The General Session at today's Democratic National Committee meeting dealt with a little party business. However, the main attraction, which packed the ballroom at the Washington Hilton, was the convergence of the men and woman seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for President.
Every speech given was well received by those gathered. Each speech had its own merits. During my little bit of downtime before another event, I wanted to give you the "highlight" of the Obama, Edwards, and Clinton speeches. And when I say "highlight", what I mean is: what I thought about it.....
Barack Obama was greeted like a rock star. He gave a thoughtful, straight forward speech. He returned to campaign themes that he has used before: "it's not about hype", "our politics are too small", and about "the need for a genuine debate about concrete ideas." His speech contained many inspirational notions, but it seemed to contradict reality. Were it not for hype, he would never be considered a Presidential contender, after two years in the U.S. Senate. While his lofty notions and ideas appeal to the rank and file, they lack the concrete specifics he calls for at the same time. I understand that you can't talk detailed policy in a stump speech, but the main criticism coming from activists is that they're not sure what Obama wants to do for America besides raise the level of political discourse. I hope in the near future, Obama will begin to deliver his ideas on how to get us out of Iraq, how to keep jobs in America, how to provide Universal Healthcare, and on many more important issues.
John Edwards entered to the tune of a country song that I recognized, but don't know the name of. The recognizable lyric was "This is my country"....or something like that. He started out slowly, talking about people in different situations. I wasn't quite sure where he was headed with it, then he brought it all together in a rousing, momentum building rally cry to "Stand with" each of the people whose stories he had just told and to "Stand with America." From that moment on, Edwards was on fire. He spoke to the historical values of the Democratic Party to take care of children, carry the mantle on education, and help eradicate poverty. He talked about working people worrying about losing their pensions and having no safety net after thirty years of work. The unions were mentioned several times and cheered loudly in response. His words about the War in Iraq were by far the strongest in opposition, which was very well received. Edwards' message was populist, inspiring, and incredibly popular. And....he won the standing ovation competition.
Hillary Clinton also entered the room like a rock star. She delivered a traditional stump style speech that was well received by those in the cavernous room. She covered all the right points: Bush's failed leadership, the need for healthcare, the economy, jobs, and Iraq. There was one thing I just couldn't get out of my head, though: the vote she cast to go to war in 2002. I'm very confused about my opinion on this. On one side of the room, Code Pink, an anti-war organization, staged a small protest. They each had a letter on their shirts that altogether read "NO WAR" and with their left hands, held up in peace signs. I know that Hillary has said many things about the vote that she cast to go to war. Today, she even said "If I was President in 2002, we would not have gone to war in Iraq." So, she's danced all around saying her vote was wrong and apologizing for it. I just don't understand why she won't do that. For me and many other party activists, that will remain an issue in the back of our minds. It may end up being an issue that will make room for someone else to gain support. That being said, she also gave a great speech and she's still the front-runner among the establishment.
I'd say each of these three will be well-received around the country. But, each of their speeches were different. As they take their campaigns from State to State and City to City, people will decide which ideas and style they want to represent them in November 2008. Given that each of their approaches is different enough, we may see a narrowing of the field sooner than we all think.
Cross Posted at News For the Left