The Democratic convention ended Thursday night with Hillary Clinton delivering her acceptance speech. I watched, tweeted and jotted down some of the best and worst of the night that was.
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– Khizr Khan: The father of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died in a suicide bombing attack in Iraq in 2004, provided a powerful testimonial to his son – a Muslim-American soldier – and an equally stirring condemnation of Donald Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He asked rhetorically whether Trump had even read the Constitution then whipped out a pocket Constitution of his own — a nice bit of stagecraft. Khan held the crowd in the palm of his hand — a stirring and entirely unexpected moment.
– Hillary Clinton: A good-but-not-great speech. It was extremely well written and constructed. Clinton didn’t rush it. She got better and more comfortable as it went along. The second half was better than the first.
But, the speech didn’t really show us a side of Clinton we didn’t know. No one questions her long record of fighting for progressive policy. No one doubts her comprehensive knowledge of issues. But, a vote for president isn’t based solely on a laundry list of policy proposals and positions. It’s also a vote for the person running for the office. And I’m not sure Clinton did enough to show that other side of her.
Hillary campaigns in prose, while promising to govern in prose.
So, why is Clinton in the “winners” column? Because this speech was exactly who Clinton is: A worker, a nose-to-the-grindstone churner who never, ever stops. That is, at heart, her strongest attribute as a candidate. She gets knocked down 20 times. And she gets up 21. “More than a few times I’ve had to pick myself up and get back in the game,” Clinton said toward the end of her speech.
This was a speech that reflected the candidate — 50 feet off the ground rather than 50,000, policy details over soaring political rhetoric. Clinton stayed true to herself — even if that meant that she didn’t match the heights of some of the speakers who came before.
– Chelsea Clinton: She wasn’t the most dynamic speaker. She didn’t get the crowd on its feet. She didn’t wow anyone. But what Chelsea Clinton did do was something no one else on earth could: Tell the story of “Hillary Clinton, Mom.” Stories of watching “Pride and Prejudice” with her mom after attempts to overhaul healthcare failed in the 1990s. Stories of her mom leaving her notes when she had to be away for work. Stories about the cutest dinosaurs. This wasn’t a perfect speech. And Chelsea isn’t the public speaker that her father or her mother is. But, Chelsea Clinton still did something that I think will help Hillary Clinton in the general election: She humanized her.
– Emanuel Cleaver: The Missouri Congressman is a former pastor — and man did it show. Seeking to shine a light on Clinton’s resilience he repeatedly insisted that she Clinton simply couldn’t be kept down. Here’s a snippet: “They threw her down as the first lady, but she didn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a U.S. senator, but she wouldn’t stay throwed! They threw her down as a secretary of state, but she wouldn’t stay throwed!” There was foot stomping. And Cleaver briefly left the lectern, only to return for a final “You better listen to me-I said she won’t stay throwed.” You really need to watch it to appreciate the full effect.
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– Andrew Cuomo: The New York governor will forever be compared to his father — legendary liberal New York governor Mario Cuomo. That’s a tough legacy to follow — especially when it comes to big speeches at Democratic conventions. Mario Cuomo’s “Tale of Two Cities” keynote address at the 1984 convention is one of the most iconic addresses in convention history. Andrew’s speech was closely watched for that reason and for the fact that his father passed away in 2015. But, Andrew Cuomo is simply not the orator that his father was and his speech never reached the heights some had hoped for him.
– Nancy Pelosi: Pelosi long ago wrote her name in the history books as the first female Speaker of the House. And she is one of the best fundraisers and inside players in the history of Congress. What she is not is a terribly dynamic public speaker. Pelosi struggled to stay with the teleprompter throughout her address and seemed mostly focused on simply getting to the end of it.
– The “Bernie or Bust” crowd: Sanders’s supporters repeatedly disrupted Hillary Clinton’s speech, forcing her backers to drown them out with “Hillary!” chants. Here’s the thing: Bernie Sanders, as he has acknowledged, lost. Fair and square. Clinton got more delegates. She got more votes. She won. This is the nature of campaigns. Someone wins, someone loses. Get over it.
– C-SPAN’s Hillary countdown clock: Maybe it was because I have been on the road for two weeks straight. Maybe it was the fact that I have sweated off half of my body weight over this fortnight. But, man, did I NOT need to be reminded that it was four then three then two then one hour before Clinton was set to speak. It made an already long night/week/month even longer. Don’t worry though C-SPAN. I still love you.
– Four-day conventions: It’s one day too long. We could easily knock this thing out in three days. America, you know you’re with me.