After all of the hoopla leading up to Senator Barack Obama's Democratic Convention acceptance speech, I found myself looking forward to what he would have to say, and appreciating even more the sense of history in the making. On the 45th Anniversary of one of the most important and eloquent speeches in world history - one that prophesied the promise of this very day today - and on an evening that was crisp, clear, and crackling with energy, the stage was set for one of those moments that we can tell our grandkids about.
The stage was set ... and how! Zeus would have been jealous of the grand columns flanking Obama; Giselle Bundchen of the long supermodel runway; and John Elway of the mammoth crowd packing Invesco Field at Mile High.
After a stirring and beautifully-produced introductory video highlighting Obama's life, the Candidate himself strode onto the stage and delivered ... well, he delivered a speech that could have been given by Jimmy Carter in 1976, by Walter Mondale in 1984, by both Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton in 1988, and by John Kerry in 1984. Rather than an inspiring and thoughtful message that would fulfill Obama's promise of being "change we can believe in," he instead dug deep into the musty old playbook of the past, and gave an oddly negative and calculating screed that was long on invective and promises and short on grace and substance.
Conventional wisdom was that Obama and Biden would play "good cop/bad cop" with their presentations; Obama would be the sunny golden child, and Biden would be the angry, red-meat chucking Terminator. Tonight's speech indicated that the conventional wisdom was wrong. Obama came out firing ... and perhaps mis-firing ... as he tossed off numerous deceptive "bumper sticker" deceptions about the President "sitting on his hands while an American city drowned" and John McCain's idea of rich being only those making $5 million or more, or that John McCain was stubbornly alone in wanting our troops to stay in Iraq.
Even as he disingenously proclaimed his respect for John McCain's courageous service to the nation and his desire for a civil dialogue, he repeatedly mis-represented or mis-stated McCain's positions, experience, and policy, and proclaimed him unfit to lead. Obama declared his willingness to engage McCain in a debate about who has the temperment and judgment to be Commander and Chief, as if Obama has not repeatedly dodged and denied McCain's repeated requests and offers for them to debate often.
Obama gave a long laundry list of changes he would make, offering no proposals as to how these great things would get done, other than spending massive quantities of taxpayer money. He stated that John McCain had promised to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but would not even follow him to the cave where he was hiding - this was a statement of towering putrid posturing; a gross mis-characterization of the facts. But, it played well to the masses of worshippers gathered in Obama's Temple of Lies.
Obama continued his litany of promises he would change and great things he would do; about the only things he forgot to promise was a cure for the common cold and a World Series for the Cubs. "I will do this, and I will do that," he bellowed, as if he and he alone - with your money, of course - could educate your children, heal your diseases, care for your elderly, and cradle the tired, the poor, and the huddling wretched masses. Give him a lighted lamp, put a pointy hat on him, paint him green, and he could light the way for millions no doubt.
He moved uneasily back and forth between mean-spirited attacking and soothing blessings of prosperity for all. He promised to bring all Americans together, which would be a neat trick considering how often he demonizes Republicans and how he is the most liberal member of the US Senate. He noted repeatedly how the Senate had failed on numerous issues over the past three decades while John McCain was in it, apparently forgetting that - HELLO - his own running mate, Joe Biden, has been serving in the Senate even longer than McCain. Biden, bless him, maintained a large forced shiny white-toothy grin throughout Obama's history lesson.
Of course, I am in the minority tonight of thinking the speech was not "all that." Fox News praised him; wordsmith Frank Luntz was greatly impressed with Obama's skillfull wielding of touchstone words and themes. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper were reveling in the moment on CNN, and of course, Keith Olbermann had to burble this ludicrous lie on MSNBC: "I wish I could find something to criticize," before sighing contentedly in the warmth of the afterglow. Chris Matthews responded by saying, "I think we're all moved because this speech was about us. Some people criticize me for being inspired by this man and getting feelings when he speaks, but I say, 'to hell with them!'"
And so, tonight, as you read all of the reports from Newsviners who were moved to tears and tingles and thrills by the sheer spectacle of it all, you can thank me for providing an alternative view.
Postscript ... following Obama's speech, John McCain offered an ad on the networks where he spoke directly into the camera and praised Obama and congratulated him on this history-making night. "Senator Obama, this is truly a good day for America. Too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So I wanted to stop and say, 'Congratulations! How perfect that your nomination would come on this historic day. Tomorrow, we'll be back at it. But tonight Senator, job well done."