It was an interesting night for candidate speeches, tonight. And probably a bad night to be John McCain.
McCain went first tonight, and I can only infer that he felt obligated to say something because tonight marked the last of the primaries. What he was thinking giving a speech on Obama’s big night, I will never know, but it was an ill-advised decision. Speaking from New Orleans for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, he came across like a hopelessly out-of-touch high school principal trying to inspire school spirit at an attendance-mandatory pep rally for a football team facing the last game of a losing season.
McCain tried to paint himself as the candidate of change — a laughable notion at best, given his talk of continuing our current president’s failed policies. He talked up his experience and minimized Obama’s. And he tried to paint himself as an ordinary Joe in touch with the working man and Obama as some sort of privileged elitist, apparently forgetting which candidate married a woman with a fortune estimated in excess of $100 million.
In short, the speech was the standard political fare of a traditionalist, uninspired and uninspiring.
Then came Hillary’s speech in New York.
Her choice of venue was also curious: it was in a basement-level auditorium of a college in New York, a place with no monitors for the crowd to watch news coverage and no reception for people to get updates from their cell phones and Blackberries. Perhaps so they could maintain their denial just a bit longer?
Hillary’s speech was interesting, and was clearly written by a lawyer used to finely parsing words and phrases to allow one to appear to say something meaningful without really doing so. She did not concede the nomination to Barack Obama, though she complimented him on a campaign well fought. Indeed, the opening minutes of her speech sounded more like the words of a candidate who had just secured the nomination, instead of one who could no longer deny that her opponent had secured enough delegates to make him the real winner. She left her path forward ambiguous — as if she is still considering taking the fight all the way to the convention in Denver. To her credit, she did speak of unifying the party, but for the most part, this speech was all about Hillary and her supporters.
Obama wisely saved the best for last.
He was speaking in St. Paul, Minnesota, tonight, at the site where the Republican Party will hold its convention later this summer. Again, a very interesting choice of venue. Because tonight he showed that he could fill that venue to capacity with people who were just there to hear him give a thirty minute speech. Indeed, not only did he fill it to capacity, but at least one report I heard said there were apparently about 15,000 more people outside, just there to celebrate and cheer for Obama.
All this, in the space where the Republicans will be holding their convention in a few months. Don’t think that the pundits won’t have a field day with that during the convention — especially since it seems more likely that the venue will be surrounded by 15,000 protesters, not well-wishers.
Tonight Obama demonstrated once again what an exciting and inspirational speaker he can be. He acknowledged McCain’s service to our country, and he spoke kindly of Hillary. But then he spoke of the hopes and dreams of the American people, and about our ability to achieve the amazing when we all work together. He spoke of being humbled by the people he had met over the last many months as he traveled across the country campaigning. And he spoke of his hopes of helping to unite us all — not Democrats, but Americans — to restore our country to greatness in the eyes of the world.
I was a bit misty-eyed by the end of it.
So there you have it. Three speeches.
McCain spoke about…well, I’m not really sure what McCain spoke about, because frankly it was a snoozefest.
Hillary spoke about Hillary and her supporters.
And Obama spoke about us. All of us. America.
NB: One edit in the third paragraph. Sorry about the multiple posts, RSS readers.
Update: JedReport at Daily Kos has put together a video mash-up of the McCain and Obama speeches, which gives a nice idea of the differences between the two. Worth checking out! He’s also got the full video of Obama’s speech in the same post.