I didn’t think much of Day 1 of the Democratic convention. What a wasted opportunity. This was a night to begin making the dual case of why the Republicans had failed and what Obama would do about it. That opportunity–one of four precious days–was squandered. Back in the spring, after the Ohio debate, I wrote that Obama has spent too much time believing in his own press clippings, that he’s a new kind of candidate offering a new kind of politics. He didn’t want to get his hands dirty against Hillary Clinton, and he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty now against John McCain. He is in trouble in this race–the Republicans are in much better shape than they have any right to be–and yet he goes right on trying to stay above the fray. At some point you have to wonder whether “hope” and “change” have any concrete meaning or whether Obama is just a pied piper leading a youth parade to nowhere. I started out as a believer–I thought Obama was Tiger Woods, someone who transcended race because of his skills–but Tiger has the killer instinct and Obama doesn’t.
Michelle Obama gave a good speech, a very good speech, but the problem is that the speech was necessary because of what she said last February: “What we have learned this year is that hope is making a comeback, and for the first time in my adult life, I’m proud of my country.” They have been married for nineteen years, so she’s been an adult for a long time. Perhaps it is unfair to hold her to the same parsing of language that presidential candidates are subjected to, but that is the way the game is played. So enthusiastically did Michelle Obama embrace the American dream that it had to remind people of her earlier comment.
* “I know from the strength of their lives that the American dream endures.”
* “America should be a place where you can make it if you try.”
* “The world as it is just won’t do. We have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is why I love this country.”
* “My piece of the American dream was hard won by those who came before me.”
The best line of her speech came at the end: “I hope my daughters will remember that this time America listened to hope, not fear; that this time America could stop doubting and start dreaming.”
And the candid moments when her daughters joined her on stage and interacted with the giant video of their father were the best part of the day for the Democrats.
The commenters afterward raved about Michelle (though only Candy Crowley mentioned Michelle’s original statement about not being proud of her country). But they were very critical of the Democrats. James Carville was furious that the Democrats had not attacked the policies of the Bush administration, and Jeffrey Toobin referred to “one big missing piece: Why should America throw the bums out?” All that they accomplished today was to raise the stakes so that everything is riding on Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night.