Insta-Appraisal of Obama's Speech

Just a few quick and disjointed thoughts about President Obama's acceptance speech:

1) It feels strange -- and refreshing! -- to hear the Democratic candidate plausibly and effectively belittle the Republican candidate's national security credentials. (The line about Romney's gaffe in England was mean, but not quite too mean. And the line about Romney's vestigial Russophobia was apt.)

2) I agree with people who found early parts of the speech too state-of-the-uniony. With an economy in this condition, a laundry list of accomplishments doesn't carry much weight. And undecided voters aren't looking for a bunch of micro-initiatives that have no obvious relevance to their lives.

3) The populist riffs were effective but, for my money, too brief; undecided voters are looking for evidence that Obama's on their side in a way that Mitt Romney is not. I know previous convention speakers had worked this territory over pretty well, but many Americans who watched this speech had seen little if any of that. I thought we could have used more.

4) I thought he worked too hard to salvage the "hope and change" meme. (He reportedly said "hope" 15 times!) It felt strained and made him sound defensive and even, in a weird way, vain. Sure, people need to be persuaded that America is on the right track, and that he's the guy who can sustain the momentum. But there were other ways to make that case (some of which, to be sure, he deployed). I guess I can see how he thought he had to directly confront the Republicans' ridicule of his 2008 leitmotif, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

5) He was, as I'd suspected he'd be, a victim of Bill Clinton's success. Tough act to follow. For that matter, even Joe Biden, with his irrepressible and sometimes awkward authenticity, is a tough act to follow. After Biden, smooth can seem too smooth.

All told, I'd give Obama's speech a B+ and the convention as a whole an A-. Now on to Friday morning's jobs numbers...

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Robert Wright is the author of The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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