In the Arena

About Last Night: Wow

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Callie Shell / for TIME

First lady Michelle Obama takes the stage before speaking on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012.

The streets and hotel corridors of Charlotte are still vibrating this morning after Michelle Obama‘s remarkable effort, the Democratic Party’s remarkable opening convention night. There was just a quantum leap of energy from the tamped-down Tampa Republicans last week, real joy in the hall as opposed to the barely concealed anger that has tainted the Republican Party these past few years. And the message was clear:

“[The President] reminds me that we are playing a long game here, and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once,” [Michelle Obama] told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But eventually we get there. We always do.”

Or as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro put it in his keynote address: progress “isn’t a sprint or a marathon, it’s a relay race.”

I’ve seen both parties stage great convention nights in the past–Republicans do it as often as Dems–but I’ve got to say that this year, at least, the Dems seem to operating at a more sophisticated level than the GOP, and with an energy and enthusiasm that can’t be faked. The First Lady’s speech was at once a subtle response to the arguments against her husband that the Republicans made last week and a rousing sermon, building from quiet–and her own doubts about public life–to forceful, poetic advocacy.

My immediate boss, Nation Editor Michael Duffy, made a significant point this morning (editors are known, occasionally, to do that) about the rhetorical contrivance at the heart of the speech: The First Lady set herself up as the doubter, nervous about her new role, anxious about how the Presidency would change her husband and the lives of her children. But she was the one who had grown over the past four years, gaining a sense of the nature and importance of the mission. Her husband, by contrast, was calm, steady, reliable, unchanged by the office. It’s not a new point, but when Michelle Obama said that the presidency “reveals” who you really are, the contrast to Mitt Romney was immediate and inevitable without her having to say it–we really don’t know who Mitt Romney is, what he actually believes, whether he’s the moderate who governed Massachusetts or the Tea Party toady who campaigned for the Republican nomination.

This morning, the Republicans are saying that the Democrats only celebrated public servants and neglected entrepreneurs in their speeches last night. That’s mostly, but not entirely, true: the First Lady talked about the values of the President’s grandmother, a banker. I love hearing the stories of clever, hard-working entrepreneurs who really did “build” their businesses through hard work–my dad was one–but I’m more inspired by the story of Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, a retired Lieutenant Colonel who lost both her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade landed in her lap as she was piloting her Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq. The things we build together are every bit as important as the things we build individually. We need both to prosper as a country.

The Republicans have demonized government to the point of ridiculousness. Listening to them, you’d think the only thing government does is give money to undeserving poor (non-white) people. And if the Democrats sometimes slouch toward over-regulation and over-nannying, there is–as my colleague Michael Grunwald never tires of pointing out–only one  (tiny) new bureaucracy that’s been created by the Obama Administration over the past  four years: ARPA-e, which funds basic research into energy innovation, just as DARPA–which really did invent the internet, did basic research on the silicon computer chip, and developed a host of other cross-over products–did in the Pentagon. (ADD: I should say that ARPA-e was the only new bureaucracy created in the Obama Stimulus package.)

The Republicans have also demonized the Obamas, in blatant and subtle ways. Paul Ryan’s obnoxious line last week about him and Romney knowing what places like “Wisconsin and Michigan are like” during good times was countered by Michelle Obama talking about what it was like to grow up black and hopeful–and responsible, and morally rigorous–in Illinois in good times and bad. And the Republican “We Built That” individualism was countered by the First Lady saying that “We know that when you walk through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it behind you. No, you reach back” and help the next ones coming up.

I watched the speeches on television last night, as I almost always do–it’s best to see them the way most people do–but reports from friends who were in the hall say the atmosphere was extraordinary…and so I think I’ll break my rule and go into the hall to listen to Bill Clinton tonight. He’s got a tough act to follow. But you know he’s going to be worth the price of admission.

153 comments
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Jessica Weinberg
Jessica Weinberg

If you support what are usually in shorthand called "liberal" policies - such as a strong social safety net; taxation on people with the most money; and creating jobs through public projects - but are disappointed with Obama (or were never that impressed with him), PLEASE do some research about Green Party candidate Jill Stein. She is on the 'net and Facebook and Twitter, and has appeared in a surprising number of articles for a third-party candidate. Also research Open Debates to find out why we don't get to see much of anyone besides the Dems and Repubs.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

