The Convention Speech

I had a feeling Andrew’s Obama enchantment was going to wear thinner the closer we got to November, and the further removed from the Clinton War we got. Anyway, I take some major umbrage to this:

That simulated faux-presidential seal was both tacky, silly and presumptive – a small version of “Mission Accomplished” Obama could well do without. The decision to give his acceptance speech in a stadium, rather than the traditional convention hall is also an unnecessary over-reach. The night will be freighted enough with history; it needs no new drama to set it apart. And the drama of the first black man accepting the nomination – with Obama’s rhetorical brilliance – will be more than enough for impact. Lastly, I was gob-smacked by the Obamas’ decision to include their children in a soft-focus TV interview.

I can barely credit that Michelle Obama agreed to this and that Barack Obama went along with it – it’s not what they would have done a few months ago. One great aspect of the Obama marriage has been the way in which they appear to have brought up their daughters as very regular girls, down-to-earth, normal and sane. Displaying them in this way was bad judgment and poor parenting. Fame is a toxin. Children deserve to be protected from it as much as they would from lead paint.

Any one of these misjudgments would be a trivial lapse – and we all make mistakes. It’s the combination that concerns me – and the possibility that this campaign is becoming far too cocky for its own good.

I don’t disagree with the seal critique. That was just juvenile and silly. As far as the interview goes, so far as I’m concerned that’s there business. Lots of kids have come up in the public eye of politics and done just fine. Chelsea Clinton comes to mind (and her family’s personal life got a lot more intimate scrutiny than the Obama’s is likely to). Either way that’s there business as parents and I’m not here to critique them. But the convention speech, far from being outrageous, strikes me as downright obvious.

For one thing, Obama’s got a long track record of overflow crowds in 20,000 seat, give or take, basketball arenas. And the convention is different, obviously, than a political rally. You have delegates, party officials, friends, celebrities, and so on all trying to get in for the speeches. It is not open to the public, in so much as there wouldn’t be room in the Pepsi Center. In short, it’s the antithesis of the Obama campaign. And really, does anyone doubt that Obama can fill a football stadium for such a major speech?

Which brings me to Andrew’s real critique, “the drama.” Normally I might agree, but I think the bar is higher for Obama. I say that because he’s already filled basketball arenas and run off a string of memorable speeches. Because of that, pundits, journalists, and viewers are going to go into the speech expecting more than they normally would from a convention speech. In short, if it’s not the greatest acceptance speech ever given, it could actually be called a let down. Yes you’ll have the first African American accepting a major party nomination, but you have to think about that imagery, unless Obama is going to bring it up every other line, which I highly doubt. And the goal behind political imagery is to make sure you do not have to think to get the point. Imagine a sold out football stadium, packed to the rafters, with the Goodyear blimp and helicopter shots beind taken from overhead during the applause pauses. Imagine the pan outs to a side shot that shows Obama standing in front of a massive sea of humanity, all on their feet applauding and cheering a political speech. It will literally be unprecedented in political theatre, and it will take a lot of the pressure off of Obama, his speechwriters, and the event organizers, as ultimately it will be the sheer magnitude and aspect of disbelief that what we’re watching is even possible that will stick with us, more than any 50 minute speech ever could.