Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Battle of the orators

In many ways, the speechs delivered last night by John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were an object lesson in style, substance and sincerity.

John McCain's "strategic" speech, timed to appear just prior to polls closing on the last of the Democratic primaries, was laughable from start to finish. McCain began by lashing at the media for not appreciating Hillary Clinton's fine qualities. Then he went after Barack Obama with a repetitive "laugh" line for which he never did find the comic timing. As a result, the line, which was designed to elicit response from the audience, fell flat. McCain was off his mark for the entire speech. He claimed he was in New Orleans, though he was in Kenner. He claimed that he would be an agent for change, though he didn't give any substantive evidence. He looked like he had never seen the speech he delivered before it appeared in front of him on the telePrompter. He appeared like an insecure bully.

For her part, Hillary Clinton delivered her "concession" speech without a concession in sight. She's can deliver a good speech, filled with concrete details and illustrations which give power to her ideas. But this speech, as was her entire campaign, was about the fact that she was entitled to the candidacy, and that somehow she had been cheated out of it. It was she who did the cheating. How else to explain that she made the claim to the popular vote, when that claim can only be supported by the technicality that she was awarded votes in Florida and Michigan which were truly unearned. I expect to feel wistful as she granted victory to her opponent. I expected to feel badly for her. I ended up thinking she was a poor sport. While she declared that she cared for everyone of the 18 million people who voted for her, she obviously doesn't give a shit about the rest of us, or the Democratic party.

Barack Obama is a superb orator. That has been acknowledged by supporters and opponents alike. He graciously praised Hillary Clinton. He exhibited humility. He inspired and he showed emotion. I believe he was close to tears as he finished (but likely remembered the fate of Edmund Muskie). Yes, I'm an Obama supporter, but neither of the other candidates can hold a candle to his oratorical skills.

H/T to Talking Points Memo for posting all three speeches.

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