Not a great speech like some of his earlier ones but pretty good nevertheless. He did what he had to do.
Personally, I disliked quite a bit of the content, especially the economic populism at the beginning. But then, the speech was not aimed at me. I suspect that the democratic base and those who agree with Obama’s fundamentally collectivist worldview (‘moral obligation’, ‘mutual responsibility’, ‘service’) will adore it.
I will be surprised if he won over too many independents with today’s performance. But then, he doesn’t need to. This speech was designed to make all those Hillary-backers and temperamental left-liberals fall in line. Add his current level of support with the entire Democratic base uniting behind him and you are looking at a landslide victory.
Both in style and content, the speech got better as the night went on. The crowd went periodically crazy. Overall, an A-.
[EDIT 1]: Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s gushing reaction. I agree with him about the “unabashedly, unashamedly liberal” part. That is why libertarians will be mildly disappointed with this speech while those who agree with his worldview will lap it up. But yes, I will say this much, I will very very surprised if Obama loses this election after this.
[EDIT 2]: The part of the speech I liked best (emphasis mine):
Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime – by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.
Also, this line was great:
But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
It was also good to hear him advocate for nuclear energy and talk of privacy as an important issue. Sadly, both of these were met with silence from the partisan crowd.
Unfortunately, as I said, there were too many jarring notes in the rest of the speech for a minarchist like me. For those interested, here’s a transcript.
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