What is there to be praised? During the Obama administration, Americans have experienced deep economic recession and widespread unemployment. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, is not going to save American economy. He didn't see the last financial crisis coming, and even after things started falling apart he continued to insist that housing prices would not go down and that Americans would not have a recession. In handling foreign policy, Obama is a total failure. Taking advantage of Obama’s weakness, Putin is trying to revive the former Soviet Union. He has the temerity to send the Russian sub to the Gulf. Clinton intervened in Serbia in spite of opposition by Beijing and Moscow. Obama is mainly responsible for the bloodbath in Syria. If he is hesitant to intervene directly due to the opposition of China and Russia, he could have armed Turkey and the rebels. Cameron and Serkozy boldly intervened in Libya and saved several thousand lives. Obama has allowed the terrorist group, Muslim Brotherhood, to flourish both at home and Egypt. Obama has given several billions of dollars as loan to Egypt, while America itself is reeling under heavy loans. Egypt is now evolving into another Iran and Mursi another Khomeini. Already under President Morsi's first two months, Islamists have become more emboldened—whether by pressuring women to wear the hijab, by killing a Muslim youth for publicly holding hands with his fiancée, or by disseminating flyers that call for the total genocide of Egypt's Christian Copts. The flyers include the names and contact points for those Muslims who wish to collect their rewards for killing Christians. Another term for Obama will be disastrous for America and the world. He will destroy Israel by having surreptitious dealings with Iran. 

JZimm09
JZimm09

Clinton was nothing short of brilliant.

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

Do you want to go back to the 1800's and tear America down?  Do you want to end

Social Security, Medicare, Planned Parenthood etc. ?  Romney/Ryan 1812

                                                                              or

Do you want to enter into the 21st century and build up America?  Do you want to

fix Social Security, Medicare, Planned Parenthood etc. ?  Obama/Biden 2012   

bebo
bebo

Obama's and their speeches.  We've heard many.  Heard today, forgotten tomorrow.  Michelle has the humility of a lottery winner.  Why does she look so well off, while the country is miserable?  She's not a First Lady, she's a clothes mannequin.  It's really too late to boost her husband, and inform us of his little quirks.  We don't care anymore.  Michelle may deserve an Oscar for her performance.  But to be honest, I miss Pat Nixon's style.

bebo
bebo

Obama's and their speeches.  We've heard many.  Heard today, forgotten tomorrow.  Michelle has the humility of a lottery winner.  Why does she look so well off, while the country is miserable?  She's not a First Lady, she's a clothes mannequin.  It's really too late to boost her husband, and inform us of his little quirks.  We don't care anymore.  Michelle may deserve an Oscar for her performance.  But to be honest, I miss Pat Nixon's style.

bebo
bebo

Obama's and their speeches.  We've heard many.  Heard today, forgotten tomorrow.  Michelle has the humility of a lottery winner.  Why does she look so well off, while the country is miserable?  She's not a First Lady, she's a clothes mannequin.  It's really too late to boost her husband, and inform us of his little quirks.  We don't care anymore.  Michelle may deserve an Oscar for her performance.  But to be honest, I miss Pat Nixon's style.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Really?  Pat Nixon?

I guess it takes all kinds.

Good on ya, then.  I'm glad the old girl has a fan.

D_Bob
D_Bob

Hopefully you have learned to hit the reload button on your browser to see that your comment has been published.

Now take your hate elsewhere. It's very ugly.

bebo
bebo

Obama's and their speeches.  We've heard many.  Heard today, forgotten tomorrow.  Michelle has the humility of a lottery winner.  Why does she look so well off, while the country is miserable?  She's not a First Lady, she's a clothes mannequin.  It's really too late to boost her husband, and inform us of his little quirks.  We don't care anymore.  Michelle may deserve an Oscar for her performance.  But to be honest, I miss Pat Nixon's style.

bebo
bebo

PRINT MY COMMENT.  IT'S TOO REAL FOR YOUR PROPAGANDA?

bebo
bebo

TIME WILL NOT PUBLISH MESSAGES THAT DO NOT FIT THE DNC MESSAGE.  IF YOU NOTICE THE TIME IN THE LEFT  STAYS AT O MINUTES ON UNDESIRABLE MESSAGES.  THIS TOTALLY VIOLATES FREEDOM OF SPEECH,  THIS ILLUSTRATES  BIAS IN THE MEDIA,  POST MY MESSAGE BELOW PLEASE.

Diecash1
Diecash1

 You're not too bright, huh?  Your idiocy is posted for all to see so have no fear.  Everyone can see what a fool you are.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Although all caps should be illegal since it causes degenerative loss of vision, you might want to consider figure out what is triggering the filter from removing the content and a way around it.

It's usually better than to write all cap messages about a supposed bias. We all suffer the auto filter function and we come from all walks of life and ideologies.

Plus to be honest; there is not one single for profit/private organization that have to post one single idea that pukes out of anyones brain.

bebo
bebo

Obama's and their speeches.  We've heard many.  Heard today, forgotten tomorrow.  Michelle has the humility of a lottery winner.  Why does she look so well off, while the country is miserable?  She's not a First Lady, she's a clothes mannequin.  It's really too late to boost her husband, and inform us of his little quirks.  We don't care anymore.  Michelle may deserve an Oscar for her performance.  But to be honest, I miss Pat Nixon's style.

paulejb
paulejb

Wow!

"DNC Almighty Nightmare In Charlotte: Now Dems Put God And Jerusalem Language Back Into The Platform"

http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyf... 

As Casey Stengel asked of the woeful 1962 New York Mets: "Can't anyone here play this game?"