Obama Defines Change Specifics And Answers And Defines McCain In Historic Speech
The real fireworks at last night’s Democratic convention weren’t set off by pyrotechnic experts but by a historic speech by Democratic Party nominee Sen. Barack Obama that provided an answer to his critics, is likely to fire-up partisan Democrats except for the most die-hard Hillary Clinton backers, and served notice to the Republicans that the way the game will be played has now changed.
The full text of the speech is HERE. The speech — delivered by America’s first African-American to win a major party nomination on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech — was notable for what it had, and what it didn’t have.
It had witty or blunt replies to key anti-Obama themes used in the campaign of GOP certain-nominee Senator John McCain in political ju-jitsu form with quotable one-liners that were memorable/ It was rich in contrast as he compared Americans’ lives under Clinton and under 8 years of George W. Bush. It was packed with a virtual dare for McCain to make national security an issue and offered promises for specific reforms to counter McCain and argue that McCain’s record is at worst weak and at best ineffectual. It defended the Democrats as having been proven capable of defending America — reminding voters of FDR and JFK.
And it had that one word that he can turn into a campaign slogan since it has indeed been uttered by many Americans who are unhappy and alarmed over the direction of the country: “”…Enough!”
It didn’t have the usual build to getting the crowd to chant “Yes we can!” It wasn’t a speech overloaded with general political motivational statements but peppered with specifics. It wasn’t just a medley about why people shouldn’t vote for McCain but laid-out an agenda outline. It was not overloaded with sarcasm or mockery and didn’t sound like a speech written by a liberal blogger or liberal talk show host. It wasn’t a blistering attack on McCain’s character but dealt with issues.
One of the key points was this passage:
I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.
And that’s to be expected, because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.
If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.
And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.
I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington.
But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me; it’s about you.
The ultimate political ju-jitsu: responding to what is an understood GOP strategy to turn the election into a referendum on Obama.
Will it work?
Forget the breathless political commentators on TV (some cable anchors on the right and left have shed any semblance of stepping back and either immediately pounce to denounce or immediately praise and nearly tear up and announce they’re touched by people the cover).
But one of the most telling, positive comments is this must-watch video comment from conservative commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan HERE. The real questions are:
What kind of an audience did the speech have? And will independent voters, wavering Democrats and those Republicans who months ago seemed to be moving towards Obama come back? Will the election turn out to be a referendum on Obama, people he met at key times in his life, imposed imagery? Or will it turn into an earnest debate about (a) the issues that came up the past 8 years (b) each candidate’s stands on how these issues could be handled better and should be handled better?
Hope springs eternal but experience has shown that hope can also spring a leak.
HERE’S A CROSS-SECTION OF OTHER REACTION FROM THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA AND NEW MEDIA TO THE SPEECH:
Obama is the first African-American nominated by a major party for the White House and his early campaign was fueled by his opposition to the Iraq war, but that wasn’t the image or the issue he emphasized in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination.
Instead, he made the economy his prime message, blamed the Bush administration for doing too little to respond and portrayed Republican presidential candidate John McCain as offering nothing but more of the same.
“We meet at one of those defining moments — a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more,” Obama said. “Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay and tuition that is beyond your reach.”
–In a Washington Post live chat, Associate Editor Robert Kaiser notes that people who don’t think McCain will give a stem-winding speech are mistaken:
Mark Salter, McCain’s alter ego and co-author (at least) of his books and speeches, has been working on McCain’s acceptance speech literally for weeks, knowing it was extremely important. I suspect McCain has spent much of this week getting ready for his big moment next week. Lots of people will have low expectations like yours, because McCain has no history of great speechmaking. But I’ve never seen a bad acceptance speech; the Dukakis speech I referred to earlier, in 1988, was quite terrific, even though Dukakis proved to be an utterly ineffectual candidate. Personally I expect McCain to do quite well.
For voters outside Obama’s core of educated whites and African Americans, the Democratic nominee has not yet earned that stature. Whether the thunderous foot stomping and rapturous cheers that met the man promising to change the nation’s course translates for them as inspiring or empty could be the turning point of this election.
…. For all the import of the moment, when for the first time a black man stood before the American public as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, Obama himself seemed to downplay an achievement that to many Americans and much of the world still seems incredible.
Instead he emphasized his connection with ordinary Americans who “work hard and give back and keep going without complaint.” And he cast McCain as the torchbearer for an administration that “sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes” and tells Americans struggling economically, “You’re on your own.”
