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DNC 2012: Who Had the Best Speech? Hint: Not the One Last Night

Who loves Bill Clinton? Bill Clinton loves Bill Clinton.
Who loves Bill Clinton? Bill Clinton loves Bill Clinton.
csmonitor.com

csmonitor.com
Who loves Bill Clinton? Bill Clinton loves Bill Clinton.
Three completely different emotions and narratives of the United States unfolded in each of the keynote addresses this week at the Democratic National Convention by two presidents and one first lady. In a way, all the speeches were spectacular displays of poise, command of the issues, and sheer likability.

That's the incredible power of Barack Obama -- perhaps his only remaining power -- that most all of us genuinely like having him around, despite all that's happened. But even that seems stretched and today, we wanted something fresh: Did we get it? All three speeches exhibited some of the best qualities of our nation, that talented, smart people can achieve just about anything. Still, one of the keynote speeches made us want to go hunting with Dick Cheney somewhere in the woods and get shot in the face.

Best speech: Bill Clinton Ah, Bill. We've missed you. And how you're somehow capable of strutting with such apparent megalomania, and still seem like a down-home boy from Hope, Arkansas. If there was any glaring elucidation from the conventions, it was this: Bill Clinton loves being Bill Clinton. Can't get enough of himself. He talked smooth and fast and eviscerated some conservative talking-points in a way that Barack has never been able to do. He wagged his fingers, and talked to the country like he was an extemporaneous professor before an unruly enrollment. He was Bill Clinton.

Displaying a knack to make convoluted policy seem facile, he went point-by-point, furnishing numbers that few had heard before. "So who's right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats, 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans, 24 million; Democrats, 42 (million)."

Here's the crazy part: In speeches that are notoriously inaccurate and deceitful -- Bill was actually right! For once he didn't lie! Screw you Kenneth Starr! Check it.

Most aw-shucks speech: Michelle Obama: Wearing a glimmering red Magic-Eye dress that's gotten more attention than her speech, the First Lady gave nonetheless the most endearing and disarming talk of both the conventions. Though there's been some thought that Michelle faked her stutter to ingratiate herself with the American people, we, for one, do not agree with that. Let's unpack that notion. She was giving an enormous speech with profound ramifications in front of the entire nation. So she stuttered a little. Whatever. She came off as a heartfelt mother who cares for her children more than her husband's ambitions.

She was able to accomplish something her husband has never tried before. She was human: "I see ... I see how those stories ... I see how those stories, our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams -- I see how that's what drives Barack Obama every single day. And I didn't think it was possible, but let me tell you today I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago when we first met."

The one unfortunate aspect of this speech -- something Hillary Clinton would never have done -- is that she was forced to dull her intellect to fit into the conventions of being a traditional first lady. Demure, pearled, caring, these are the adjectives she tried for. Even though by all accounts she's every bit as bright as her husband. So was her speech disingenuous? No, but it didn't show us everything Michelle is.

 

Worst speech: Barack Obama This speech was a major disappointment for several reasons. For one, it didn't really say anything. He didn't mention one thing he'd do if we gave him a second term. It was just a lot of: Give me more time. Things will get better.

But he didn't point to anything that would actually make things better. Instead, he spoke in platitudes, which is what's most usual in these things. Unfortunately, this is a not a usual time. Barack talked incessantly about the middle class, but the middle class is taking punishment on all sides. Last night, we needed something. Some big idea. But the more Barack talks, the more it seems like if he wins in November, the nation will face more gridlock, more dysfunction, more of the present.

And listen, the present sucks. Here's why: The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the August job numbers, and they were dismal. There were just 96,000 jobs created -- 30,000 fewer than economists expected. Bill Clinton said two nights ago he knows "we're coming back." But is that true?

The World Economic Forum just released its report this year on global competitiveness, and for the fourth consecutive year the United States fell in the rankings -- down to seventh place. Switzerland nabbed the top spot. The United States got dinged on how much we trust our politicians, ranking 54th in the world. And with speeches like what we heard out of Barack Obama, there's little wonder why.

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