Politics

09.06.12

Clinton Totally Kills It

Holy smokes. That was the best political speech more or less ever. There wasn’t a thing he didn’t touch on, and there wasn’t a thing he didn’t just blast out of the park. His carriage and delivery nailed it for partisans and for persuadables. He hit Republican obstructionism. He slammed the Romney and Ryan plans on virtually every point they’ve raised in the last six months, from the welfare ads to the tax cuts to the Medicare “cuts” to so much more, and he did it in detail.

Amazing detail! Who else could burrow into those details, give a wonky speech—which this was, in a huge way—but a wonky speech that brought people to their feet two dozen times?

If you weren’t following Twitter and/or didn’t have a copy of the speech, you may not know the extent to which he went off script. All. The. Time. One of the best non-scripted lines was: “Democracy does not have to be a blood sport. It can be an honorable enterprise that supports the public interest.” That was literally about Obama’s decision to name Hillary Clinton his secretary of state, but it really was about much more. It was about the whole Republican posture of the last four years, and there’s no doubt that people got it.

He managed to do just small and obvious things that other Democrats, even Obama, don’t manage to do with any close to Clinton’s force. Notably on Medicaid: It is a simple fact that two-thirds of Medicaid helps middle-class people with nursing home costs. I’ve written that myself. But most Democrats don’t say it, for whatever reason. Clinton just knew how to say it.

Did it go on too long? Well, maybe. But then again maybe not. I had the feeling of getting distracted about every five minutes for about 40 or 50 seconds, but then some line, some hand gesture, some shot of a look with his eyes, brought me right back in. I’m not a sucker for a Clinton speech: I remember watching those State of the Union addresses thinking, when is this going to end? This speech could have ended 15 minutes sooner, but it was no great crime that it went on for that next 15.

The evisceration of the Romney-Ryan plans had no equal. But for me, the best section was the part about one third of the way in that discussed the GOP, said that they don’t have the country’s best interests at heart. This was important. So many Americans say or think, “Well, he said he’d unite the country, and he didn’t.” And they blame him, instead of the people who deserve the blame. But Clinton made them think. “Huh, maybe that’s the Republicans who did that. I hadn’t thought of that.”

An interesting thing about the speech: At the beginning, over Twitter, we were fed the usual diet of snarky conservative comments. That’s fine. We liberals tossed off some snarky tweets last week during the Tampa convention. That’s how it goes, and some of them are funny even when you disagree with them.

But the funny thing was, over the course of the speech, those tweets became fewer in number. Then they disappeared. That’s when you can tell the other side is worried. Clinton reached people. He revved up the base, but he did a lot more than that.

Clinton might not care very much about Obama. I don’t doubt that he thinks the Romney-Ryan ticket would be hideous in power. But he may not care that much about Obama. He does care, though, about policy and ideas. Steve Schimdt said on MSNBC after Clinton spoke that he wished that his party had a guy who could do that. Ezra Klein later pointed out, accurately, that Paul Ryan was or is supposed to be that guy. Conservatives keep saying this.

But Clinton took Ryan to school tonight and showed that you can give a policy speech without telling a pile of lies. Ryan’s reputation for veracity was shredded in the two days after his speech. That isn’t going to happen to Clinton. He just told the truth. That’s what a substantive speech really is, and I think those conservatives who stopped tweeting during the speech know this deep down. That’s two nights, and two strong nights; two stronger nights than the GOP had last week.

The Democratas are just wiping the floor with the Republicans so far. I'm not saying it will decide things, but the disparity in sheer talent is enough to make people look at Republicans as swimming in the kiddie pool.