More on Obama’s speech from around the interwebs

I was not alone in finding Obama’s acceptance speech lacking.

Kevin Drum in Mother Jones:

Barack Obama’s speech tonight was….OK. But that was about all. It meandered, it skittered, and most of the time it seemed oddly themeless . . . there was nothing memorable, nothing forward looking, and nothing that drew a contrast with Romney in sharp, gut-level strokes.

Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast

Let’s be blunt. Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase . . . This was the rhetorical equivalent of running out the clock . . . he thinks he’s ahead and just doesn’t need to make mistakes.

When you’re running against people to whom facts are irrelevant, the way you kill them is with facts. Not with rhetoric that’s vague and too subtle.

And here, Tomasky likes the same word that send those shivers up and down my back:

The only sentence I really liked was the one about citizenship. It makes my heart happy to hear a president use the word, because a lot of them don’t very much, especially Democratic ones, who are probably warned that the word might offend the non-citizen community. So that felt like it might be the start of something interesting, but it too just sort of floated out the window.

Joe Klein at Time Magazine kinda liked the speech, but also said:

He recognized the difficulty of our situation. He cknowledged mistakes. But he did not close the deal. The speech disappointed me, and I’m not quite sure  why.

But I still wonder: What is he going to do with his second term? What are the next things we need to do as a nation?

Klein also said this – not exactly about the speech, but I like it, so here:

To be sure, he gave us more than Romney. Romney has given us practically nothing. And the expansive joy of the Democrats, in all their many wonderful  hues, was far more bracing than the heavily narcotized and traitjacketed rage of the Republicans in tamped-down Tampa last week. The Republicans’ untoward anger, their illegitimate fantasies about Barack Obama, is an American disgrace. I like and admire the President; he’s smart and funny and exemplary. He’s made some very difficult decisions, correct decisions under impossible circumstances. He pulled us from the brink, from an economic disaster largely caused by the plutocrats now criticizing him so shamelessly and falsely. But I want more from him, more guidance, more leadership. Somehow — and this is still true for an electoral majority of Americans — we all do.

8 responses to “More on Obama’s speech from around the interwebs

  1. I wonder if, once again, we all expected too much from him and this one piece of the overall event. Many of us wanted and expected a closing argument, but perhaps the whole event was the closing argument.

    I certainly hope Tomasky is wrong about Obama being overconfident. He shouldn’t be.


    • Donald, I like that use of ‘closing argument’. Maybe that’s what I wanted from Obama – if earlier speakers made the case, I wanted him to wrap it up?


  2. I know it’s natural to look to a president for leadership. He is one person whereas the other two branches are groups of people and have the problems that all committees have. FDR, one credited with leadership, did fireside chats. He said things like, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But things are different now. Then it was radio, newsreels and newspapers. Now it’s TV sound bites, tweets, and talking heads. 200 channels and nothing to watch. Texting. FDR I submit would have trouble getting people’s attention, much less effecting any leadership.

    Look, the nation’s economic woes are very complex and accumulated over many decades and administrations. Healthcare costs more than double what it should because of EMTALA and because we have built an industry that profiteers on a necessity. The Bush administration, for all its lip service to conservative principles, allowed the unfettered growth of Top Secret America to the point where Congress doesn’t even know where the money goes – all powered by fear of terrorism. And then there were the two unnecessary wars. And we expect Obama to sweep in while the economy is is free-fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month, and lead us out of this in four years? Give me a break.

    Pundits like those in your post, Moe, fail to recognize reality, but fortunately or unfortunately the President is cursed with the ability to do just that and he’s too honest and pragmatic to lie about it. Some distortion is all he can manage, and that out of political necessity. The real problem lies in America’s self-indulgent culture and in its fiscally undisciplined instrument, Congress. In other words, the problem is us.


    • Oh drat! I wrote a long comment Jim and lost it! I’ll try to reconstruct and repost.


    • Okay, reconstructed:

      Jim, I quite agree that today’s instant media make it nearly impossible to control a political message. But it can be done. The right wing noise machine has done a very good job for the right; the left has largely failed. Look at the Tea Party vs Occupy. There are many reasons – not least shadow financing – that the Tea Party became a force and Occupy appeared to – appeared to – devolve into a farce. I think the difference was that the right got behind their movement (maybe even created it) but Occupy was left on its own to cede camera time to street theater and anarchists.

      I don’t put this failure just on Obama but I do think his people failed to take it into account when molding their message – not just at the convention but over the previous four years. I think I heard his speech through the filter of my own disappointment in that regard.

      An example from recent history: after 2000 and peaking around 2004, the left owned the blogosphere. The right was very late to the game, but somehow, since then we ceded the lead and let the advantage slip away. We practically invented the netroots and using the internet as an organizing tool. I remember that in ’04, Daily Kos literally launched a Senatorial candidate, Ned Lamont in CT. Had Joe Lieberman not made the utterly cynical move to the ‘independent’ ticket (he had lost his primary to Lamont) to get the Republican vote (which he did), we could have had the victory and been the first to propel someone to high federal office due primarily to the online community. The Netroots Nation bloggers convention was born then and it immediately attracted top speakers like Al Gore (who understood the power).

      But like with Occupy, the party failed to embrace the movement.

      Still, as you point said, that pales when “The real problem lies in America’s self-indulgent culture and in its fiscally undisciplined instrument, Congress. In other words, the problem is us.”

      I think the best examples of that are health care (we would apparently prefer to go broke resisting something that’s been proven to work all over the world) and energy, where we’ve scorned conservation and fuel efficiency, while insisting on a 20th century energy model and backing it up with wars.

      So yeah, we do gets what we asked for.


      • Good points, Moe. I must note that I do get regular emails from the White House and other Democrat sources, so it’s not like they aren’t trying. But the internet – it’s a huge swarm of buzz, all seeking attention. Help!

        And OWS? Their problem as I see it is that they had no proffered solution around which to rally, and that’s because there wasn’t one – unless you consider restoration of Glass-Steagall and stuff like that. OWS seemed to be an populist symptom of financial frustration and little more. How can a party embrace a symptom? And Obama, to his credit, did press for and achieve some financial reform.


        • AGain, all true. But the TP was formed after the Bush bank bailout – they hated it. Occupy was formed after the financial crash. I think they were both populist at first. And, at first, Occupy did have a focus, but were rapidly drowned out by the mischevous among them and no professionall leadership stepped helped them, while the GOP jumped in to organize and finace the Tea Party alost immediately.

          Obama did a LOT. But as Marshall McLuhan said in the 70’s (?), “the medium IS the message’.


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