I thought this was a very strong speech. About exactly what was needed. It was a strong speech. He made the case for himself; he laid out clear policy goals; and he aggressively set forth the stakes of the campaign. He made the case against John McCain while not attacking his character — which makes a clear contrast with McCain’s aggressively personal, denigrating campaign strategy.
I’ve heard a few people say that he seemed to hold back from giving the soaring speech he might have given. But I suspect that was intentional and I think a good decision. Meta-themes and tonality form the deeper structure of political communication. And the aim of this speech was not eloquence but strength.
I’ve said myself that Obama’s campaign needs to be more aggressive. They need to hold the initiative, and attack, attack, attack. But attacking doesn’t mean bludgeoning — at least not necessarily. It means making the case and defining the argument. Not running a campaign by reacting — well or not — to your opponent’s attacks. As Paul Begala said in our interview with him a couple days ago, it’s not about rapid response but rapid attack. Personally I might prefer an even more aggressive tack from Obama’s surrogates. But I think here Obama himself had the balance just right.
I also think he made the right decision to directly (and, in the case of the ‘celeb’ meme, explicitly) confront the smears, particularly the attacks on Obama’s Americanness and patriotism. The tone didn’t strike me as defensive or outraged (which is a different side of defensiveness) but more one of what I might call assertive contempt.
At the end of the day, a convention is the most orchestrated — you might say, the most contrived — event of modern political theater. So the moments after its conclusions can give a very illusory impression. But taken that impression on its own merits, for this moment, John McCain looks very, very small. Both in stature and as a person.
Taken as a whole, each day in progression, successive speeches hitting different notes and building in sequence, this convention was very strong.
Meanwhile, the AP hops back on the tire swing.
TPMtv reports live from on the ground at Invesco Field after the speech: