Convention tipping point

Pundits say the Democratic National Convention was fine but a little
flat in the early going. That all changed Wednesday night, and now, the
grand finale.

Peggy Noonan has one of the best pieces out there looking at the week, and the big gamble on the final night.

On the Clintons:

As for Bill Clinton’s speech, halfway through I thought:
The Master has arrived. Crazy Bill, the red-faced Rageaholic, was
somewhere else. This was Deft Political Pro Bill doing what no one had
been able to do up to this point at the convention, and that is make
the case for Barack Obama…

The Hillary speech was the best of her career. Toward Obama she was
exactly as gracious as she is capable of being…Mrs. Clinton’s actions
this week have been pivotal not only for Obama, but for her. She showed
herself capable of appearing to put party first.

Now, about presidential nominee Barack Obama. There’s been buzz all
week about the major undertaking of his move to Invesco field, with
high cost and logistical nightmares. Once the construction of the stage
advanced, the buzz increased to the ‘Greek temple-like’ setting. Yes,
the columns and capitals do give the feel of Washington architecture,
and he wants to stand in that setting looking presidential. Okay.

But even before the speech of his life (to this point), this setting
is already speaking to a lot of people. Noonan’s take on it is most

The general thinking among thinking journalists, as
opposed to journalists who merely follow the journalistic line of the
day, is that the change of venue Thursday night to Invesco Field, and
the huge, open air Obama acceptance speech is…one of the biggest and
possibly craziest gambles of this or any other presidential campaign of
the modern era. Everyone can define what can go wrong, and no one can
quite define what “great move” would look like. It has every
possibility of looking like a Nuremberg rally; it has too many
variables to guarantee a good tv picture; the set, the Athenian
columns, looks hokey; big crowds can get in the way of subtle oratory.

The sound checks of the warm-up bands (warm-up bands?) in
the early hours of the day Thursday exposed some problems in that
open-air stadium. Acoustics, mostly. But this is more intriguing,
Noonan’s insight from having been a presidential speechwriter.

My own added thought is that speeches are delicate;
they’re words in the air, and when you’ve got a ceiling the words can
sort of go up to that ceiling and come back down again. But words said
into an open air stadium…can just get lost in echoes, and misheard

For some reason, a line from Pope John Paul II’s Rapid Development (about the importance of media and social communications) just came
back to me. He said that modern technologies increase the speed and
accessibility of communication, “but they above all do not favor
that delicate exchange which takes place between mind and mind, between
heart and heart, and which should characterize any communication at the
service of solidarity and love.”

That’s going to be extra difficult in a massive open-air sports
stadium all built up with stage props and echo factors and tens of
thousands of people in the round.

There’s some talk this morning that behind the scenes, some of the
planners now wish they were staying indoors at the Pepsi Center, where
it has unfolded well so far. 

People working the technical end of the event are
talking about poor coordination, unclear planning, and a Democratic
National Committee that just doesn’t seem capable of decisive and
sophisticated thinking.

Their intent was clear and appreciable: go big.

At a Time magazine event Wednesday afternoon, Obama
campaign manager David Plouffe suggested the power of the stadium event
is in this: it’s meant to be a metaphor for the openness and
inclusiveness that has marked the Obama campaign. Open stadium, 60,000
people – “we’re opening this up to average Americans.” We’ll see. In my
experience when political professionals start talking metaphors there’s
usually good reason to get nervous.

One thing it will be, besides impressive to some degree, is historic.


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