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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Three Speeches, One Winner

I was so tempted to call this post "Yes He Did!" but I guess I'll save that one for November. The word "historic" is being thrown around a lot this morning, as Barack Obama has the nomination of the Democratic Party all sewn up. For the love of God, can someone please put top Clintonista Terry McAuliffe out of our misery now? His forced excitement is freakin' annoying. Either Terry's deranged with some rare form of a manic delusional state or he does more cocaine than the entire Aerosmith road crew. He makes that shouting, bearded lunatic who sells Orange Glo on TV seem as calm as the Dalai Lama. Someone make him stop. Please.

Yesterday was a typical day for Team Clinton, with confused messages that suggested the left hand didn't know what the right was doing. While the Clinton campaign was busy putting down an Associated Press story that she was planning on conceding, Terry McAuliffe was all over the place saying that she would -- at least, under the right conditions. Asked on NBC's Today Show if Clinton would concede if Barack Obama hit the mark, McAuliffe told Meredith Viera, "Yes, I think if Sen. Obama gets the number, I think Hillary Clinton will congratulate him and call him the nominee."

Yeah, she didn't do that. Not only didn't she concede, she didn't even congratulate Obama on his victory. There are a lot of things you can call Hillary Clinton, but "gracious in defeat" isn't one of them. In fact, Clinton seemed to send the message that there was some way forward from here -- but the "Obama's the nominee" narrative left the station long before she stepped up to the stage. In fact, AP called it for Obama yesterday morning.

About that speech. It was nothing special. She left everything up in the air, neither conceding nor announcing she was going on what Al Giordano calls "a Kamikaze mission" of a convention floor fight. Giordano seems unconcerned. "Everything is good. She’s getting out," he writes. "She just has to negotiate her terms. But she stopped short of starting an internecine Civil War in the Democratic party. And nothing in her tone or words indicated otherwise."

Others were much, much less impressed. "I probably shouldn't write any more about this woman and her staff," said Matthew Yglesias in a very brief post. "Suffice it to say that I've found her behavior over the past couple of months to be utterly unconscionable and this speech is no different. I think if I were to try to express how I really feel about the people who've been enabling her behavior, I'd say something deeply unwise. Suffice it to say, that for quite a while now all of John McCain's most effective allies have been on Hillary Clinton's payroll."

Some are suggesting that Hillary absolutely must be Obama's running mate -- I'd link to a few, but you've probably seen a few already. I have my doubts. With her constant drumbeat of "Experience! Experience!" Clinton has done a pretty thorough job of setting herself up as the establishment candidate. In an election where voters are clamoring for change, this wasn't the wisest message to send and probably had a lot to do with the failure of her campaign. Picking up Clinton as the VP would tarnish Obama's change cred. I don't see it happening, but I suppose I could always be wrong.

Some are worried about Clinton extremists, who threaten to vote for McCain now that Hillary's out. But I'd be willing to bet real money that Obama already has a poll in the field to find out just how many of these dead-enders there really are. I'm guessing they'll find out that they're few and far between -- the shrillness and stridency of these voters makes them seem much more important than they really are. Besides, Hillary will endorse Obama eventually and these voters will likely be swayed by that. I doubt these voters will force Obama's hand. But you never know. It may seem overwhelming now, but Obama probably won't make a decision until July. The "Hillary must be VP" movement may have lost a lot of steam by then.

Another speech last night was made by John McCain, who took the opportunity to try to poach a few disaffected Clinton supporters. Poor, poor John McCain. It was awful. He delivered a confused message -- one that said that Barack Obama sucks and that John McCain is Barack Obama. Baghdad Johnny needs to make up his mind. Standing before a weird green backdrop that read "A Leader We Can Believe In" (Obama's motto is "Change We Can Believe in"), McCain delivered a hectoring speech in forced and wooden tones.

And he did it in New Orleans -- a place McCain has no business going. While McCain used the location to try to separate himself from George W. Bush, all he really did was guarantee that this photo would be all over the damned blogosphere today:

"We must also prepare, far better than we have, to respond quickly and effectively to a natural calamity," McCain said. "When Americans confront a catastrophe they have a right to expect basic competence from their government. Firemen and policemen should be able to communicate with each other in an emergency. We should be able to deliver bottled water to dehydrated babies and rescue the infirm from a hospital with no electricity. Our disgraceful failure to do so here in New Orleans exposed the incompetence of government at all levels to meet even its most basic responsibilities."

Yeah, that photo I just showed you? That's George W. Bush giving McCain a birthday cake the day that Katrina made landfall. So distancing from Bush -- dead. Washing his hands of his part in that disaster -- dead. If it's possible for McCain to have chosen a worse location, I'd like to know where that is.

It didn't help any that his reasoning was off-kilter and his message hopelessly inconsistent. I can boil the whole thing down to one sentence; "I've been in Washington for a billion years and that's why I represent change." Yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me, either. McCain delivered a terrible speech in such an extremely awful manner that my belief that there's no freakin' way this guy can win has been renewed.

Barack Obama may have done Baghdad Johnny a favor. He delivered his victory speech in the middle of McCain's "I'm Obama/I'm not Obama/I'm not Bush/Bush is right" speech and every network cut from McCain treading water to Barack Obama, who surprised no one by hitting it out of the park.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. It's nice to know that someone who gave a speech last night had some idea of what to do with a microphone and a crowd. Of Clinon's speech, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank writes a piece titled "In Defeat, Clinton Graciously Pretends to Win." Of McCain's speech, The American Prospect's Ezra Klein said, "It's a cuddly, almost delicate delivery, as if he were reading a storybook to really young children. It's extremely disconcerting."

Not only did Obama win the nomination last night, he also won the media contest, delivering a speech as fit for the history books as his historic win.

Dammit, I can't help it. I've got to say it.

Yes he did.


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