It will be interesting to see how the speech played to normal Americans. For my part, I was underwhelmed. Here's why:
(1) Barack seemed to be yelling at us.
One of the risks of holding a speech in a gigantic forum like Invesco is that the speaker will shout in order to be heard by the crowd, rather than simply conversing with the viewers at home. That personal quality in his rhetoric was what made Barack so appealing in his 2004 debut. It was lacking tonight. I'm willing to bet the speech sounded great in the venue; for those of us at home, however, I thought his volume made him sound loud and even a little angry -- not so appealing in a potential leader.
(2) Barack spent much of the speech on the attack.
Perhaps all the kow-towing to the Clintons made him worry he had seemed weak. Maybe he was concerned that he needed to show he was "tough" after his milquetoast promises to meet dictators without preconditions. Whatever the reason, Barack certainly undermined his brand as "a new kind of politician," as he did the same old slash 'n burn . Note the contrast: John McCain running an ad to congratulate him; Barack -- who is supposed to be the one who will bring "change" by "uniting" us -- is attacking an administration of which McCain wasn't a part, and with which McCain frequently disagreed. There is a time for "righteous moral anger," which is (I think) the tone Barack was hoping for, but I'm not sure it's a smart move when it comes at the expense of uplift, which it did. What's more, many of the digs at John McCain seemed to represent an effort to refute criticisms that have been made of him . . . and that, in turn, made him come off as thin-skinned again.
(3) Promises, promises, promises
See this post below, with the questions I hoped viewers would keep in mind when they watched. Most glaring was the complete absence of any explanation of why he is the man for this moment -- why he, above all others, is suited to do what needs to be done. And all the promises, including the business about his "goal" to end America's dependence on foreign oil within ten years . . . well, my "goal" is to give each American a 10,000 square foot house with swimming pool and putting green. And I'm just about as likely to succeed as Barack is.
Does he really think that anyone is going to fall for the line that he can pay for all his goodies just by closing corporate loopholes, and ending waste, fraud and abuse, as he said? Please. I think the only timeworn cliche in this area that he left out was something about $200 toilet seats. What he'll really do? T-A-X-E-S.
(4) The Stature Gap.
There was one line -- ONE LINE-- about what Senator Obama supposedly achieved in the Senate before seeking a promotion: "I've seen [change] in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands." And the one line wasn't even truthful. So given what he's managed to accomplish thus far -- not much -- what reason do we have to think that will change once he's president?
Maybe my reaction was atypical. But I expected to be much more rueful about Barack's rhetorical prowess and appealing demeanor at his speech's conclusion. Did he seal the deal, or make a promising start? I'm not sure he did.
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