Obama's speech through the eyes of the media

What's the word on Obama's speech? Like anything else, it just depends who you are talking to. But there are some commonalities in the way reporters and columnists describe it. Searing, soaring, cutting, fierce, tough and strong seemed to be emerging as the words of choice.


The Christian Science Monitor's Alexandra Marks used the word "fierceness" in describing the speech saying that it surprised some on the right.

“It was definitely a show of force,” says Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm. “He took it straight to the Republicans and clearly laid down the gauntlet.”

Great delivery

The New York Times used both "searing" and "cutting" in one article describing the speech. As for Obama's delivery, it was spot-on.

"Mr. Obama looked completely at ease and unintimidated by his task or the huge crowd that surrounded him. And he chastised Mr. McCain for trying to portray him as a celebrity, an attack aides say has been particularly damaging, offering a list of people who he said had inspired him, from his grandmother to an unemployed factory worker he met on the campaign trail."

Back in time

The LA Times, as did so many news outlets, compared the speech to JFK's.

"Not since John F. Kennedy's speech at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960 has the Democratic Party staged a spectacle so grand for the acceptance speech of its White House nominee."

This is normal?

The Washington Post held an online chat immediately following the speech where one reader opined that the speech itself was full of energy but questioned the opening video which proclaimed Obama had a "childhood like any other":

" ... uh, a mixed race child of a black African and white Kansan, abandoned by his father, grew up in Indonesia before being shipped off to Hawaii to live with his grandparents? That's the new normal?"

The backdrop

Peggy Noonan, in this morning's Wall Street Journal, explains why she wasn't that impressed with the much-discussed backdrop.

"The famous Greek amphitheatre didn't look all Alexander the Great if you were there. It looked instead like the big front display window at Macy's during Presidents Day Sales Weekend. You expected to see "Sofas 40% off!" in a running line on the bottom of the screen. A friend said the columns looked like "a ballroom divider at the Hyatt Hotel."

Noonan goes on to write that because the event was - in her words - "muted," it gives the Republicans "a big opportunity to wield against him, in contrast, humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy."

If the Obama camp believes this, there is a one-stop solution: ask Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to become Obama's chief speechwriter from here on out.

No rhetoric

Muted isn't the word Time's Joe Klein described it. Calling the speech "tough" he said it was "the perfect speech for a skeptical nation."

"It wasn't filled with lofty rhetoric or grand cadences. It did not induce tears or euphoria. It didn't have the forced, kitschy call and response tropes — "and that's the change we need!" — that defaced nearly every other major speech at this convention."

Instead, writes Klein, the speech was "lean, efficient, practical and very very tough."

Yes rhetoric

It leads one to wonder if Klein and the San Diego Union-Tribune's George Condron saw the same speech. Condron called it "rhetorically dazzling." He did capture the significance of the speech nicely.

"...this speech will stand as one of the pivotal moments in American history and race relations, right alongside Rosa Parks' refusal to surrender her bus seat in Montgomery, the passage of the Voting Rights Act and Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was given 45 years ago to the day of Obama's acceptance speech."


The Washington Post's Kevin Merida discusses the historical significance:

"Forty-five years ago, many of those who jammed the Mall in Washington to hear a young Baptist preacher exhort the nation to be better were just trying to get the foot off their necks, win the right to vote, stay at a highway motel, eat at a decent diner. They were trying to send injustice packing. Not elect a black man president. Most had not yet envisioned that.
"But imaginations have expanded this campaign season, soaring beyond Invesco Field, where Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination Thursday night, becoming the first African American to stand before his nation and ask for its November vote."

Speech: great. Backdrop: hilarious

The Financial Times clearly thought Obama nailed his speech. Clearly impressed.

"Those who came to the Invesco Field on Thursday witnessed something they are unlikely ever to forget. Barack Obama gave an electrifying speech that silences—for the moment at least—doubts in the Democratic party that they have backed the right candidate. He commanded this vast sports stadium with calm authority, there were no false notes, and the attention of his audience never wavered."

The rest of the evening, they say, didn't stand up calling the warm-ups a "dreary succession of second-rate speakers." As for the backdrop?

"Who in the world thought that the Greek temple stage-set was right? If the designer’s brief had been ”low-budget hubris”, it worked; by any other standard it was a calamity. With the Republicans calling Mr Obama a vapid celebrity, this was outright self-parody."


Could the oddest headline come from US News & World Report? "Barack Obama is not an alien" comes pretty close to something you'd see from the Weekly World News, but there is no mention of Bat Boy.

It was a homerun

USA Today said the speech and the convention were a success.

"Obama's 43-minute speech was the capstone of a convention that seems to have succeeded on two critical fronts: stitching together a Democratic convention that had been split in two nearly even factions by the primaries and giving Obama a bit of a bump after several weeks when his race against McCain seemed stalled."

No, it was more like a double

Toby Harnden, over at RealClearPolitics, gave the speech a thumbs-up but wasn't so high on the convention

"It was a fine speech. Beautifully crafted phrases that inspired, though they perhaps did not inform, floated high above the Doric columns on the stage at Invesco Field. At the same time, Barack Obama, his feet on the ground, delivered the meat and potatoes, reciting a checklist of the concerns of ordinary Americans who are hurting.
"There wasn't a coherent message from the convention. Mark Warner's keynote was a bust - Paul Begala's reminder that this wasn't the Richmond Chamber of Commerce just about summed it up. McCain and Bush were hardly talked about during the first two days. It did genuinely feel like a surprise when Obama made his surprise appearance at the close of day three because before then so little of the proceedings had been about him."

The other "O"

And the LA Times looks at one of the biggest celebrities to attend the event with "Oprah so moved by Obama she cries her eyelashes off." Yes, it is safe to say she liked the speech.

"I thought the speech was transcendent," she said. That's "what I thought. I thought the speech made us all feel we can do better, be better, walk taller, be higher. I just have never experienced anything like that.'' And she said "ANYTHING" as if it was all capitalized.
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