Monday, August 25, 2008

Who did Better - Teddy or Michelle?

Teddy, by far. Because his speech rided on a lifetime of accomplishment, because the Democratic convention floor was applauding his life, not his rhetoric. His was the more moving performance not because he emoted, but because he wore the stripes of 46 years of service to the country on his countenance even as the point of his speech was not to congratulate himself but to promote another.

Michelle Obama gave an eloquent speech, but it can no more allay doubts of her patriotism than one infelicitous remark can prove her lack thereof. A woman and a man is measured by much more than a speech, even one given as a keynote address to the Democratic nomination comnvention. (There is also something insidiously retrogressive, as opposed to progressive, about the fact that she had to prove that she was a normal, non-threatening, loving mother and wife.) Nevertheless, liberals will cheer and conservatives will sneer.

Tomorrow, we are going to ask the same silly question: can a single speech Hillary Clinton gives on the convention floor unite the Democratic party in one magical fell swoop? Watch the media coverage and see that this will be the underlying question in all the "analysis."

There is a deeper problem here. We seem to think that images and words can substitute for action and service. When the poll numbers are down, politicians give a speech, send the wife, display the kids, talk the talk. No, not just Barack Obama. John McCain shall do the same next week. And we wonder why we will have the same reaction. Just that this time, conservatives will cheer and liberals will sneer.

We tend to forgive political gimmicks when it's our guy doing it. To get to the White House, he needs to do what he needs to do to bring about real change. But if it's not our guy doing it, then all of a sudden the campaign tricks are cheap and cynical. But both sides play gimmicks, but we are sometimes too partisan to admit this as a systemic condition. When the pot calls the kettle black, neither will clean up the soot, and the American people suffer for it.

So Teddy gave a great speech tonight. But to say so almost does him a disservice, because his performance tonight is trivial in the light of the hundreds of pieces of legislation he sponsored, the thousands of speeches he gave on the floor of the Senate, and the millions of lives he bettered. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Teddy put on a great show for his buddy, but he is way more than a player.

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