Rebunk: LIve from the DNC (Actually on tape on C-Span from Odessa)
First impressions of night one of the Democratic National Convention:
I am a liberal and I am a Democrat, so these assessments will certainly be tempered by those facts. But I also think that I am dispassionate and cynical enough about the whole process that I can give a fair accounting of what I just saw. One of the big stories of the solipsistic media is how bloggers are covering a national convention for the first time. And while I grow weary of Andrew Sullivan’s “blogs are changing the world” onanism (Note: He’s asking for money again) I figure that Rebunk ought to have some sort of coverage. On the plus side, I get to cover the convention from the comfort of a friend’s living room wearing gym shorts and a tee shirt, spilling Klondike bar all over myself and avoiding what I am sure is a mob scene in a city that is on its best days clogged, unwieldy, and well night impossible to negotiate. On the minus side, I love that clogged, unwieldy, impossible to negotiate city and I’m instead writing this in gym shorts and a tee shirt with Klondike bar all over me.
Bill Clinton: Say what you will about the man, he can craft and present a speech. He had the audience enraptured. I thought his personalizing the tax cut and his not serving in Vietnam was brilliant, as was the “Send Me” epistrophe about Kerry he invoked toward the end. Again, I am a liberal, so my biases here are plain, but among the great speakers in my lifetime, four rise well above all others – Mario Cuomo, Jesse Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, in no particular order. I am not even talking about content. I am talking about being able to deliver lines, to have a crowd like putty in their hands, as that crowd was tonight. The big concern many folks had, in fact, was that Clinton would overshadow Kerry. In a sense, he will not, simply because Clinton is so pitch perfect – even when speaking about himself, he never lost track of what and whom he represented tonight, what his purpose was. But at the same time, the bar was suddenly just set high. A lot of Democrats are probably drinking themselves silly at private parties or in Quincy Market and sighing dolefully, wishing that Bill Clinton, for all of his peccadilloes, could run again. That probably does not make for the ideal situation if you are the actual candidate.
Hillary Clinton: She’s very, very smart. And she is even more ambitious. She has brilliantly positioned herself as a junior senator. And you just know it was killing her to know that if Kerry wins and is successful, her chances for the Oval Office might be dead in the water. I have never really liked her speaking style, however. I have never gotten the personal vitriol aimed at her, but I do find her voice and style a bit grating. She did fine tonight, saying nothing as memorable as her husband and holding that place, just in case Kerry or Edwards or both falter. It’s as if you could see the wheels spinning even as she said all the right things. She’s like the girl at the bar who knows you have a girlfriend, but clearly does not care.
Jimmy Carter: Last long enough, and anyone can become a respected elder statesman. If someone had said in 1981 that Jimmy Carter would be given a prime-time speaking role and accorded respect at the Democratic National Convention, they probably would have been met with giggles. But in the intervening two-plus decades, Carter has forged a career second to none among former presidents. He received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and I honestly wished he had not – I would have just as soon have had him win the prize, which I believe he has long deserved, in a much less politicized climate. Carter’s speech was a bit like the last hurrah for an old warrior. It was not the finest piece of oratory one has ever heard, but the early Monday night slot was a good one for him, and he was received with respect. Jimmy Carter was not a fine president for a host of reasons, many of which actually had little to do with him. But he was and is a fine man. There should be room for fine men, even if they were not wonderful presidents, in this setting. I hope that Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush are both given comparable slots in New York next month.
Al Gore: On the one hand, I could not help but ask myself, where was this Al Gore in 2000? For a guy for whom this part of politics simply does not come naturally, he looked about as comfortable as I have ever seen him, which is to say he looked the least like a Saturday Night Live skit that I have ever seen him. But even with that said, doesn’t he remind you of the impotent neighbor in those damned ubiquitous natural male enhancement commercials where the one neighbor clearly has found the key to maintaining his mojo and the other can’t even get his, um, hose to shoot more than a trickle? Seeing Gore tonight, with Clinton following, that commercial kept coming to mind. I hate that freaking commercial. Something tells me, though, that I do not hate it anywhere near as much as poor, flaccid, it should have been me, Al Gore does.
Tom Bruscino - 7/27/2004
So thanks for the summary Derek. Nice work.
The only thing I would add is that from what I saw this morning, the difference between the speeches by Presidents Carter and Clinton illustrated my point about their respective ex-presidencies. Carter got in the mud; Clinton was partisan but acted the statesman.
Jonathan Dresner - 7/27/2004
I've always been struck by Gore's stylistic range as a speaker: capable of the most deadening lectures, but also of rousing preaching, mostly in front of African American Christian audiences. I never understood why he and his handlers didn't schedule more preaching and less lecturing.