Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack Obama's convention speech

Last night I went with a friend to join the Great Hills Democrats at Baby Acapulco's watching Barack Obama's speech. There was a fajita buffet, and four TVs facing outward from the center of the room.

The speech was absolutely sublime, that's all I can say. I already know Obama is a good speaker, but I was very impressed even with my high expectations. He hit most of the right notes, didn't pull any punches on McCain, and had a lot of well received jokes. Watching Obama work the crowd, I was very much reminded of seeing Bill Clinton live at UCSD at my graduation. I continue to be impressed by his qualities as a speaker, and desperately wish to again have a president who can string coherent thoughts together.

Because Bush sucks so much at public speaking, Republicans make the mistake of dismissing this ability as "He's good at reading a teleprompter." Nonsense. Certainly being a good speaker doesn't automatically make one a good leader; the skill of demagoguery can be used for either good or evil. But as someone who enjoys public speaking, I am adamant that the ability to read is a necessary but not sufficient skill. You have to really grasp what you're saying in order to emphasize the right stuff at the right time. Anyone who thinks otherwise is making a claim similar to believing that you can be a great comedian by going out and reciting someone else's jokes.

Like comedy, it's all about timing, and timing is one thing Obama has in spades. For instance, there's the way he worked the applause. When he first came on, the crowd kept cheering for several minutes. Obama acted sort of exasperated, pretending to speak and then looking like he couldn't get them to shut up. But he was clearly in complete control, it was all showmanship. When he really wanted to talk, they shut up. And I loves me some good theater.

The crowd of about 30 people watching the speech with me was mostly older; in fact at one point I wondered if my friend and I were the only attendees under forty. But they were full of energy, cheering, laughing, and shouting regularly.

After the speech, we somehow wound up getting in a discussion with with three marginally drunk, marginally right wing, off-duty Austin cops. The topics ranged from the situation of the homeless in Austin to property taxes to the war (even Republican cops are against it now, it seems). I don't feel like any of them will switch up their vote to Obama, but I may have perhaps depressed one or two of them enough to keep them home on election day. >:D That's a useful accomplishment, although in Texas it probably doesn't amount to much. Although drunk, they were all friendly, thought we made some good points, and said they enjoyed the discussion. And I got out without getting punched -- so hey, an evening well spent.


  1. At the end of it all, you are electing a politician. If you were not in line with his politics, would you really say "And I loves me some good theater"? If you disagreed with his policies, would you instead say "That was a total charade"? If that is at all so, what would be the take home message of your post?


  2. Of course not. Here's my take home message, if I may borrow a few lines.

    On John McCain:
    John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

    On corporate tax structures, an issue I care a lot about as a tech worker:
    Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

    On energy:
    As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.

    On war:
    For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

    On discrimination:
    I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

    Yes, Phil, by definition we are electing a politician. But what was good about the Obama speech was not just his style -- although the style is damn good -- but the way he managed to draw clear distinctions between his positions and those of McCain, on issues that I care about. Obama and I don't agree about everything, but I think he's tremendously more capable of leading than John McCain.

  3. I was impressed and pleased he finally said something negative about McCain. That "gates of hell" remark rocked! However, when Obama started to talk about policy positions, I felt myself cringe. "Clean coal!" Why are we still pursuing this as an option? Its a sham, and he has been duped. Natural Gas, though less offensive than coal, is not the answer if our goal is to solve the global warming crisis.

    If you don't mind me shamelessly pimping my blog where I wrote about my thoughts on the speech you can see it here:

  4. the war (even Republican cops are against it now, it seems)

    Shortly after Rumsfeld was fired, I noticed some discussion threads on the über-conservative saying "It's about time!". That's when I decided the tide was starting to turn against the Republicans.