The Hope We Confess
It was a deeply substantive speech, full of policy detail, full of people other than the candidate, centered overwhelmingly on domestic economic anxiety. It was a liberal speech, more unabashedly, unashamedly liberal than any Democratic acceptance speech since the great era of American liberalism. But it made the case for that liberalism - in the context of the decline of the American dream, and the rise of cynicism and the collapse of cultural unity. His ability to portray that liberalism as a patriotic, unifying, ennobling tradition makes him the most lethal and remarkable Democratic figure since John F Kennedy.
What he didn't do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. The McCain campaign set Obama up as a celebrity airhead, a Paris Hilton of wealth and elitism. And he let them portray him that way, and let them over-reach, and let them punch him again and again ... and then he turned around and destroyed them. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check.
He took every assault on him and turned them around. He showed not just that he understood the experience of many middle class Americans, but that he understood how the Republicans have succeeded in smearing him. And he didn't shrink from the personal charges; he rebutted them. Whoever else this was, it was not Adlai Stevenson. It was not Jimmy Carter. And it was less afraid and less calculating than Bill Clinton.
Above all, he took on national security - face on, full-throttle, enraged, as we should all be, at how disastrously American power has been handled these past eight years. He owned this issue in a way that no Democrat has owned it since Kennedy. That's a transformative event. To my mind, it is vital that both parties get to own the war on Jihadist terror and that we escape this awful Rove-Morris trap that poisons the discourse into narrow and petty partisan abuse of patriotism. Obama did this tonight. We are in his debt.
Look: I'm biased at this point. I'm one of those people, deeply distressed at what has happened to America, deeply ashamed of my own misjudgments, who has shifted out of my ideological comfort zone because this man seems different to me, and this moment in history seems different to me. I'm not sure we have many more chances to get off the addiction to foreign oil, to prevent a calamitous terrorist attack, to restore constitutional balance in the hurricane of a terror war.
I've said it before - months and months ago. I should say it again tonight. This is a remarkable man at a vital moment. America would be crazy to throw this opportunity away. America must not throw this opportunity away.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Pat Buchanan–praising Barack Obama.
When was the last time we saw a speech like tonight's -- a full-throated defense of progressive principles, devoid of mushy "centrist" crap? It didn't avoid the tough social issues like abortion, guns, or gay marriage. It wasn't apologetic. Unlike Bill Clinton's and Biden's, it didn't unnecessarily praise John McCain. It drew sharp distinctions between Democrats and Republicans.
It came from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
To be honest, this is the speech -- aggressive and unabashedly populist -- I expected Biden to give. I couldn't be more pleased to have gotten it instead from the standard bearer himself.
Tomorrow, the McCain campaign will try to "steal Obama's thunder" by announcing Pawlenty. Or Mittens.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Bring 'em on. This battle has been engaged
In that context, Castellanos' response was very telling. He made no attempt to put the speech in any positive context for McCain. Midway through this clip he sounds like an Obama surrogate. And he concludes by saying that "whoever didn't get picked for Republican VP today may be a lucky Republican."
Chuck Todd: McCain Camp Speechless
Todd's referring to this statement below put out by the McCain campaign.
McCain Campaign Statement On Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech
Thursday, August 28, 2008
ARLINGTON, VA -- Tonight, the McCain campaign issued the following statement from Tucker Bounds, McCain 2008 spokesman, on Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention:
"Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama. When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President."
TPM's Josh Marshall:
I thought this was a very strong speech. About exactly what was needed. It was a strong speech. He made the case for himself; he laid out clear policy goals; and he aggressively set forth the stakes of the campaign. He made the case against John McCain while not attacking his character -- which makes a clear contrast with McCain's aggressively personal, denigrating campaign strategy.
I've heard a few people say that he seemed to hold back from giving the soaring speech he might have given. But I suspect that was intentional and I think a good decision. Meta-themes and tonality form the deeper structure of political communication. And the aim of this speech was not eloquence but strength.
Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:The optics of the event - the first national party convention to be held outdoors since John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960 -- were breathtaking. Television screens filled with images of Obama supporters dancing in the aisles to the tunes of Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow; a blazing orange sun set on an arid Colorado night as Obama prepared to take the stage. The speech ended with fireworks and confetti, as Obama, his runningmate, Sen. Joe Biden, and their families stood together waving to the crowd of delegates and supporters, at the climax of the Democratic National Convention.
Senator Hillary Clinton:"Barack Obama's speech tonight laid out his specific, bold solutions and optimistic vision for our nation and our children's future.
"His speech crystallized the clear choice between he and Senator McCain. Four more years of the same failed policies or a leader who can tackle the great challenges we face: revitalizing our economy and restoring our standing in the world. I am proud to support Senator Obama, our next President of the United States and Joe Biden, our next Vice President of the United States."
MotherJones' David Corn:It was a historic speech on a historic night--in a remarkable setting. A crowd of tens of thousands of Americans, filling an entire stadium in the middle of the country, waved American flags and signs calling for "Change." Never in the nation's history had more Americans attended such an event. Never before had an African-American accepted the presidential nomination of a major party in the United States. And the speech of Barack Obama matched the moment.
He connected his own history--the history of a not-quite-ordinary American family--to the mythical promise of America. His rhetoric soared--as usual--but it was tethered to reality: in particular, the stark differences between how Obama would approach the challenges the nation now faces and how John McCain would do so. Obama laced his criticism of the Bush years and the possible McCain years with a dose of populism, which gave portions of the speech a sharp edge. And he brought his pitch for hope and change down to the ground with a succinct description of policy ideas he would work for as president.