It's finally over. Obama hasn't gotten any bump yet, but I've expected that to change. Now I'm not so sure for reasons discussed below. Either way, Team Romney is ready to "carpet bomb" battleground states with ads starting Friday. The last two hours of tonight's proceedings were the Biden and Obama show, so let's dig in:
Vice President Biden - Like Bill Clinton, Biden went too long. He veered back and forth from near-whispering to stentorian shouting. After offering a loving tribute to his family and accepting the Vice Presidential nomination, Biden praised his running mate and attacked Mitt Romney in similarly exaggerated terms. He said the Obama/Biden ticket is on a mission to move America from "doubt and downturn" to "promise and prosperity." Whether he realized it or not, this was a tacit admission that we're still in the former stage of that equation after four years of this administration's stewardship. Things were really bad, so give us more time, he essentially pleaded -- a recurring theme of the convention. But he also made this stark pronouncement about the US economy: "America has turned the corner!" This line was greeted with tepid applause. He said Obama has created 4.5 million jobs over 29 months, a paltry figure that still isn't even quite correct. He thundered that America is "not in decline," but many Americans are beginning to fear he's wrong about that. Connecting with the folks, Biden recycled a debunked anecdote about the battle Barack Obama's mother waged with her insurance company as she battled cancer. The word "literally" did not appear in Biden's prepared remarks, but he literally ad-libbed it eight times, often using it incorrectly. He, er, literally lied about Medicare, but that's par for the course. He regurgitated tired, misleading "equal pay" rhetoric. And he went to his favorite line about Bin Laden being dead and GM being alive under President Obama. GM still owes us tens of billions of dollars, but those statements are both true. Do they justify four more years of everything else?
President Obama - I'm genuinely surprised. Obama's speech was remarkably, almost shockingly, flat and mediocre. We've heard iterations of that speech many times before, but this one felt phoned in from start to finish. The audience was ready to explode, but they never really had the chance. I kept waiting for it to pick up, but it never did. This hall was much louder and more engaged during President Clinton's address last night. The president again talked about hope and how times have changed. He essentially urged voters to "stay the course," even as a large majority of voters believe our current course is badly awry. He served up a series of warmed-over promises, even as scores of already-issued ones lie unfulfilled. We were told he'd discuss entitlement reform with some specificity. He did not. He took a few shots at Republicans, but most of those seemed dialed back. He battled against the same straw-men he's been knocking down for years, to little effect. One of the only new passages I heard was his discussion of scapegoating, in which he equated people frustrated with federal mismanagement and waste with rank bigots:
We don't think government can solve all our problems. But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems - any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles. Because we understand that this democracy is ours.
This was "bitter clingers" redux, offered in defense of sprawling government. Almost entirely absent from the speech was significant mention of the jobs crisis, voters' top concern. He also mostly ignored Obamacare and the stimulus, his two signature first term agenda items. Where was his plan for another term? More teachers, increased energy independence and green jobs? That's it? I eagerly anticipate the inevitable RNC video comparing this speech with Obama's refrains from 2008. It'll underscore the more-of-the-sameness that filled this building tonight, and dropped with a thud. The most memorable line for me was "I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the President." You could have fooled many of us, Mr. President, given your constant campaigning and fundraising. Honestly, I don't even have the vigor to rebut some of Obama's more egregious distortions because I've done it before -- (ahem) literally. Press row is morose. Reporters are trying to reassure each other that the speech "wasn't that bad." MSNBC is subdued. On CNN, James Carville allows that this wasn't Obama's best speech. On Fox, Charles Krauthammer calls the speech the "emptiest" in recent memory. A woman in the concourse half-shouts, "fired up!" No one replies. This election will be hard-fought and close, no doubt. Obama could very well win. But tonight was a major swing and a miss for a guy known for his homerun speeches. Does anyone who watched that speech have a clear idea of what's next, or what his plan is to achieve this mysterious "forward" vision? Meanwhile, 23 million Americans are out of work or underemployed. The debt is at $16 Trillion and counting. Poverty and food stamp usage are at all-time highs. Middle class incomes are down. Obama wants four more years, but why? This now looms even larger.
Cardinal Dolan - The Catholic Archbishop spoke truth to power, in more ways than one, in his closing benediciton. He lifted up the unborn and urged respect for religious liberty. He emphasized the lines "In God We Trust" and "God bless America" before a crowd that objected to His inclusion in their platform just yesterday. He was essentially repudiating Democrats' policies at their own convention, putting a surreal cap on a surreal evening.
Parting thought: Was Biden's the more effective speech tonight?