Friday, August 29, 2008

What it Isn't

I've watched most of the Democratic National Convention on C-Span because the talking heads are simply too frustrating. The glut of still-active and/or still-connected party insiders with dogs in the hunt made everything that came out of anybody's mouth suspect.

One of the primary places where we'd see this is the post-speech analysis, where Republican pundits would criticize the speech for what it wasn't. At Huffington Post, Marty Kaplan wrote about Peggy Noonan's analysis of the speech this morning on MSNBC:

I'm paraphrasing here, writing while she's still on the air, but this is the gist: At least the speech wasn't all about all those miserable unemployed people that Democrats always talk about. It wasn't full of whining about all those unhappy sick people they only seem to see. It wasn't about a woman who had a two-headed child who was used as a bowling ball.

A number of times, critics complained that speeches lacked details, as if all speeches should or could spell out a complete, detailed policy program. As if a foreign affairs speech should also include a complete laundry list of the domestic agenda complete with the details on how things will be paid for, and vice versa. Unfortunately, that sort of criticism - what it isn't - has become a part of the way convention speeches are discussed. Keith Olbermann went off on the AP's Charles Babington for writing:

Mostly, however, he touched on major issues quickly and lightly. It's an approach that may intrigue and satisfy millions of viewers just starting to tune in to the campaign seriously. The crowd at Invesco Field cheered deliriously, but Republicans almost surely will decry the lack of specifics.

For instance, Obama said it's time "to protect Social Security for future generations." But he didn't mention his main proposal, which is to add a new Social Security payroll tax to incomes above $250,000 a year.

He said he would "cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families," but did not say how.

He briefly mentioned abortion, gun rights, gay rights and other hot-button issues without delving into their sticky details. "Passions fly on immigration," Obama said, "but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers."

Marty Kaplan sees an upside in such coverage, though, at least from pundits:

I hope everyone who watched that speech has a chance to hear her say that. For the right-wing commentariat, it was a Katrina moment. It was a benchmark for how out of it and, well, disgusting, that crowd is. It established a baseline for magisterial condescension, for blindness, for night-is-day, for the gulf between Republican dead-enders and the rest of the country. Even though she's dared criticize George W. Bush, presumably to fashion a life preserver for her credibility, Peggy was more than willing to tell the speech's morning-after audience that they should believe her, and not their lying eyes.

No comments: