It’s been interesting to watch the reaction to Clinton’s speech last night. Of course, Monday-morning quarterbacking of all things is a great and glorious tradition in American life, but you don’t often get to see it done on a stand-up act like that.
A simple line of script, such as “my fellow Americans,” would become “my fellow Americans, all of you in this great hall and all of you watching at home” — it would be amplified, elongated, exaggerated, and it would once again remind you that the first talent Bill Clinton revealed was for playing the saxophone.
…He had a talent for familiarity here, as ever — a talent for wearing a blue suit with a red tie, a talent for biting his lip, a talent for waving his finger, a talent for being Bill Clinton that allowed him to get away with everything else. He raised one finger, he raised two fingers, he raised one hand, he raised two hands, he lifted his chin, he dropped his chin, he licked his lips, he flicked his tongue, he lowered his voice in abashment and he raised his voice in something like anger, and every single one of his stock gestures served to remind the audience of who he was and what he meant to them, and allowed him to control the dynamics in the room. He was what everybody said he was — he was a jazz musician and a rock star, but he was also a conductor, and when he lifted his hands, palms up, people rose from their seats, and when he lowered his hands, palms facing the floor, they sat back down.
Molly Ball on Clinton the master:
Bill Clinton spoke for nearly 50 minutes. His speech was dense, didactic and loaded with statistics and details. The paper version handed out to reporters took up four single-spaced pages in a tiny font, and he departed from it frequently. It may have been the most effective speech of either political convention.
…Clinton made arguments. He talked through his reasoning. He went point by point through the case he wanted to make. He kept telling the audience he was talking to them and he wanted them to listen. In an age when so many political speeches are pure acts of rhetoric, full of stirring sentiments but utterly devoid of informational value — when trying to win people over to your point of view is cynically assumed to be futile, so you settle for riling them up instead — Clinton’s felt like a whole different thing. In an era of detergent commercials, he delivered a real political speech.
Because he treats listeners as if they are smart.
That is the significance of “They want us to think” and “The strongest argument is” and “The arithmetic says one of three things must happen” and even “Now listen to me here, this is important.” He is showing that he understands the many layers of logic and evidence and positioning and emotion that go into political discussion — and, more important, he takes for granted that listeners can too.
Yeah, it can get a little tiresome. But there’s more!
The Clinton text vs. the delivered product. Compare and contrast.
Finally, Charles Pierce, because, duh, Charles Pierce. (Link fixed.)
And now it’s time to watch the new big dog speak. I have to get up early tomorrow and work all day, so I’m leaving it to you guys to carry later tonight and in the morning. Let’s see how it goes.