I was wrong. I thought that Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday night would retire the trophy as best speech of this, or any other, year.
Then came Joe Biden. First of all, he called the First Lady of the United States “kid” and got away with it. Then he called the President of the United States “Barack” which, as it happens is his name, but it was jarring to hear the Veep call his boss by his first name.
Biden got off the best line of the night – not a gigantic cheer line, but an important one:
“When the middle class does well, the rich do very well & the poor have hope; they have a way out.”
Former Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg took on Trump as a businessman. His best line was,
“I’m from New York. I know a con when I see one.”
The President was excellent, but the oration bar for him is so high it’s like the world pole vault record: 20 feet, 2.5 inches (just warming up for the Olympics). He didn’t set a new world record, but he gave a workmanlike (for him) performance and, as he said (switching track and field metaphors), “passed the baton” to Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia was about as good as he could have been. He is not an orator. He is not known for his skill in delivering funny lines. And, as we learned last night, his is not the Rich Little of political impersonators of Donald Trump.
As someone who has written a speech or two in his life time here’s an insider’s secret: Write for the person that is giving the speech.
Sound easy, but it’s not. You have to be able to hear in you own head, the speaker saying the words you are writing. If you can’t, the speech won’t be any good, and you will have failed.
Who cares whether Kaine is a good orator or not? Everyone. Everyone because tonight Hillary Clinton will give her acceptance speech and she’s no great shakes at this speaking thing, either.
The delegates – most of them – will buoy her up. She’s worked for this night for at least 10 years straight. She will have to guard against losing her cool and sounding shrill, shouting her way through it; on the other hand she has to lift her game to match the enthusiasm in the hall.
This is not as easy a line to walk as it may seem.
From a tactical standpoint, the crowd mikes – the ones the let the TV audience know when the audience is laughing, or booing, or chanting, or applauding, have to be placed and monitored so the pro-Clinton delegates are easier for us to hear than the pro-Bernie Sanders delegates.
That has not been particularly well handled. When former Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was making the foreign policy case for Hillary Clinton – we could clearly hear delegates – probably Bernie Sanders delegates – chanting, “No More War.”
Sanders, for most of the night, looked like the old guy at the end of the block sitting on a lawn chair and waiting to yell at the neighborhood kids if a Frisbee landed on his grass.
Donald Trump was busy trying to step on the Democrats’ convention by holding a news conference in which he was asked about the dump of Democratic emails by Wikileaks – now pretty much laid at the doorstep of Vladimir Putin.
Rather than saying something like: “It is unacceptable for the Russians to interfere in an American election,” and focus on the content of the emails, he couldn’t stop himself from going on the suggest that if the Russians had already hacked Hillary Clinton’s server in Chappaqua, it would be swell for them to release the 33,000 emails the Clinton team destroyed.
Later he said he was just being “sarcastic.” I don’t believe he meant to literally invite the Russians into Hillary’s basement, but he promised us he would be more Presidential when he became the nominee. He’s not.
Like many of us, Trump is missing the gene that says “Just because it comes into your head, doesn’t mean it has to come out of your mouth.” But no one else is the GOP nominee for President and I, for one, would like to see at least a glimmer of self-control.
One more night to go. We can get through this.