The whole first half of Obama’s acceptance speech was standard stump fare, more suited to a town hall in Ohio than to a prime time stadium event. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have criticized McCain, but it seemed strange that he’d devote so much time to his opponent in this context.
And given that Obama did decide to go on offense, it was really jarring when he tacked toward a call to post-partisanship. If he had said much earlier in the speech that he wouldn’t “suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes” and that politicians shouldn’t be “challenging each other’s character and patriotism,” it would been an effective prelude to an attack. It would still be a bit disingenuous, of course, but the disingenuousness wouldn’t have been quite so glaring. And if he held his fire a bit, it wouldn’t have seemed disingenuous at all.
Pace the mysterious Mr. McWormwood, though, the speech did have its moments. If taken as a soundbite rather than as a part of an otherwise very partisan speech, the we’re-all-patriots passage would qualify. But this, I think, was the most effective bit:
And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.
Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility – that’s the essence of America’s promise.
That didn’t come until about midway into the speech. I suspect that those most impressed with Obama were viewers who turned in late. Lucky for him, people who tune in specifically to catch a speech like this from the start are more likely to know how they’re going to vote, so the intersection between undecided voters and people who missed the beginning of the speech is likely to be significant.