I thought The Speech last night was a grand slam. It did everything it was supposed to do in spades. It laid out a clear distinction between the 2 candidates and the 2 parties. It rallied the faithful, and presented the central themes of the campaign.
I never thought I'd go all tingly over the word "citizenship."
The left, Digby among others, is not happy because of his apparent embrace of the terms laid down by the Simpson-Bowles "Catfood" Commission on the debt. The right, as is to be expected, complains about "lack of substance," especially Charles Krauthammer. Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, gushed over the speech, "I loved him. But I'm biased. I think he's been the best thing to happen
to America in a long time and he has achieved more in tougher
circumstances against historical odds than anyone has a right to expect."
This was not supposed to be the State of the Union speech. This was supposed to be part pep rally and part revival with a large amount of sales pitch thrown in. This was not about laying out a detailed policy proposal for the next term. This was supposed to be about framing the contest as a choice between 2 sharply different visions for the future of the United States. This was about about presenting the case for why he should get another term, as a champion of an older vision of the USA that sees liberty bound up with citizenship and community, not as some kind of rat race. The speech was about rallying the ground troops who are going to work phone banks, ring door bells, pass out literature, work crowds, and host events in last and hardest 2 months of the campaign.
Unlike some pundits, I do not miss the old party conventions where delegates argued and struggled over who would be the candidate. There are good reasons why the primary and caucus system replaced the old "smoke filled room." The party convention is now a necessary spectacle and revival meeting for the faithful, as well as a sales opportunity to those outside the hall.
I have my issues with Obama certainly. But that central theme he laid out of liberty guaranteed by the duties of citizenship certainly pressed my buttons. He's not a perfect President by any means, but he's the best we've had in decades.
Here's hoping all's well in November.
James Fallows has the best take on the speech after a day's reflection on it. He gives it far more credit than did The Conventional Wisdom.