Friday, August 29, 2008


Apart from the fact that it took her until nearly the end of Obama's speech to figure out what Josh Marshall, among others, figured out almost immediately -- that the backdrop for Barack Obama's speech was meant to invoke the Lincoln Memorial -- what's peculiar about today's Peggy Noonan column is this gloss on the speech:

... This was not a "Happy Days Are Here Again." This was not Smiling O. He was not the charmer or the celebrity, and he didn't try much humor. Mr. Obama often looked stern, and somewhat indignant, certainly serious throughout.

... It was all very interesting, and surprising. You could see it coming in the biographical film they used to introduce Mr. Obama. It was lovely, full of unusual shots and lingerings on images, but it was similarly muted, low-key, without any particular joy....

... Mr. Obama left a lot of space for Mr. McCain to play the happy warrior next week. He left the Republicans a big opportunity to wield against him, in contrast, humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy.

Well, maybe there was no joy for Peggy, but I enjoyed Obama's speech a lot -- I think every Democrat who ever watched a Democrat not hit back enjoyed it. Come on -- "Eight is enough"? "Ten percent chance on change"? That's feisty. To those of us who've slogged through the last eight (or twenty-eight) years, that was comedy gold.

And really, what makes Noonan think there'll be joy in the Twin Cities next week? Obviously I know the answer -- her old boss would have had a swell old time. But that was Reagan. Other Republican convention speakers -- Zell Miller in '04, for instance -- have seemed to take a lip-licking pleasure in below-the-belt attacks. And Schwarzenegger always blows the dust off a couple of his old movie lines for the thousandth time and gets a few yuks.

But can McCain even do anything like that this year? Perky, chirpy Sarah Palin might get kinda happy, but McCain? Or surrogates such as Giuliani and Lieberman?

I don't think they can, because they have to convince us that if Obama is elected we're all going to die. Or at least be forced into a millenial cult while praying to Mecca. Oh, and did you know John McCain was a POW? That might get a passing mention at the convention once or twice, don't you think?

I assume the whole damn convention is going to be about (a) arguing that Obama is even scarier than Kerry, Gore, Dukakis and Clinton and (b) endlessly rehashing John McCain's POW years. I think there really could be ten or fifteen solid minutes of POW narrative in McCain's speech, just as there was a somber, melodramatic recitation of Saddam's crimes (real and fictional) in Bush's '03 State of the Union address.

These folks might squeeze in a yuk or two, but I say (Palin excepted) they're going to act Very, Very, Very Serious.

And Noonan will do a 180 and tear up at that.

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