Barack Obama’s speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination was largely well-received and accomplished several things he was perceived to need to do:
· Acknowledge Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s efforts to rally her supporters to his side.
· Provide some specifics as to the blueprint of his presidential agenda.
· Show he can take on John McCain, without completely abandoning his fight against ‘politics as usual’ and his crusade for bringing change to Washington, D.C.
· Appeal to the African-American community by recognizing the historical significance of the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech through a message of unity; that is to say, by not appearing to campaign as a ‘black candidate’ (in fact, MLK was not even mentioned by name once in those passages).
All of these components of Obama’s speech generated a favorable reaction from the large crowd assembled in Denver, to be sure. But what seemed to truly get Democrats on their feet was none other than the sort of fire and brimstone rhetoric that comes straight from the GOP playbook.
Regarding the fight in Afghanistan, although Obama implemented a liberal-friendly euphemism for ‘kill’ (‘take out’) the crowd roared at this hawkish passage:
“I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.�?
Obama also cited, to a favorable reaction, Democratic presidents in America’s history who were, essentially, “tough guys�? when it came to foreign policy:
“We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe.�?
And, finally, in perhaps Obama’s most passion-filled delivery of the evening, he recognized the sacrifices our military makes to keep us safe:
“The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America, they have served the United States of America. So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.�?
Now, all of these statements are far from controversial. Only the smallest fraction of Americans would not want our next president to kill Bin Laden, defend our country, and support our troops.
But these statements were crucial to the Obama campaign even though they were, generally, not the kind of statements Obama used during his primary campaign.
And that is because this was the quintessential ‘general election speech;’ delivered to show independents, conservative Democrats, and liberal Republicans that Obama too can be a ‘tough guy’ – just like a Republican. That is to say, Democrats are not traitors and will defend our country.