Weighing In On Obama’s Speech:

I want disagree with David Bernstein’s somewhat tepid praise and second Jim Lindgren’s more effusive praise of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. Everyone knows Obama can give a good speech, but this was his best. Three highlights: (1) Directly challenging John McCain on national security. Obama forcefully made the case that judgment matters more than experience. (2) Juxtaposing his aggressive agenda of government programs with a call for personal responsibility — critical for appealing to centrists. (3) Identifying common ground on the polarizing issues of abortion, gay marriage, and gun control — critical to his agenda of bringing people together. Moving the event to the football stadium, identified by pundits as a risky move, proved to be a masterstroke. The visual affect was awesome. By comparison, McCain is bound to look small, unimportant, and unpopular when he gives his acceptance speech next week.

There were two weaknesses of the speech, one of commission, one of ommission: (1) Claiming that he could pay for his domestic proposals by closing tax loopholes and eliminating unnecessary government programs (without even naming the targets) was utterly unconvincing. Better to say nothing about the financing than to call attention in this way to the fact that his proposals are expensive. (2) Failing to attack the Bush administration for trampling the Constitution, trashing privacy rights, and mistreating prisoners of war. It might have made sense not to highlight Bush’s support of torture, since McCain clearly opposed this and can use that issue to distance himself from the President, but there is lot more in this area Obama could have gone after.

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