So I watched the big political show last night. Some thoughts:
It was good to see Ted Kennedy again, and looking surprisingly healthy. I was half afraid he’d come out on stage looking all skinny. That would have been bad. Nothing fantastic about his speech but it was perfectly serviceable. But doesn’t making that huge Kennedy sailboat the centerpiece of that video undermine a bit the whole John McCain seven houses thing? And then the first person interviewed in the clip was John Kerry. Hah.
Michelle Obama’s speech left me a bit cold. Most of the TV pundits seemed to rave about it, I thought it was just meh. The introductory video narrated by her mother was far more effective. The video had her deliver the line, roughly, “My children are the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I go to bed.” Then she repeated the line word-for-word in the speech. That jarred. And it’s too long to be a catch phrase.
But will her speech accomplish that big job that everyone claims was its purpose: to make her seem a bit less Angela Davis-y (per the New Yorker). Probably, some. Not a home run though. One thing that intrigued me was her use of the conceit regarding “The world as it should be.” Here’s a graf from her speech:
Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be.” And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is - even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves - to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?
I think she means the country when she says “the world,” but that doesn’t fit with her purpose of playing down the “I’ve never been really proud of my country” bit. I mean, people don’t generally talk about “fairness and justice and opportunity” in terms of the world- they say it about America. It’s almost as if someone did a search and replace on the text to avoid those Michelle problem areas. Note, there’s nothing wrong of course with saying that America can and should be better- it’s just a problem for her.
Naturally, the kids were great, though the Barack video feed seemed tacked on and pointless. It was like he was holding that family hostage in order to take over their house.
Apparently it was attack Pat Buchanan night on MSNBC. He noted that Michelle didn’t mention religion in her talk about her family life and he wondered why. I think he thought that she was being a secular Democrat, but of course the Obamas will have a difficult time now discussing how big a part their church played in their lives. Anyway, Chris Matthews’s shoot-down was hilarious: We don’t have a religious test in this country, Pat, thanks to Thomas Jefferson. Cut down on the coffee, Chris. And I thought Rachel Maddow (now with her own show!) was going to hit him when she was discussing Pat’s somewhat infamous 1992 RNC speech in Houston.
Juan Williams’s reaction to the Michelle speech was very moving, but unfortunately, I agreed with Bill Kristol, who poured cold water over everything.