What it looks like when even the bean counter is a brand builder
The Republicans have caught a fair amount of flak for devoting 12 precious minutes of prime-time television to a riveting (in the moment) but ultimately distracting conversation between Clint Eastwood and a chair.
So far, the Democrats, by contrast, have demonstrated a message control so ruthless it's almost scary. When, hours before prime time, while the delegates are still just milling around and finding their seats, you use the potentially merely dutiful, dry-as-dust report of your party treasurer to deliver a speech like the one above, it is hard to argue that you are missing a moment to, as they say these days, reinforce your brand.
Note the radical pivot at the 2:10 mark, which, if you've never heard of Andrew Tobias, seems to come from nowhere. The "surprises" of this speech are all under very tight control, and all in devoted service to the party's presidential candidate -- something that cannot be said even of some of the highest-profile speeches in Tampa. Tobias's speech is meant to fire up the delegates, not to persuade a national audience -- but its first half nevertheless makes a very strong pocketbook appeal to the middle class (and to the 1 percent, for that matter), and, as its second half extols transformative social progress, it does so while being careful to assert that this progress has come "at no cost to anyone."
By the way, when it comes to the overall potency of this three-and-a-half-minute performance, you might have expected what was coming if you knew Tobias had written for Clay Felker at New York and Esquire.
James Bennet is the former editor in chief and co-president of The Atlantic.