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Posted by on Aug 29, 2008 in At TMV | 10 comments

Obama’s Speech: “Now Is the Time”

McCain’s done a good job of deflecting attention from Obama’s speech by his birthday VP pick. It’s hard to focus on writing about Obama while giggling incredulously. And—though many are puzzled, a few are happy. Indeed, Jonah Goldberg over at The Corner is so excited he is ” having some flop sweats at the idea it’s actually happening.” Okay:  ew.  But though I must pause again to scrub out my brain, I refuse to be deflected.

I was a Hillary supporter and very resistant all along to Obama’s rhetoric. But this speech seemed nearly pitch-perfect to me: a mixture of gravitas, eloquence, wit, and well-tempered righteous indignation at the thought of rewarding the GOP with another four years.

I think of Winston Churchill whose speeches had such an impact on his people at such a crucial time. And then I think of W. “We’re gonna get those folks.” Not to mention all this. I think all of us to whom the speech was directed—the true constituents of the Democratic party and all those who see McCain for what he is, the successor to the policies that have put us where we are—must have reacted the same way. But as Andy Barr reports at The Hill, members of the media who were present loved it as well. Even Pat Buchanan loved it.

Here are some responses.

Via Taylor Marsh:

“It was a genuinely outstanding speech. It was magnificent. It is the finest – and I saw Cuomo’s speech, I saw Kennedy in ‘80, I even saw Douglas MacArthur, I saw Martin Luther King – this is the greatest convention speech, and probably the most important because unlike Cuomo and the others this is an acceptance speech. This came out of the heart of America and he went right at the heart of America…” – Patrick J. Buchanan

And my fellow former Hillary supporter Taylor Marsh perfectly expressed my own response to this speech:

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.

Political centrist Joe Gandelman commented:

[The speech] 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 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!”

Conservative Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan called it “deeply substantive.” As he says, its very substantiveness rebutted the whole “glitzy celebrity” image the Republicans have been attempting to impose on Obama.

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….

He took every assault on him and turned them around. He showed not just that he understood the experience of many middle class Americans, but that he understood how the Republicans have succeeded in smearing him. And he didn’t shrink from the personal charges; he rebutted them. Whoever else this was, it was not Adlai Stevenson. It was not Jimmy Carter. And it was less afraid and less calculating than Bill Clinton.

Above all, he took on national security – face on, full-throttle, enraged, as we should all be, at how disastrously American power has been handled these past eight years. He owned this issue in a way that no Democrat has owned it since Kennedy. That’s a transformative event. (The Daily Dish)

One of the things I’ve always liked Sullivan for, despite ideological differences, is his humility. Would that more pundits shared this valuable trait. He acknowledges his own bias here.

I’m one of those people, deeply distressed at what has happened to America, deeply ashamed of my own misjudgments, who has shifted out of my ideological comfort zone because this man seems different to me, and this moment in history seems different to me. I’m not sure we have many more chances to get off the addiction to foreign oil, to prevent a calamitous terrorist attack, to restore constitutional balance in the hurricane of a terror war.(The Daily Dish)

And he calls Obama “a remarkable man at a vital moment.” I want to believe this to be true. Last night went a long way towards persuading me.

On this point, Cernig writes, and also speaks for me:

This was a “fanfare for the common man”. I’ve been more than a little sceptical of his rhetoric turning into reality when the rubber meets the road until now, but tonight I’m more inclined to believe Obama means what he says than I’ve ever been. (Newshoggers)

As does DWT:

I want so much for him to rise to the challenge of the catastrophic mess we’re being left. I want him so much to be Franklin Roosevelt. And what I heard tonight allows me to believe that that’s more than just a hopeless dream.

Chris Cillizza wrote at The Washington Post:

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.”

Josh Marshall at TPM made an excellent and crucial point about his method of attack:

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….[I]t’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. (TPM; emphasis added)

I personally would like to see Obama continue with the completely above-the-belt attacks. Forget the knee to the gonads; go for the heart, go for the gut.

Like this:

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.
But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

It’s McCain’s policies that matter, not McCain himself. He’s just a vessel for Bush’s legacy at this point. (NYT)

There were so many parts that resonated with me, but here is one that really stood out:

For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy – give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is – you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps – even if you don’t have boots. You’re on your own.
You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job – an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight. (NYT)

skippy identifies Obama’s best one-liners:

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.

tag of the night: 8 is enough!

Canadian political blogger Michael Stickings wrote:

David Gergen just called it a “symphony,” a “masterpiece,” and I agree completely. Obama told his story, and talked about change, but he also took the fight to McCain….And the ending, which drew on Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech from 45 years ago today, was deeply moving and profoundly inspiring….

Indeed, it is because I love America so much, because of my American ancestry (I am one-quarter American, to be precise), because of my deep and profound connections to the country, that I call myself a Democrat and pay such close attention to American politics….

And tonight… tonight is about America, about a new America.

We are indeed witnessing history. And what a privilege it is.

Let us savour it, and let us move forward with confidence and determination, with a sense of purpose but also with humility.There is much to be done.

At MoJo, Kevin Drum writes:

That was a helluva speech, wasn’t it? Damn…..

This is an iron fist in a velvet glove. Or is it a velvet fist in an iron glove? Whichever it is, he’s calling out McCain in plain language not just for running a nasty, Rovian campaign, but for running a fundamentally unserious campaign. By tackling this head on, Obama has put a serious dent in McCain’s ability to continue campaigning with dumb soundbites and too-cute-by-half innuendo. This isn’t a teenager’s campaign for junior high school student council, he was saying, it’s a campaign for president of the United States and you’re old enough to know that you should damn well treat it that way.

And then, there was the conclusion. I’ve always been pretty immune to that kind of soaring, but relatively content-free, oratory, but I was just spellbound. I honestly can’t remember the last time that’s happened. And I don’t care what the talking heads insisted on jabbering about all day, the setting was perfect, the stage was perfect, Obama’s cadences were perfect, and it was just about as good a political rallying cry as I’ve ever heard. John McCain looks very, very small right about now.

John Cole said the same thing, only even more bluntly:

The McCain campaign has no idea what hit them. Here is their response:

“Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama,” spokesman Tucker Bounds said. “When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm’s way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President.”

Brokaw openly mocked them.

The best thing about the night- as the press is dissecting Obama’s masterful performance, I flipped to a panel on PBS about the speech. Dolores Kearns Goodwin was talking at length, in the shadow of the Obama speech, that McCain needs to show he can use a teleprompter.
They are so well and truly f******, and they deserve it.

Jed Lewison said, “I’m still awestruck.” Me too.


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