Mr. Obama brought the crowd to its feet many times to cheer and applaud, but perhaps just as importantly for audiences back home, for almost 50 minutes he silenced the ceaseless chatter of television anchors and commentators who had insistently put their own stamp and faces on one of the most exciting political conventions in modern times.
People do want to watch: the audience for cable news coverage this week was about double what it was in 2004. Yet despite the huge public fascination, the three major networks limited their coverage to an hour a night, a prime-time patchwork of highlight reels, catchup snippets of live speeches, and commentary.
Anchors at conventions used to serve as omniscient narrators; at this convention, they mostly served as human V-chips blocking live speeches with their own palaver and predictions.
The bottom line Obama sought to drive home: McCain is hopelessly out of touch (a none-too-subtle effort to highlight the vast age difference between them?).
Obama’s key lines: “I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know.” And, seconds later, “It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.”
No, this speech bore little resemblance to the soaring, feel-good address that he delivered at the Democratic convention four years ago, a speech that offered him as an example of an America that could go beyond its history of racial strife and turmoil.
Not surprisingly — and perhaps because of the large venue in which he delivered this speech — the response was not as electric.
But back then, Obama was introducing himself to America. In this speech, he clearly wanted to show he has the fire in the belly required to compete at the highest level of U.S. politics.
But to many Republicans, the speech merely amplified many of their concerns about the candidate who, at 47, would be one of America’s youngest presidents if elected on November 4.
“He described a chance to keep the American promise and he made a lot of promises. He is the pied piper of promises,” said Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Alabama.
“A government that is powerful enough to give you everything you want can take everything you have,” he said, adding, “He is scarier than (former President Bill) Clinton because he is arrogant and a true believer.”
On an historic night in the Mile High City, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination with a speech that proved he still has at least one foot planted firmly on the ground.
Expectations in recent days for a theatrical production staged in a football arena with 84,000 people in attendance reached heights that not even the Colorado altitude could match. Conscious of the spectacle – and of the seemingly effective Republican attacks portraying Obama as nothing more than a celebrity – the presidential candidate brought the night back down to ground level in a direct attempt to connect with the concerns of everyday Americans.
A candidate known — fairly or not – for his soaring rhetoric delivered a speech heavy on specific policy points, themes of broad values, and empathy for the daily challenges faced by many.
…There was plenty in the speech for Republicans to pick apart at their convention in St. Paul next week, like how he will pay for the litany of proposals he laid out tonight. But they will be hard-pressed to match the intensity, the specificity and the effectiveness of Obama in Denver.
Obama’s speech was more substance than style; more specifics than rhetorical flourish. The Illinois senator even directly rebutted the idea — advanced by John McCain’s campaign — that he is more celebrity than politician.
….And when Obama went on to dress down McCain and the Republican party over their stances on taxes and healthcare, he roared: “That is not the judgment we need. That won’t keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.”
The speech was, by in large, meaty. Obama avoided soaring rhetoric until the final moments of the address perhaps for fear that an address heavy on oratory would be picked apart by Republicans as more evidence that he is heavy on style and light on substance.
It was a deeply substantive speech, full of policy detail, full of people other than the candidate, centered overwhelmingly on domestic economic anxiety. It was a liberal speech, more unabashedly, unashamedly liberal than any Democratic acceptance speech since the great era of American liberalism. But it made the case for that liberalism – in the context of the decline of the American dream, and the rise of cynicism and the collapse of cultural unity. His ability to portray that liberalism as a patriotic, unifying, ennobling tradition makes him the most lethal and remarkable Democratic figure since John F Kennedy.
What he didn’t do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. The McCain campaign set Obama up as a celebrity airhead, a Paris Hilton of wealth and elitism. And he let them portray him that way, and let them over-reach, and let them punch him again and again … and then he turned around and destroyed them. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check.
More on this as I digest it, I expect. My short response is that it was an impressive speech and my initial reaction is that it likely accomplished what he needed to do–inspire, attack, and provide specifics.
–Aqurette says Obama is the best speaker since Reagan:
Perhaps this quality explains why so many libertarians like both Reagan and Obama. Nah, maybe not, but it’s an interesting thought, although not necessarily flattering to libertarians.
He took every assault on him and turned them around.
