Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 28, 2008

“That Was Quite a Show”

Republicans should say that over and over next week at their convention. “That was quite a show…but this isn’t show business. This is the future of America we’re talking about.”

Republicans should say that over and over next week at their convention. “That was quite a show…but this isn’t show business. This is the future of America we’re talking about.”

Read Less

A Terrible Speech

With 15 minutes’ consideration, I have to part company from my friend Bill Kristol. This was a dreadful speech — and I say this as someone who praised Hillary and Bill over the past couple of nights. The only real take-away from this speech is that he was willing to go for McCain’s throat. There was not a memorable sentence. It did not offer a new take on an old issue, or a new and exciting policy prescription. It was not elevated, or elevating; indeed, the concluding section evoking the “I have a dream” speech, on reflection, only made the speech seem mingy in tone by contrast.

It may well be that he did himself some good with Hillary Clinton Democrats and her populist, lunchbucket message. If so, it will have been effective. But it’s likely he did himself some damage as well with independent voters, who seem to make up about 11 percent of the electorate; the classic rule of thumb is that independents hate personal attacks. And while political professionals have been waiting for years for John McCain to show his legendary temper in public and damage his own career, it may have been Barack Obama who lost his cool under pressure and lashed out unwisely.

Maybe, given the decline in Republican enthusiasm and the increase in Democratic numbers, Obama can unite everyone who considers himself a Democrat this year he will have just enough to go over the top. Maybe, therefore, this will prove to have been a useful exercise for him. But showing you’re ready to get down and dirty isn’t the same as showing you’re ready to lead.

The old adage that the candidate should remain above the fray while his surrogates do the attacking will now have a pretty powerful real-world test. Republicans have an opportunity next week. Obama promises to change the tone in Washington. Maybe Republicans can change the tone in the presidential race right now. It won’t take much to do it, and actually, it’s quite natural to McCain.

With 15 minutes’ consideration, I have to part company from my friend Bill Kristol. This was a dreadful speech — and I say this as someone who praised Hillary and Bill over the past couple of nights. The only real take-away from this speech is that he was willing to go for McCain’s throat. There was not a memorable sentence. It did not offer a new take on an old issue, or a new and exciting policy prescription. It was not elevated, or elevating; indeed, the concluding section evoking the “I have a dream” speech, on reflection, only made the speech seem mingy in tone by contrast.

It may well be that he did himself some good with Hillary Clinton Democrats and her populist, lunchbucket message. If so, it will have been effective. But it’s likely he did himself some damage as well with independent voters, who seem to make up about 11 percent of the electorate; the classic rule of thumb is that independents hate personal attacks. And while political professionals have been waiting for years for John McCain to show his legendary temper in public and damage his own career, it may have been Barack Obama who lost his cool under pressure and lashed out unwisely.

Maybe, given the decline in Republican enthusiasm and the increase in Democratic numbers, Obama can unite everyone who considers himself a Democrat this year he will have just enough to go over the top. Maybe, therefore, this will prove to have been a useful exercise for him. But showing you’re ready to get down and dirty isn’t the same as showing you’re ready to lead.

The old adage that the candidate should remain above the fray while his surrogates do the attacking will now have a pretty powerful real-world test. Republicans have an opportunity next week. Obama promises to change the tone in Washington. Maybe Republicans can change the tone in the presidential race right now. It won’t take much to do it, and actually, it’s quite natural to McCain.

Read Less

What Did He Want To Do?

Yuval Levin, I think, hits the nail on the head:

What it didn’t do, though, was answer the basic question the McCain campaign has worked to plant in voters’ minds: what makes this guy think he’s qualified and ready to be president? If the question has really sunk in, Obama is in no less trouble than he was before this convention, and the Republican convention—where McCain’s readiness and experience will be front and center—will do him real harm. But if it hasn’t, and if what people basically want is to get away from the Bush administration, he has certainly given them a reason to see him as their guy.

But there is something else: Barack Obama struggled mightily during three days plus of the Convention to convince voters he is sweet, considerate, and just like them. The speech isn’t going to make voters like him or identify with him. But maybe that’s all hooey and the point is just to get voters to hate George W. Bush and the Repbulicans. If so, he may have succeeded.

