I had high expectations for Obama’s acceptance speech. I wasn’t worried about him meeting those expectations, but I never — never — thought he would exceed them.
I knew he would have lofty rhetoric about "politics as usual" and finding common ground among the diverse political views of the nation, especially his appeal to independents and Republicans (for example, his references to "personal responsibility"). I knew he would talk about his view of government in (as Brian Williams pointed out) a very Aaron Sorkin-like way. I knew he would go into some specifics about his plans and policies. I knew he would effectively rebut the whole "elitism" and "celebrity" memes.
What I didn’t expect was the toughness against McCain and the rightwing political machine. That part was brilliant. It’s tricky to go on the offensive while maintaining an optimistic and inspirational tone, but that’s precisely what made Obama’s speech so effective. He didn’t just take the fight to McCain, he eviscerated McCain, his worldview, his party, and his record. This is not Kerry, not Dukakis, not even Gore. He was less afraid and less calculating that Bill Clinton. Obama is not only a great orator, but a street fighter. The GOP will have their hands full, because Obama showed himself to be a pragmatic progressive, not just a liberal with a sackful of rhetorical flourishes about his "vision".
I thought MSNBC’s coverage — the gushing of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann — was a bit embarrassing, although it was nice to watch Pat Buchanan acknowledge what a terrific speech it was.
Of course, from my couch, Obama was preaching to the converted. Did it score with disenchanted Dems and Independents? Time will tell, but I can’t think of a better speech to have accomplished that task.
By the way, the AP report on the speech is bizarre, as Yglesius points out:
As part of the AP’s continuing descent into absurdity they covered Barack Obama’s speech with this long, editorializing-heavy whine about an alleged lack of specifics. This in particular is bizarre:
He said he would “cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families,” but did not say how.
How? His staff would have to work with the staffs of the relevant members of congress on writing a bill. Then the bill needs to get out of committee, pass the House and the Senate, maybe go through a conference committee process and then be signed into law. What does he mean how?
Anyway, the GOP convention will be interesting. While I hope that nothing seriously bad hits the Gulf Coast next week, I do find it rather amusing that Gustav plans to make a metaphorical appearance.
But for those who missed it, here’s the speech. You really need to watch the whole thing to appreciate the arc of its craftsmanship, going from the generic acknowledgements, to the policy specifics, to the humility, to the attacks…. it hits all the notes in a wonderful symphony: