Obama's Remarkable J-J Speech
by Todd Beeton, Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 04:55:48 PM EST
Bumped -- Jonathan
I've finally caught up on my J-J speech viewing and have to agree with David Yepsen that Obama clearly had the best speech last night. What I liked most about it was that Obama finally seemed to find the right balance between being a unity candidate, someone who can bring both parties together, and throwing anti-Republican red meat to the base while at the same time actually expressing pride in being a Democrat. Last night, Obama may have given his very first Democratic primary speech of the campaign. About time, Senator (you can view the speech in its entirety HERE.)
Now, considering the dinner was a Democratic Party event, I suspected the speeches would largely be a Democratic lovefest, saving the harshest critiques for Republicans. While Obama clearly did this, he surprised me by using his speech to also go directly after Hillary Clinton in ways that were both subtle and obvious.
This section was particularly pointed.
The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do. Not answering questions because we're afraid people won't like the answer just won't do....Tri-angulating or poll driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt or Rudy will say about us just won't do.
Here, he's tapping into Clinton's real weakness, which was on display at the recent debate and is the reason for the viral success of Edwards's Politics of Parsing web video: Clinton's double speak. But he doesn't stop there. Later in the speech, he calls Clinton out on some of her more hawkish votes, arguing that it's her way of tacking to the right for the general election.
I am running for president because I am sick and tired of Democrats thinking that the only way to look tough on national security by talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans. When I am this party's nominee, my opponent will not be able to say I voted for the war in Iraq or gave Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran or that I support Bush/Cheney policies of not talking to people we don't like.
Not only is he aligning Clinton with Bush and Cheney much more effectively than he did over the summer, but he's portraying Clinton as sort of a partisan traitor in a way, someone who'd sell out the values of the Democratic Party to act more "Republican" in order to win. Obama is saying we can win by being Democrats...acting like a Democrat is a winning strategy. That's very appealing and, while risky, I think was the best way to go after the beloved first lady who is widely perceived to have been a Democratic champion against the right-wing machine.
One other thing I liked about his speech is what wasn't in it. Did you notice that not once did Obama use his tired "turn the page" line? For me, it was tired the first time I heard it. Last night he debuted a much better slogan: "change that America can believe in." This line takes Obama's two strengths, the perception that he's a candidate of change and that he's honest and trustworthy, and merges them, suggesting by extension that Clinton says she'll deliver change, but can you believe she'll deliver what she says she'll deliver?
This speech, for me, signaled a new beginning for a campaign that has been scattered and incredibly undisciplined of late. Yepsen thinks it was so good that it could singlehandedly close his gap with Clinton in Iowa. Certainly it restores confidence in a campaign that had lost it, but it should not be forgotten that this event, a big rally speech attended by thousands of people, was Obama's turf. This is what Obama does. He still hasn't proven himself to be a consistent debater and his appearance on Meet The Press was unexceptional, whereas Clinton hit hers out of the park. So while I'm split on Obama's weekend as a whole (J-J dinner: A, Meet The Press: B-,) and hence unclear as to whether last night meant anything longterm for him, I think what it does signal is that Obama has found the sweet spot when it comes to using Clinton's weakness as an argument against her and for himself, which is something John Edwards, for all of his hard hitting rhetoric against Clinton, has failed as yet to do.