Yuval Levin, I think, hits the nail on the head:

What it didn’t do, though, was answer the basic question the McCain campaign has worked to plant in voters’ minds: what makes this guy think he’s qualified and ready to be president? If the question has really sunk in, Obama is in no less trouble than he was before this convention, and the Republican convention—where McCain’s readiness and experience will be front and center—will do him real harm. But if it hasn’t, and if what people basically want is to get away from the Bush administration, he has certainly given them a reason to see him as their guy.

But there is something else: Barack Obama struggled mightily during three days plus of the Convention to convince voters he is sweet, considerate, and just like them. The speech isn’t going to make voters like him or identify with him. But maybe that’s all hooey and the point is just to get voters to hate George W. Bush and the Repbulicans. If so, he may have succeeded.

Read Less

Re: Media Cheers

Karl Rove had three observations: it was old school attack politics, it invited a debate on specifics (“Okay, what programs would you cut?”) and it skated through problematic cultural issues like guns. Aside from that nary a critical word from the media.

I think we can safely say Obama has the media vote locked down. Whether independent, older voters were convinced is an open question.

Karl Rove had three observations: it was old school attack politics, it invited a debate on specifics (“Okay, what programs would you cut?”) and it skated through problematic cultural issues like guns. Aside from that nary a critical word from the media.

I think we can safely say Obama has the media vote locked down. Whether independent, older voters were convinced is an open question.

Read Less

“Media Cheer Obama Speech”

The Hill has more.

The Hill has more.

Read Less

Born in the USA

Bruce Springsteen’s closing themesong had a subtle subtext: Barack Obama may be a funny name–they said that over and over again over the four days–but he really is an American.  Funny story: when I ran for the US Senate in 1986, my campaign advisor Ed Rollins convinced me to adopt the same theme, born in the USA.  He was afraid with a name like Linda Chavez Maryland voters might think I was a little too foreign. Obviously the theme worked wonders.  Just ask Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who trounced me.

Bruce Springsteen’s closing themesong had a subtle subtext: Barack Obama may be a funny name–they said that over and over again over the four days–but he really is an American.  Funny story: when I ran for the US Senate in 1986, my campaign advisor Ed Rollins convinced me to adopt the same theme, born in the USA.  He was afraid with a name like Linda Chavez Maryland voters might think I was a little too foreign. Obviously the theme worked wonders.  Just ask Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who trounced me.

Read Less

Re: He Is Third

No John, fourth. Biden was better: at least he started out his speech with charm and obvious affection for his country. I understand why Michelle thought/thinks it is a “mean” country. It was a mean speech.

No John, fourth. Biden was better: at least he started out his speech with charm and obvious affection for his country. I understand why Michelle thought/thinks it is a “mean” country. It was a mean speech.

Read Less

The Send-Off

I think this is a little too much like the Beijing Olympics now. A slightly creepy vibe.

I think this is a little too much like the Beijing Olympics now. A slightly creepy vibe.

Read Less

He Is Third

Even if you didn’t think it was a disaster — and it may have been — Obama’s speech didn’t hold a candle to Hillary’s or Bill’s.

Even if you didn’t think it was a disaster — and it may have been — Obama’s speech didn’t hold a candle to Hillary’s or Bill’s.

Read Less

“American Promise”

His vague schtick near the end said it all. It’s not our free market, strong military, or superior education that makes America great; it’s our “American promise.” Now of course the promise part is vital and beautiful, but as Obama is articulating here, he fails to see that it’s our open economy, powerful armed forces, and intellectual capital that ensure we deliver on that promise. This is why he’s so long on pledge and short on delivery. 

His vague schtick near the end said it all. It’s not our free market, strong military, or superior education that makes America great; it’s our “American promise.” Now of course the promise part is vital and beautiful, but as Obama is articulating here, he fails to see that it’s our open economy, powerful armed forces, and intellectual capital that ensure we deliver on that promise. This is why he’s so long on pledge and short on delivery. 

Read Less

Frontal Attack

Tom Brokaw just said Obama “took on John McCain in a frontal attack in at least five places.” It will be interesting to see whether he has undercut his key promise of American unity.