The people seemed to be miles away from the candidate — and not just physically. I thought back on the 1992 nomination of Bill Clinton and remembered the Clintons and the Gores at the close of the evening clapping and dancing around on stage, grinning from ear to ear, waving and winking at friends in the audience. Everyone was part of the proceedings and it was infectious. The audience tonight seemed more spectators than participants even though there was genuine emotion and reaction from the crowd. There were many more huge crowd shots than there usually are, which makes sense considering the spectacle of the venue, but it resulted in what seemed to be less shots of individual delegates and their reactions to the speech. Time will tell if the rock star effect of the presentation will be a positive or a negative, but I suspect it is either a wash or a bit of a turnoff to those who are not already Obama converts. The success of the speech itself though should provide a good bounce for Obama.
As a highly partisan Dem who has been wishing and hoping and waiting for Obama to do what we in the blogosphere have been asking for for so long from our Dem leadership–draw a sharp contrast with the Republicans and bring the fight to them–I’m a satisfied customer tonight.
Barack Obama left behind some of the more squishy “post-partisan” rhetoric and did what he had to do–define McCain as Bush’s third term. “Eight is enough” might be a slightly cheesy tag line, but it works. You’ll remember it and you’ll say “Yeah, eight IS enough,” and we can’t afford Republican rule any more.
I heard a lot of liberal noise during Barack Obama’s nomination acceptance speech at Denver’s Mile High Stadium tonight.
It began with what I must assume was either a giant sucking-up sound made by Obama as he opened his nomination acceptance speech with a thank you to Hillary Clinton or the sound of the Gustav, the hurricane Democrats want so badly to hit New Orleans just in time for next week’s Republican National Convention.
Wearing a union-made suit complete with what must have been the smallest American flag lapel pin ever made, Obama provided exactly what members of the kool-aid-drinking crowd inside Denver’s Mile High Stadium wanted to hear — something Rush Limbaugh once described as “symbolism over substance.”
–Russel Korobkin’s two paragraphs on the always thoughtful The Volokh Conspiracy needs to be run here largely in full:
…Everyone knows Obama can give a good speech, but this was his best. Three highlights: (1) Directly challenging John McCain on national security. Obama forcefully made the case that judgment matters more than experience. (2) Juxtaposing his aggressive agenda of government programs with a call for personal responsibility — critical for appealing to centrists. (3)Identifying common ground on the polarizing issues of abortion, gay marriage, and gun control — critical to his agenda of bringing people together. Moving the event to the football stadium, identified by pundits as a risky move, proved to be a masterstroke. The visual affect was awesome. By comparison, McCain is bound to look small, unimportant, and unpopular when he gives his acceptance speech next week.
There were two weaknesses of the speech, one of commission, one of omission: (1) Claiming that he could pay for his domestic proposals by closing tax loopholes and eliminating unnecessary government programs (without even naming the targets) was utterly unconvincing. Better to say nothing about the financing than to call attention in this way to the fact that his proposals are expensive. (2) Failing to attack the Bush administration for trampling the Constitution, trashing privacy rights, and mistreating prisoners of war. It might have made sense not to highlight Bush’s support of torture, since McCain clearly opposed this and can use that issue to distance himself from the President, but there is lot more in this area Obama could have gone after.
It’s just too bad for the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee. They tried to raise expectations to the point at which they believed that Barack Obama could not possibly surpass them — but surpass them he did.
Obama delivered a powerful address tonight that was at times thrilling and highly emotive, and above all laid out the clear case as to why the American people need to elect him, and not John McCain, as President. The punditry may have squawked the first night of the convention about a perceived dearth of substantive hits on McCain, or for a lack of specifics about what Obama would do as President, but for all of those naysayers the Democratic nominee had a response — giving one of the most memorable speeches in modern American history.
Soaring rhetoric met specific ideas and goals, coupled with a slashing critique of his opponent that we have not heard to date. Barack Obama transformed his famous rhetoric into a lethal blade that not only eviscerated the Republican policies that have brought this country to the edge of financial ruin, but also has made the U.S. less safe in a world made more dangerous by diplomatic neglect, ruinous hubris, and misguided arrogance. He elevated his candidacy above where it’s been before.
There has been no other political event in U.S. history to match what Barack Obama achieved tonight. Never before has a political candidate reached so high and achieved such fireworks in front of tens of thousands.
An African American man next to me just shook his head, saying “Lord have mercy. After all these years…” Then his voice trailed off.
obama was pretty classy opening his speech by thanking hillary and bill.
plus, he seems to be switching between talking to the crowd of 85,000 and right to the camera w/ease and comfort, being intimate w/both.
great line: “america, we are better than these last 8 years.” wow, out of the park w/that one!
also nice: next week in minnesota, the party that brought you the last two terms will ask you for a third.
