Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention never once mentioned her husband's opponents. Yet that's what it was all about. Bill Clinton's focused heavily on the Republicans, but was all about Obama

Michelle Obama's speech may have been a little too pitch perfect, with even the stutters well timed and the smiles employed like walk-on actors in a play. Bill Clinton may have dragged on a little long and delved into a little too much detail. But what we've seen the past two days in Charlotte were master classes in public speaking.

In the lead up to the biggest speech of all at the Democratic Convention -- President Obama's acceptance of his party's nomination -- he employed two of his greatest weapons and boy did they pay off. They were doing too very distinct jobs, but two identical jobs at the same time.

Mr Clinton and Mrs Obama -- and indeed the president himself -- have the key job of getting independent voters and some of the party faithful over the disappointment hump of the past four years.

Four years ago Barack Obama swept into the White House on a wave of HOPE. But the expectations have proved impossible to meet and President 44 has struggled to put his mark on the term, buffeted by global economic woes and brutal partisanship. Often he's seemed weighed down by it all, many of his choices have been less bold than his campaigning suggested, and the oft-promised change is hard to spot.

Many Americans expected more. The Republicans know it, so the key message from Florida was 'it's ok to be disappointed and switch horses. That doesn't amount to abandoning the HOPE or your country, it's just smart'.

So the Democrats need this convention to re-energise those who dared to hope four years ago; Team Obama have to convince them not to give up just yet. With the tarnish rubbed off, will they still believe?

The 'Mom-in-Chief' had the job of recalling the personal president that women wanted to marry and men wanted to be -- the one with the rusty car, who went on date nights, who struggled with debt and yet succeeded. She was trying to turn his life story into America's life story.

American speech writers are masters of subtext and rhetoric, and there was no better example than her speech. She never mentioned opponent Mitt Romney, but the unspoken end to every sentence was "unlike Mitt".

Barack has been in debt... Barack turned down high-paying jobs to serve his community... Barack respects janitors... Barack's unchanged by success... Barack earned it by playing by the rules... For Barack truth matters...

...Unlike Mitt.

Clinton's speech was almost the opposite. It was all about policy and politics, it was all about the Republicans and their lyin' and cheatin' ways. Oh, he respected the Republicans; heck, he worked with Reagan and praised the Bushes. Yes, those old Republicans were decent guys. Unlike the current pack of Tea-Party fruitcakes.

There was much less subtext here; Clinton works on charm not subtlety. He can boil the complex down to simply lines. His take on the past four years: 'They left us a mess, no-one thinks he's cleaned it up fast enough, but it's getting better and you need to put him back in'. Boom.

Is the President satisfied? No. (People at home can think: Yeah, we have every right to feel unsatisfied, the president's like us). Are we better off than we were? Yes. (Hmmm, maybe). Who'll make things better in four years? Us who are making steady change or them who will go back to how it was? (That gives me pause for thought...).

Clinton laid on a helping of middle class fear -- budget cuts to healthcare and student loans -- topped off with some gentle mocking of the opposition. He was there to protect and recast the past four years with his trademark ability to connect with the everyman and woman. Hey y'all, it could have been worse.

And so to the third and final act. The President, I'd assume, will look forward to the next four years. Doing what he does best, he'll paint a picture of a more perfect union and Americans relying on their better angels.

His two best assets have got him to third base. Now it's up to him to bring it home.

Comments (2)

by Rich on September 07, 2012
Rich

I think it's part of the general wierdness of American vote-ocracy that the person the President's sleeping with is part of the process. It's like expecting job candidates to bring their partners along for interview.

Has the US ever had a single president? [yes, Buchanan - also Cleveland and Arthur were unmarried/widowed when first elected]

 

 

by michael keir-morrissey on September 07, 2012
michael keir-morrissey

Rich, sadly you have missed a very important point. You're right, the American 'vote-ocracy' can sometimes appear 'weird', but the role of the President's wife is one of it's great strengths. By sheer good luck, American presidencies are often strong partnerships between a man and a woman. FDR and Eleanor was one, Jimmy and Rosalind Carter was another, and let's face it, for good or bad, Nancy Reagan ran the presidency as her husbands health failed. Michelle Obama is hugely powerful, she's a lot more than 'the person the President's sleeping with'. That phrase totally underestimates the role she, and many other first lady's have played in the running of the presidency, and, frankly, smacks more than a little of male chauvinism. Americans may not  have succeeded in electing a female president as yet, but they most certainly have benefited from some brilliant and influential first lady's. And yes, they do bring their partner along for the interview, prospective first lady's play a very large part in the election of a president.

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