Tom Brokaw just said Obama “took on John McCain in a frontal attack in at least five places.” It will be interesting to see whether he has undercut his key promise of American unity.

Read Less

They Love Him

It’s clear he wowed the crowd at Invesco.  But will his soaring voice make up for the lack of substance in the speech and the last angry man image he projected? I guess we’ll know more tomorrow. I, for one, think this won’t go over with the independents he needs to win in November. 

It’s clear he wowed the crowd at Invesco.  But will his soaring voice make up for the lack of substance in the speech and the last angry man image he projected? I guess we’ll know more tomorrow. I, for one, think this won’t go over with the independents he needs to win in November. 

Read Less

What Change?

“Now is not the time for small plans,”  intoned Barak Obama.  But what a small-ball speech he delivered!   Recruit an army of teachers.  Community service in exchange for college.  Equal pay for equal work.  The next generation of biofuels.  AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. No red or blue America on the battlefield. Stop insurance companies from
discriminating. Fathers must take more responsibility.   Etc.

Has there been a single political speech given in America in the last decade that hasn’t exhausted these old chestnuts?  There was no edgy, Clintonian triangulation.  No Democratic Leadership Council snipes at outdated liberalism.  Not even enough guts to name a program he will cut when he “goes through the budget line by line.”  Where on Earth was the change?

“The challenges we face require tough choices,”  he said so solemnly about two-thirds through.

Really? What tough choices is he willing to make?

“Now is not the time for small plans,”  intoned Barak Obama.  But what a small-ball speech he delivered!   Recruit an army of teachers.  Community service in exchange for college.  Equal pay for equal work.  The next generation of biofuels.  AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. No red or blue America on the battlefield. Stop insurance companies from
discriminating. Fathers must take more responsibility.   Etc.

Has there been a single political speech given in America in the last decade that hasn’t exhausted these old chestnuts?  There was no edgy, Clintonian triangulation.  No Democratic Leadership Council snipes at outdated liberalism.  Not even enough guts to name a program he will cut when he “goes through the budget line by line.”  Where on Earth was the change?

“The challenges we face require tough choices,”  he said so solemnly about two-thirds through.

Really? What tough choices is he willing to make?

Read Less

The Promise of America…

…is that things will be better around the bend? That is a very strange notion. The promise of America is that this is the last best hope of earth.

…is that things will be better around the bend? That is a very strange notion. The promise of America is that this is the last best hope of earth.

Read Less

Words of Anger

“They could have heard words of anger…” Well if Barack had been speaking they would have because that’s all he’s done tonight.

“They could have heard words of anger…” Well if Barack had been speaking they would have because that’s all he’s done tonight.

Read Less

Re: Nasty

I think he nailed down the “mad as hell” slice of the electorate. It is ironic he should dwell on temperament.

I think he nailed down the “mad as hell” slice of the electorate. It is ironic he should dwell on temperament.

Read Less

“The Strength and Grace to Bridge Divides”

That is what he says we need — after delivering an unusually direct personal assault on his rival. Listen, if he can get away with it, why not? Chutzpah is a key element of any successful political career.

That is what he says we need — after delivering an unusually direct personal assault on his rival. Listen, if he can get away with it, why not? Chutzpah is a key element of any successful political career.

Read Less

Projection

I think he’s talking about himself when he says you paint your opponent as someone you should run from.  That’s what he’s been doing for 30 minutes.

I think he’s talking about himself when he says you paint your opponent as someone you should run from.  That’s what he’s been doing for 30 minutes.

Read Less

Abortion

Not only can we agree on reducing unwanted pregnancies but we can agree on infanticide. Not a good topic for him to bring up.

Not only can we agree on reducing unwanted pregnancies but we can agree on infanticide. Not a good topic for him to bring up.

Read Less

I Can Attack You, But You Can’t Attack Me

After saying McCain refused to get Osama Bin Laden, Obama says we shouldn’t challenge each other’s patriotism. Meaning: Don’t challenge mine. But I get to say anything I want.

After saying McCain refused to get Osama Bin Laden, Obama says we shouldn’t challenge each other’s patriotism. Meaning: Don’t challenge mine. But I get to say anything I want.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.