Barack Obama took audacity to new heights tonight and if thecrowd’s reaction to his acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium is any indicator–he knocked it out of the park, touchdown, homerun and every other tired sports metaphor thisblogger can’t think of. What impressed me most is the sheer chutzpah ofthe moment–the daring of attempting to fill a football stadium (done),the daunting logistical challenge of coordinating the event (ding), theintelligence and grassroots organizing that went into the programming(yeah, they did) and, above all, how much rhetorical work Obama pulledoff in a speech that had the highest of expectations.
He hit hard on John McCain, tougher than was expected, inverting the normalconvention convention whereby surrogates attack the rival candidate butthe nominee is all sweetness-and-light. Pointing out that McCain voted90 percent of the time with Bush, Obama said, "I don’t know about you,but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change," to thunderousand sustained applause. From the economy to the war–Obama linked McCain to the Bush administration’s record, and he was helped, perhaps crucially,by six citizens who testified to their very ordinary, very movingordeals–including an autoworker, a teacher, a nurse, a pet store ownerand a guy named Barney Smith, who gave the most memorable line of thenight when he said, in the most adorable dorky way, "We need a Presidentwho fights for Barney Smith, not Smith Barney!"
If, to my mind, there were some political sour notes, especially thesuggestion that Iraq was enjoying a surplus while Americans suffered adeficit, the sheer constraints on a Barack Obama candidacy were alsorevealed–the burden of proving one’s patriotism, discrediting ignoblesmears against one’s faith (not that there’s anything wrong with being aMuslim) and countering the McCain talking point that politicalpopularity is the equivalent of cult worship. Perhaps, because of theseburdens–many unique to Obama, most unfair–some of the necessary,crucial themes seemed, to this blogger, buried too deep within. Theeconomic crisis that most Americans struggle with was movinglyhighlighted, but the solutions–or even the chief culprits–remainedvague. The foreign policy dilemmas remained too wrapped in the languageof American exceptionalism. The culture war was assuaged, but only withsignificant cheats–the idea, for example, that gun control is about"keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals" or that same-sex marriagewas about visiting one’s loved one in the hospital.
It’s impossible to address–to the satisfaction of the left AND theelectorate–all of these issues in one speech, but this one, this greatone came close–closer than we Americans have any right to expect,perhaps, more than we deserve.