Bill Kristol thinks everybody is being too critical of John McCain's now-infamous speech Tuesday night. Maybe McCain didn't sound particularly inspiring, Kristol explains in his latest New York Times column, but McCain did have an important, positive message to deliver about his candidacy. While Obama is promising "change we can believe in," Kristol says, McCain is "a leader we can believe in." It's a message, needless to say, Kristol finds convincing: Let Obama be about belief.
Via Ben Smith at Politico. And, like Ben, I imagine this has at least something to do with Hillary Clinton's interest in the position. This makes it harder to accuse Obama of slighting women if he offers the job to a man. And insofar as it's older women, predominantly, who make up Clinton's base, they may be more likely to accept a non-Clinton alternative if it has the imprimatur of a Kennedy. For the record, I'd expected to see some elder party statesman like Tom Daschle or George Mitchell in this role. And I have no idea whatsoever whether Kennedy is particularly qualified for the job.
Just in from the McCain campaign: An invitation to conduct joint town hall meetings, one a week, from now until the conventions. A strategic gimmick? Sure, at least in part. But it's a smart one. As I was saying, until August Obama won't have a chance to shine in a prime-time speech like he did last night. Instead, the campaign will take place in other venues in which he doesn't enjoy such a pronounced stylistic advantages. And town hall forums have always been where McCain looked best. Of course, Obama is no slouch at these sorts of events, either.
Time often blunts my initial impressions of political speeches: The extraordinary becomes more ordinary, while the pedestrian and pedantic start to seem profound. But, after a few hours of sleep, my impressions of last night are, if anything, more pronounced than before. Clinton was classless, not to mention destructive. (I guess I, too, am becoming apoplectic.) McCain was languid and whiny. Obama was energetic and, at times, inspiring. For Obama, of course, this is nothing new. More than any politician in recent memory, he has relied upon speeches to propel his candidacy.
Although Barack Obama's victory speech was well-crafted and magnanimous, I spent the first half of it wondering why his delivery seemed flatter and more dour than usual. Was he tried after all the long weeks of campaigning? Was he preoccupied with Hillary Clinton's less-than-graceful address in New York? Was he thinking about what to order from room service back at the hotel?
...and I do mean "last thought," because, by dwelling on it, I feel somehow complicitious in stealing the spotlight from Barack Obama on what should be his night. If Clinton couldn't bring herself to concede--or to be as magnanimous toward Barack Obama as he is now being to her--she could have simply taken a cue from John Edwards, who gave this fine oration after the South Carolina contest. --Jonathan Cohn
I'm not as apoplectic about the Clinton speech as my colleagues Isaac and Jon, but I agree it was pretty bad. I have no problem with her reminding people of her campaign highlights--or postponing an actual concession. But implying that Obama can't win in November? Whether or not she believes that, she has no business saying it now. And suggesting that she'll fight on until her supporters are no longer "invisible" and get "some respect"? What on earth is she implying there? (Seriously, I don't get it. Has anybody suggested Barack Obama doesn't care about them?) --Jonathan Cohn
Not that it matters, but MSNBC is calling South Dakota for Hillary Clinton. --Jonathan Cohn
I caught the John McCain speech on MSNBC and, based on their camera angles, it was hard to get a sense of exactly how many people were in attendance--or how the speaking venue was arranged. But it sure sounded like a pretty small crowd of partisans--maybe a hundred or two hundred people--trying very hard to sound like a big one. Of course, the ability to attract large, boisterous crowds is only one metric of political strength--and a potentially misleading one at that.
Like Noam, I find the possibilty of an Obama-Clinton ticket to be remote--and, for reasons widely discussed here and elsewhere, fairly unappealing on several levels. Still, I think it's worth remembering what's important about the vice presidency. At the risk of sounding like a fuddy duddy, by far the most important criteria for the job should be the ability to serve as president--and, more specifically, to take over in a time of crisis, since by definition a president failing to serve out his or her term constitutes some sort of national crisis.