Obama camp defends ‘befuddlingly flat’ convention speech

The camp insists that the president achieved exactly what he set out to do.

Obama Friday found himself in the odd position of leaving a major political event unable to bask in acclaim for his stellar rhetoric.

Instead ex-president Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama stole hearts at the Democratic National Convention.

Gone is the urgent poetry of the young political pretender of 2004 and 2008. Obama, now a worn president weighed down by incumbency, has tempered his style to reflect times in which the hope he promised is in short supply.

Initial reaction to Obama's speech on Thursday night was that it underwhelmed and that the president missed a chance to cap a celebratory convention by twisting the knife into Republican Mitt Romney.

"Barack Obama is deeply over exposed and often boring," wrote columnist Peggy Noonan, who has praised some previous Obama speeches despite being a star of the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Build-up
"His speech Thursday was weirdly anti-climactic. There's too much build-up, the crowd was tired, it all felt flat," said Noonan who used to pen speeches for the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan.

Tepid reviews combined with bad jobs numbers made for a bad news day for Obama, so a senior aide took unusually strolled to the press cabin on Air Force One to share the results of focus group data.

The official suggested that the pundits had missed the point.

"I think the American people responded very well to the president's speech," the official said on condition of anonymity.


"They first of all found it to be optimistic, they found it to be credible in terms of his ideas and goals that would help the economy," the official said, adding that the data showed the electorate also warmed to Obama's portrayal of Romney as a blundering novice on foreign affairs.

"We think that swing voters in this election responded well to the president's speech. Our sense is that they responded better than to his speech in 2008 in terms of its impact."

Lower bar
Obama set out to cast a stark choice between policies he sees as lifting the middle class, and Romney's which he believes would threaten another financial meltdown.

The official also took a swipe at the Republican's keynote the week before, which appeared to fail to clear a much lower bar.

"Mitt Romney's speech for a convention speech was mediocre. I don't think he advanced the ball in terms of those voters who are saying, 'okay does this guy have the answers?'"

Obama campaign aides always painted their convention in Charlotte as a three-day effort to build a multi-dimensional picture of Obama and his presidency.

After Clinton and the First Lady offered the flourish, the president swung into provide the meat, promising policies to create jobs, cut the deficit, lift the middle class, hike taxes on the rich and keep America safe in the world.

But commentators conditioned to expect a soaring stemwinder from Obama were disappointed.

Befuddlingly flat
"This was the rhetorical equivalent, forgive the football metaphor, of running out the clock," wrote Michael Tomasky, a political correspondent for the Daily Beast news website and British daily The Guardian.

"Obama clearly thinks he's ahead and just doesn't need to make mistakes," he surmised, warning: "But when football teams do that, it often turns out to be the biggest mistake of all, and they lose."

Molly Ball, staff writer of The Atlantic said Obama was on the defensive: "The speech was so befuddlingly flat as to make you wonder whether its lameness was intentional," she wrote.

Obama gave a curtailed version of the stump speech on Friday at several campaign stops in swing states Iowa and New Hampshire and was setting out on a bus tour of the largest swing state Florida on Saturday.

Victory in all three battlegrounds in November would almost certainly assure him a second White House term. – Sapa-AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author
Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations