Thursday, August 28, 2008

Short Convention Notes

  1. My God, I've never seen Al Gore talk so fast.
  2. You know Barack Obama came to adulthood in the eighties, because Michael freaking McDonald is singing. Singing "America the Beautiful" like Ray Charles's untalented supporting act.
  3. Roy Gross from the Detroit Teamsters Local just got up and said "Things were pretty good for working-class families in Detroit until the Bush administration." Not that he didn't make things work, but...
  4. My miracle walking baby is asleep, so now I can watch every minute. Until the delivery guy from Mandarin Garden shows up.
  5. The man himself walks on stage. Still no duck.
  6. This stadium is amazing. And Barack's is the first voice that seems to fill the room.
  7. "We are better than these last eight years." Let's count the seconds until Bill Kristol or Brit Hume spins this one.
  8. "I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change." Put this against Kerry's "Ninety percent of George Bush is more than we can take."
  9. "I don't believe McCain doesn't care.... I believe he doesn't know." Another great meme.
  10. "They call this the ownership society, but what it really means is that you're on your own... Well, it's time for them to own their failure."
  11. MMM. Duck.
  12. I don't remember equal pay for equal work being a big theme in the primaries, but it's a nice drum to beat -- rallies the older female Hilary supporters, paints McCain as against fairness and as a relic of the past.
  13. Amazing slow-play of MLK.
  14. Therefore, my brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great high priest over the household of God, let us continue to come near with sincere hearts in the full assurance that faith provides, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us continue to hold firmly to the hope that we confess without wavering, for the one who made the promise is faithful. And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. For if we choose to go on sinning we learned the full truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying prospect of judgment and a raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10: 19-27)
  15. I just switched from CSPAN to PBS to catch some commentary, and David Brooks was pretty tough on Obama -- Brooks wasn't wowed, Obama didn't show enough emotion, it was a mistake to go outside and separate himself from the crowd. And compared to Joe Biden's speech, Obama's was quite a bit cooler. I actually wonder whether Obama and Biden are actually going to continue to play against type in this campaign. The CW says that Obama will be the young, charismatic idealist while Biden will be the hard-headed policy wonk and attack dog. And Biden might hit back tougher than Obama will -- I love the "go out and bloody their nose so you can walk down the street" ethic. But at least so far, Joe Biden has been the beating heart of the ticket, looser, warmer, emotionally resonant, while Obama is becoming -- by reason of necessity and reversing the narrative, but also I think out of his preparation and his own process of putting on his game face -- firmer, more directed, tougher, less a painting of a dream of the future than an arrow shooting forward into it. If he's going to win, he's got to take a shot at the title, and he knows it.
  16. Also, Obama's rhetoric is being and will be judged on an incredible curve here. Anytime someone describes Hilary Clinton's speech as "incandescent" and Obama's as "a disappointment" (as Julianne Malveaux just did) is leaning on the scales.
  17. It's also becoming clear as I watch Tavis Smiley that a sizable chunk of the black intelligentsia -- particularly of the baby boom generation -- is by necessity going to be hypercritical of Obama as he by necessity is going to have to keep his distance from them. I'm looking at you, Dr. West.
  18. As a speechwriter and speaker, Obama is particularly good at avoiding cliches. He could have quoted the same verse of Romans 1 Corinthians that we hear at every wedding on faith, hope, and love; he quoted Hebrews instead, and this was a Hebrews speech -- intricate and tightly argued, aimed at persuading the toughest-minded critics that Obama is the real thing. Likewise, he could have trotted out any of the familiar lines of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream Speech," but instead he opted for "We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back." Julianne Malveaux took a shot at Obama for referring to King as "a young preacher from Georgia" -- "he wouldn't even say Dr. King's name!" -- but I think what Obama was trying to do is to reinforce the notion he invoked at the beginning of the speech and again at the end that "at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington." Dr. King doesn't become the unassailable icon, the leader any politician, no matter how conservative, can invoke for his opposition to violence or his "content of character." He becomes another one of the ordinary people doing extraordinary things, a man for his moment, a focal point for the energies and imaginations of millions of Americans. We cannot walk alone, we shall always march ahead, we cannot turn back. I'll spell out what Obama didn't: Change is marching on Washington. Parse that both ways.


Dan said...

1. David Brooks was wrong. I can't believe any independents sat there thinking: gee, golly, I guess Barack Obama isn't interested in me. Instead, they thought: good, he's whipping the democrats in line. And doesn't this Liberalism thing sound appealing from this guys' mouth.

2. Not to nitpick, but for posterity's sake: the regrettably over-quoted verse about faith, hope, and love, comes from 1 Corinthians 13.

Tim said...

Re: 2. Dag! I am usually up on that! I'm going to mope for a while.