Obama Didn't Bring 'A' Game, But Got the Job Done
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Despite tropical humidity, buckets of rain, a last-minute venue change, wacko anti-choicers shouting on every corner, and lots of disappointed ticket-holders, the Dems got done what they came to do in Charlotte. They revved up the base and possibly picked up a few male working-class voters with pugnacious appeals to patriotism and a focus on manufacturing jobs.
Michelle Obama’s speech was so thrilling, and Bill Clinton’s such a barnburner, that I feared anything that followed – including the President’s address – would be anti-climactic. And so it was Thursday night in the Time Warner Arena.
It was never going to be 2008 again. Obama is now an incumbent and has been battling a maniacally obstructive GOP for nearly four years. His approval rating was a few points into the negative zone, according to Gallup, when the convention started. He looked humbled – and possibly a touch chastened? – as he spoke to the American people about his record. But he is still considered a likable figure and reaps benefits from the stark contrast to his rivals – a pair of snake-oil salesmen with a mean vision of America where the rich rule and women’s bodies are thrown under the bus in order to convince lower-income social conservatives to vote against their economic interests.
I have always felt that Obama’s reputed oratory prowess is overrated. After the illiteracy of George W. Bush, his rhetorical competence and the obvious intelligence on display in his speeches were a breath of fresh air. But for me, at least, there was often something wanting in his ability to emotionally connect and to deliver truly memorable material. He has a tendency to go long on empty assurances and short on details. At his best, he is able to inspire with lofty musings on broad themes, as he did in his famous race speech.
But last night Obama did not bring his "A" game. His somewhat flat delivery and the dissonance created by populist language that sounded hollow given some of the bank-centric policies of his administration were unsettling.