–Crooks and Liars has the MSNBC Video and this in the post:
I’m still reeling with emotion from watching the whole thing. How amazing it will be to have a president that inspires such high feelings, instead of inspiring cringes.
Many hours later, this place is still rockin.’
So what is he saying? That the Republicans should be responsible for themselves and their mistakes but the Democrats shouldn’t? That the Republicans are responsible for the Demoncrats mistakes? That’s rich? Why isn’t it time for Democrats and every American to own their failure?
These moochers and looters are exhausting.
His mother turned to food stamps but was able to send him to finest schools in the country. Uh, whatddup wit dat? Where did she get the dough? Al Mansour?
Obambi is talking tough about foreign policy. REMOVE OUR TROOPS FROM IRAQ. Man, he is tough ain’t he?
…Madonna can fill a stadium too – that won’t make her President. I say it won’t fly in flyover country. That’s my take. All those Hollyweird types – spouting their absurd nonsense. It doesn’t get past the folks that with all their kumbaya crap there is no plurality or room for other opinions on the left coast.
–Balloon Juice’s John Cole did live blogging and comments on media coverage. He has this entry:
11:00 pm- That was a pretty damned fine speech. Matthews and Olbermann are just embarrassing themselves with the praise, though.
I thought this was a very strong speech. About exactly what was needed. It was a strong speech. He made the case for himself; he laid out clear policy goals; and he aggressively set forth the stakes of the campaign. He made the case against John McCain while not attacking his character — which makes a clear contrast with McCain’s aggressively personal, denigrating campaign strategy.
…I’ve said myself that Obama’s campaign needs to be more aggressive. They need to hold the initiative, and attack, attack, attack. But attacking doesn’t mean bludgeoning — at least not necessarily. It means making the case and defining the argument. Not running a campaign by reacting — well or not — to your opponent’s attacks. As Paul Begala said in our interview with him a couple days ago, it’s not about rapid response but rapid attack. Personally I might prefer an even more aggressive tack from Obama’s surrogates. But I think here Obama himself had the balance just right.
There is very little chance this narcissistic and insulting ’speech’ is going to move the independents. Ho hum – another liberal spewing fantasies and lies. Yes, 20% of this nation is that naive. But 80% aren’t. This is a disaster of a speech.
Obama’s world view is we can do NOTHING on our own. We can do NOTHING without assistance from government. Obama has a serious Santa Claus complex – he wants to ‘help’ all those poor and desperate people who cannot make it on their own and could only succeed with Barack’s help. Ugh.
Inflate your tires! We will know longer be dependent on foreign oil – Obama will outlaw cars.
On presentation, Obama looked quite comfortable in the environment. In spite of the scale of the event, he had good awareness of the camera and delivered many of his key lines right to camera with conviction and emotion. Despite my initial skepticism, and the music festival atmosphere of earlier coverage, from the time the networks kicked in with their prime-time coverage, the event looked like a true political rally. Bottom line the move to Invesco didn’t take away from the political nature of the event.
As for content, Barack Obama brought the details to the table. He made the case for why he wanted to be President clearly and directly. Some very good lines, particularly doubling down on the contrast of change versus more of the same.
…From a Democratic perspective, he made the argument for government, something we haven’t heard in a while. This is key, this is why Democrats are Democrats and not Republicans. Too often Democrats shy away from this, Obama didn’t and made an impassioned defense of Democratic values, the values we believe are America’s values.
11:47: The best speech of the convention — it’s no contest — was given by Bill Clinton. No one else came close for me. Second best: Joe Biden. At the next level, I would put Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama.
Put aside all the theatrics of the night, however over the top. Obama sunk his own speech when he began to talk of how he would confront Russia and defeat al Qaeda.
He doesn’t have the qualifications to run a battalion, much less the entire military. No corporation would make Obama CEO, and few states would elect him governor on his resume. It is all talk, all wind.
The idea of Obama defining American policy vis-a-vis Putin or Ahmadinejad is at best, deeply disturbing.
Barack Obama, for his part, pulled out all the rhetorical stops. His speech was a patchwork of homey sentimentality, Clintonesque laundry lists, and Obama’s version of Jesse Jackson’s preacher man. If a particular riff that has worked somewhere on the stump didn’t fit into one of these slots, it was given its own.
All of these elements have worked for politicians at times and Obama pulls each off better than most. Thus, this may well prove to have been an effective speech. But by no means do I think this was a great, or even an excellent, one.
