About Last Night
9:53 AM, Aug 27, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
Our four day national nightmare is now half over. Herewith, some thoughts on day two of the DNC.
1) I was doing commentary last night for New England Cable News last night, so I got to watch Hillary Clinton's speech in the company of a couple of co-panelists who were devoted Hillary Clinton fans. This was a pleasure I don't normally enjoy. They adored it, and adored her. One or both of them kept saying "Go Hillary!" at various junctures during the oration; I can't remember whether it was one or both of them because by that point in the evening, the whiskey to numb the pain had officially kicked in.
Hillary did well for herself last night. She speaks decently - as well as your Chris Dodd or John Kerry type, not as well your John Edwards type, and nowhere near as well as your Barack Obama type. But still she stood out because her speech had substance, or at least a lot more substance than Barack Obama has conditioned us to expect. Careful observers will have noted that 85% of the speech would have worked just fine as a Hillary stump speech. It was a good stump speech by her standards, but it's hard to imagine how a Hillary Rodham Clinton stump speech at this point benefits Barack Obama. I would wager a lot of Democrats around America compared her smooth effort to Obama's recent stumbles and concluded, "We should have nominated her." And I would double my bet that Hillary wouldn't mind such sentiments receiving widespread public attention.
Like I said, she did well for herself last night. If Obama should lose in November, Hillary will be even more of a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination in 2012 than she was this year.
It also must be said that the film preceding her speech was excellent. Her film was made by her Hollywood friends; Monday's dreary tribute to Ted Kennedy came from Ken Burns who normally works for PBS. Advantage free market! Of course, the mini-epic was all about her, and didn't even pretend to have anything to do with Barack Obama. Still, I'm sure George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala both gushed simultaneously on different networks last night, "What a team player!"
At the risk of sowing discord in the Democratic ranks, allow me to offer that Hillary did not do all that she could have done for Barack Obama. Indeed, she did the bare minimum. The speech was only a success for Obama if you considered it a possibility that she would come out and explicitly endorse McCain. Think of it this way - she and Obama have been senate colleagues for four years and spent 18 months together on the campaign trail. And she still couldn't manage to offer a single anecdote of why she liked him or thought he should be president? Every time she said "Barack Obama," you could have slid in "Our Generic Nominee" and the speech would have worked just as well. If she really was into all this team player stuff, she would have told America why she now appreciates the error of her ways and knows that Barack Obama should be taking that 3-in-the-morning phone call.
Putting aside Hillary's half-hearted effort at teamwork, the whole exercise, like most of the convention to date, was pointless. Her supporters don't belong to her - they're not hers to "give" to Barack Obama. (Since the dead-enders simply don't like Barack Obama, a personal endorsement from her might have helped in that regard but once again, that was obviously too much for her to muster.) If Obama is to make headway with these people, he'll have to make the sale on his own. Maybe his umpteenth speech on Hope and Change on Thursday will get the job done.
2) It would be easy to pick on Mark Warner for giving such a dreadful speech last night that it should have been titled "No ClichÃ© Left Behind." But instead, let's pick on the Democratic party. How clueless and desperate have the Democrats become? Their search for a narrative is going so poorly, they allowed Warner to give his senate stump speech as its convention's keynote address. Maybe the Democrats have just given up on putting forth a coherent and consistent message. Brian Schweitzer was at least entertaining, albeit a touch crazed.