech was about reunifying the party, providing catharsis and excitement, and-- crucially-- linking that catharsis and excitement to everyone's future. This is the Hillary Clinton that her supporters always claimed to see, and I'm glad we got to see her tonight.

UPDATE (2:39 A.M.): Not to kill the buzz, but it might be worth looking at this truly piss-poor analysis from The New York Times (short version: Wow, good speech, Sen. Clinton! But-- even though you mentioned economics, and Michelle Obama mentioned economics, and so many of the other speeches mentioned economics-- it's not clear that viewers will get the message about the bad state of the economy, and what Obama will do to fix it. And (unlike John McCain, apparently) are the Dems focusing too much on personality in this convention, something other conventions have never ever done? I mean, why would there be so much focus on Obama's personality? Hmm...).

If you feel the need to wash your brain with soap after reading that, go to Batocchio's hilarious takedown of media coverage over at Digby. These paragraphs might be my favorite bit of analysis about punditry ever:

We've seen, many a time, how the press will vouch for Saint McCain. But while there are certainly plenty of godawful sportscasters, they tend to, y'know, report what actually happened. Even if we view the press as sportscasters, or even home-team sportscasters, our press corps lacks good play-by-play announcers, but is positively overflowing with really bad color commentators.

To strain this metaphor even further (and apologies to all non-sports fans), say the Green Bay Packers were playing the Chicago Bears and scored the first two touchdowns. If our political reporters were sportscasters, David Broder would insist that the Packers should let the Bears score, Sean Hannity would loudly proclaim that the Bears did score, and Cokie Roberts would misreport the score and then proceed to ignore the game.

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