09/29/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Dems "Personal Best" Convention

I confess I wasn't going to watch the Democratic convention.

I've just been a month in London (the prices! the boozing! the magical Thames-side walks!), from where the snippets of info about the campaign were too depressing. Inconceivable that Obama wouldn't be 20 points ahead. Sickening that he would have to be constructing an infomercial to sell/prove his "Americanness" to a nation of immigrants.

My girlfriend watched the whole first night and reported with starry-eyed admiration on Michelle's movie-star turn. Great, I thought. I did catch a bit of Ted Kennedy, what a heroic warrior.

But the rest of the evening, from what I gathered, ran so tepid. Unbearable.

The second night I grudgingly sat down to endure Hillary.

I was blown away. I voted for her twice in Senate, but found her campaign one disgraceful capper to some awful positions. But she was fantastic. The best speech I've ever seen her make.

And then we got Bill--and his magnificent speech. A triumphant return of the big guy at his best.

Followed by Kerry, and my god, his red-blooded, direct charge sheet against contemporary Republicanism. The best Kerry speech I have ever seen!

Suddenly so many stirring personal bests. Jeezus, is this what it takes to get politicians into top gear? The end of their presidential ambitions?

And then Al Gore. Gore has really renounced politics, and his whole approach gears to a consciousness beyond sound bites. We Tivo-ed his speech; I came into the room for the last live sentence, about "e pluribus unum." I thought, Al, Al, you're reciting Latin on American TV?? But then I watched the speech from the beginning, and it's a whole, that speech, it is engaged thinking, and the ending made a fitting exit to its reasoned public passion. Al's best speech? Can't say. But, I don't know, it was absorbing, serious, stirring. An adult speech for a global world.

It occurred to me all at once that these various speeches embodied and even constructed Obama's theme: of reviving the best in America. A Reagan-like trope converted to real social good.

And then Obama's speech. Which was ultimately, and electrifyingly, for me, about tone. Obama stood up to the bitch-slapping bully of Republicanism, man to man, right in the eye.

At last, a fighting Democratic candidate!

Man, ring that bell, Mr. timekeeper, let's get ready to rumble!

(But among the punches, can we throw one for the Constitution?)

(And now that it's Sarah Palin for McCain's VP, Hillary needs be reengaged in this campaign--big time.)

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