CHARLOTTE, NC - Round two of the 2012 DNC is finally complete, following an interminable stemwinder from former President Bill Clinton. A few thoughts on the evening: Prior to the 10pm ET hour, the convention lineup was wholly unremarkable. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer both spoke for the second time this week. Why? These speeches lasted nearly six-and-a-half hours in total. Were retreads necessary? In any case, we heard from more abortion proponents, several union bosses, and a long list of unremarkable politicians. It was tedious in the extreme, especially the mindless Bain demagoguery. On to my "prime" prime-time grades:
Sandra Fluke: D. The thirtysomething recent law grad gave a surly and self-pitying speech about birth control and abortion. This is a young woman whose claim to fame is demanding that the Catholic school she chose to attend be coerced by the federal government to cast aside their beliefs and pay for her "free" birth control. She cast herself as a courageous victim, repeatedly knocking Mitt Romney for refusing to stand up for her after Rush Limbaugh called her a name. Absolutely pitiful. Her demagoguery about women "dying" under the Romney/Ryan plan was unseemly, crass, and befitting her pathetic 15 minutes of fame. Sandra Fluke may be a hero to some liberals, but I can't imagine she has even an ounce of appeal to most average people. Democratic commentator Kirsten Powers was decidedly unimpressed with Fluke's whole schtick.
Jim Sinegal: N/A. The former CEO of Costco's job was to convince people that Democrats are good for business. His speech was dull and so unmemorable that I have no meaningful analysis to offer.
Elizabeth Warren: C. The Harvard Law professor led the class warfare fight tonight, as is her wont. We do everything "together," the system's "rigged," etc. She called (surprise!) for much higher levels of government "investment" in practically all imaginable sectors. As the author of the original "you didn't build that" riff, her message was characteristic and reprehensible. Her delivery was slightly improved and she remembered to smile -- so marks for that, I guess. Interestingly, Warren didn't mention her "heritage." Weird, right?
Bill Clinton: B+. It was good. It should have been shorter. If it had, it would have been significantly better. The former president spoke for 48 minutes; he was reportedly allotted 20-25 minutes. Clinton made the best case available to Obama backers, basically: Things were really bad, he inherited an impossible problem, he's done as well as anyone possibly could have, things are starting to get better, he's a good guy, and he needs more time. This argument rests on the hope that voters will believe that they're better off under Obama and that his policies have not been counter-productive. Tough sledding, but Clinton's a word wizard. He spun a compelling yarn. He took a risk, though, by ignoring his own pollsters' advice by crossing into Obama economy happy talk a little too often. Clinton also engaged in a lot of Republican blaming, slightly leavened by a few kind words about his Republican predecessor and successor. He repeated the "GOP obstructionism" trope without any acknowledgement of Democrats' massive majorities for two full years, nor any recognition that the American people elected Republicans in a landslide in 2010 explicitly to slam the brakes on the Obama agenda. After moving through the (effective) heart of his remarks, Clinton decided to play fact-checker-in-chief. This is where he wandered. He addressed a litany of Republican arguments and policies, erecting and destroying straw men along the way. His "arithmetic," as he called it, was tendentious and incomplete. Indeed, he repeated many of the claims FactCheck.org dealt with this morning. He talked, and talked, and talked -- on the economy, on healthcare, on Medicare, on the debt, and on welfare reform (speaking of which, read this and this). His mind is still sharp and his political instincts are still keen, but Clinton strayed from the script too often and overstayed his welcome. Not in this hall, of course. The partisan crowd lapped up every last word. But at home. If his address had been shaved down to 30 or even 35 minutes, it would have been dynamite. It was still quite good. The guy loves to talk, and he's pretty fun to listen to. In the end, Bill Clinton made the most effective sales pitch for "four more years" we've heard at this convention. Did people stick it out through he whole marathon, or were they watching football? The image of the night was Obama striding on stage to hug Clinton as the pair basked in the crowd's adulation. Obama wants voters to almost imagine Clinton as his running mate, thus appropriating the 42nd president's record and enduring good will. Obama's counting on Clinton's decade-old legacy to save him from his own.
Odds and Ends: The media is eager to move past today's floor debacle, so they'll pump a "back on track, thanks to a masterful Clinton performance!" narrative. Clinton salvaged a lackluster 10pm hour (and session, really) then dragged it well into the next. Clinton's star power and strong endorsement certainly helped Obama; the rest of the night, not so much.
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