So Far, So Good

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Aug 25, 2008 11:41 PM
It strikes me that Republicans have every reason to feel good about the first night of the Democrat convention.  It's hard to tell what, if anything, was achieved in furtherance of making the case for Barack Obama -- who, incidentally, told the assemblage that he was in St. Louis, when he was really in Kansas City (imagine if Dan Quayle or George W.  had made such a gaffe!).

The big event, of course, was Michelle Obama's speech.  It's easy to understand why it was such a moving occasion, especially for African Americans.  She's obviously a bright woman who cares deeply about her family.

All that being said, there were a few things that bear pointing out.  For a long time now, it's seemed that the Obamas themselves are the ones with the obsession about Barack's "funny name" (for example, here and here).  So perhaps it wasn't surprising, but it was odd that there were two separate references to Barack's name -- the first, when Michelle said in the introductory video that, "His name was Barack Obama, and I thought, 'Well, who names their kid Barack Obama?' So I figured this guy has to be weird."  (I thought it was just the evil, bigoted right wingers in this country who would be so prejudiced!).  Then she referred to his "funny name" again in her live speech.  Is polling showing that the name is a big deal, or are the two of them just kind of stuck on it?

Second, one heard much more about struggle and hard luck stories than about gratitude for a country that has made her opportunities possible -- a strange choice for a woman who's trying to overcome perceptions that she is both quite left-wing and angry.   The part about "the world as it is just won't do" came off a little radical, I thought, especially as part of a speech that seemed to laud community organizing and dismiss corporate work.

Again, we were implicitly invited to salute both her and Barack for their virtuous abandonment of "corporate America."  The idea would have been nicely matched with some forthright gratitude for a country (and the individuals)  that have enabled her to go to Ivy League schools in large part on scholarship.  The "I'm proud to be an American" portion of the speech seemed a little strained to me.

Finally, to the extent that the talk was supposed to make us feel like we "knew" Barack a bit better -- or had a better idea of where he'd actually take the country -- I'm not sure it was a success.  How is he going to move us from "the world as it is" to "the world as it should be"?  Of course!  He's going to "bring us together!"

Still, the little Obama girls seem lovely, and the family picture on the stage after the speech was an appealing one.  In any case, it doesn't seem that anything happened tonight that should be giving Republicans nightmares.