I was only able to watch parts of Obama's acceptance speech tonight. Jay Reding live-blogged it and his take on the speech was that it was disappointing and very negative. I agree with that, I guess. Since I wasn't able to watch the whole thing, I can't say for sure how good a speech it was. A few observations, though:
- I made fun of the Greek Temple backdrop yesterday, but it didn't look that ridiculous when you saw the speech. I did like the way the backdrop emulated the exploding scoreboard at Sox Park at the end. I kept looking for Carlos Quentin circling the bases.
- The opening introductory video was very good. I'd never seen a picture of Obama's mother before; she was a very pretty woman, with an open, friendly visage that almost reminded me of the prototypical 60s Kansas girl. That friendly visage is quintessentially American and I think it was useful to see that. Smiling people are easy to like.
- And that brings me to one thing I noticed about the speech: not to put too fine a point on it, but the dude looked pissed. Obama's facial expression was often disdainful and even dismissive. He wasn't smiling much, on what should have been the happiest day of his political career. When Obama smiles, he is very appealing. When he lets his arrogance show through, he isn't. He looked arrogant today, which is very different from the way he looked in Springfield on Saturday. People forget the words, but they remember the image. Obama is supposed to be bringing hope and change; the frowning undercuts the message.
- The speech itself was full of the usual Democratic talking points and there's really no point in rehearsing them here -- you've heard them all before and you know where you stand on them. One thing that Obama did say was pretty disgraceful: he claimed that the federal government "sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes." That's crap and he knows it. Billions of dollars have gone into New Orleans since Katrina. New Orleans was a very sick city long before Katrina came calling; the politics in Louisiana have been corrupt forever and while I agree that FEMA hardly covered itself in glory, there is plenty of blame to go around there, beginning with the local politicians and flowing through the Army Corps of Engineers and lots of other people. And when someone drowns, they are dead. New Orleans is hardly dead.
- I think he also handed McCain a pretty good cudgel. Obama said "If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things. " He was talking about McCain, presumably. Problem is, McCain does have a record, a 26-year record. Obama, not so much. I'm guessing McCain's speechwriters will have a lot of fun with that.
- My advice to McCain would be this: don't hesitate to engage Obama on the issues. His original pitch was that he was a figure who would usher in a new politics and end partisanship and diviseness. To use the current locution, all that went under the bus tonight. Obama stands revealed as a typical Democratic politician with the same laundry list of suppositions and policy stances that all his predecessors have shared: there's an unbroken line from Obama's speech all the way back to FDR. and if I were McCain, I'd introduce the Veep tomorrow and then re-challenge Obama to a debate a week for the rest of the cycle. Obama said he was willing to debate and McCain should not hesitate to call his bluff. McCain is excellent in the town-hall forum, my friends.