I was also surprised that it wasn’t better targeted towards the two groups Obama must have to win the election — Hillary Clinton-supporting women and independent voters. Obama made only the most perfunctory of nods in Hillary’s direction. And what exactly in this speech does Obama think will reel in independents skeptical about his fitness for office and his liberalism? The fact that his mother was from Kansas?
This was an angry speech as these things go, and (like Joe Biden’s) a dishonest one. If the McCain campaign wanted to provoke Obama, it succeeded. The political environment may be such that independent voters will have no problem with Obama’s stridency, the kind typically associated with VP nominee. But if they are that upset, Obama need not have given a speech.
No, Barack Obama did not land a knockout blow tonight. But he showed that he fully understands that the best defense is a good offense. After weeks of absorbing punishment from John McCain, Obama went on the attack.
Obama’s decision to target McCain so closely was a risky strategy, but it paid off.
The contrast with past Democratic candidates such as John Kerry and Michael Dukakis could not have been starker. Obama showed that he does not conform to the image of the Democrat as wussbag by directly assailing McCain’s foreign policy credentials — specifically, his claim that he would “follow” Osama bin Laden to the “gates of hell.” But why just follow? As Obama made clear, he needs to be taken out.
The Obama campaign should keep concentrating its firepower on the Bush-McCain foreign policy record. McCain isn’t simply a cheerleader for the Iraq War; he helped dream it up…
–Pajamas Media’s Stephen Green did live blogging and here’s the end of it:
8:59PM I stand corrected: It was the speech about
BushMcCain. But where was Barack Obama? I don’t know. The suit was empty.
8:58PM I’m sorry I didn’t practice my George Costanza, because this was the speech about nothing.
8:57PM “We can not turn back, we cannot walk alone…” and then he fumbled the next line, going into the big finish.
8:56.5PM Not that I will, mind you.
8:56PM The MLK reference is powerful. But at this point, I am so infuriated with this guy, that I’m tempted — for the first time ever, after years of drunkblogging — to call it quits before it’s over.
It was, I think, a very good speech, and I say that as someone who was thoroughly unimpressed with his appeals to big government and communitarian collectivism. What made it good, though, wasn’t the substance, but what the fact that it most likely accomplished the one thing Barack Obama needed to do tonight — it made him look Presidential.
There were several themes that Obama touched on tonight that I’m sure we’ll see repeated as the campaign goes on, but the one that is likely to be the most effective is his explicit association of John McCain with George W. Bush, tied up in the line “Eight is enough.” Had it not been for the fact that he was speaking in an open air stadium before 85,000 people, I’m sure that the crowd would’ve been chanting that in unison, but there’s plenty of time for that. What’s important is the fact that McCain has a problem named George W. Bush, and if Obama and the Democrats can keep reminding voters of that, they just might win the election.
I assume there was a receptive audience for Obama’s speech and I understand that I was not predisposed to be impressed. To the extent that I could set that aside, I thought he was good but not great – I am sure Dems will be satisifed, but I don’t think they will have thrills running up their legs.
For myself, there were a number of moments when I marveled at Obama’s ability to deliver his lines with a straight face….
….Oh, please – he won’t question McCain’s patriotism and therefore McCain shouldn’t question his. I think Obama ought to feel free to question McCain’s patriotism and he can let us know how that works out. And McCain is surely free to ask about Obama’s education reform sidekick Bill Ayers (are we allowed to question his patriotism?).
Love him, hate him or fall somewhere in between, Barack Obama’s speech tonight was one for the ages.
In this context, it is important to understand that this was not Barack’s most inspirational speech, nor should it have been. But even a lackluster Obama speech manages to come off as more lofty, more inspirational than the efforts of many others. And when he acknowledged the moment forty five years ago, it was difficult to not get chills.
But this was not a moment to prove that he could shake the rafters with his words. This was a moment of introduction, and a moment to prove that there was meat on the bones, and stuffing in the suit, and he did just that.
When even David Brooks on PBS gives Obama high marks on substance, well, there you go.
And Obama took the fight straight to McCain. He showed he had policy meat on his political bones, and he was able to toss out red meat to the base. He was able to champion bipartisanship, whilst at the same time defining McCain exactly as needed to be done.
Finally, Obama made it clear that he was not going to stand for cheap political attacks heaped upon him. He hit back on all of the patriotism and character attacks, and made solid hay specifically against McCain’s grotesque comment that he would be willing to “lose a war to win an election.”