Michelle Obama came onto the stage of the Democratic Convention in North Carolina on Tuesday night to the strains of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered” – she’s yours! Baby boomer vote delivered before she even began to speak? The promo film preceding the First Lady’s speech included clips of her appearances on Ellen, Letterman, and Fallon: The talk-show-host vote secured?
The self-described “mom-in-chief” – “my most important title,” she said this night – gave an effectively emotional speech, at times her voice quavering. Like Ann Romney at the Republican convention last week, Michelle Obama told an elaborately detailed version of her early life with her husband. Mrs. Obama talked about their courtship and their college debts. She said that when they were first dating, Barack’s most prized possession was ” a coffee table he found in a dumpster,” clearly a bold attempt to trump Ann Romney’s we-ate-our meals-on-an-ironing-board anecdote.
The First Lady used the rhetorical device of moving through a series of sentences that repeated “I love” to tell us what she admired about her husband: “I love that he’s never forgotten how he started… I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he’s going to do, even when it’s hard… I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ He doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above.”
Unlike Ann Romney, however, who had said she was not there to talk about “politics, not about Party,” Michelle Obama tied the personal to the political. She spoke of “life experiences that make you who you are,” and that “when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother” and went on to cite the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the resuscitation of the auto industry. Most pointedly, she said that “women are capable of making our own decisions about our bodies and our health care.”
Television coverage of the event was, as always, spotty. MSNBC continues to get bogged down in its too-large panel that includes Al Sharpton, who never seems to make an original point, and Ed Schultz, who can get awfully wind-baggy. Meanwhile, over on Fox, Sean Hannity went out of his way to verbally cuff around actor Richard Schiff, battering the latter’s defense of Obama with a series of poll and economic figures that were like jabs Schiff could not withstand. Which only begs the question: Was Schiff there for any reason other than the fact that he once played a White House staffer on The West Wing?
Kal Penn, who described himself as having spent “two years as liason to young Americans,” and asked that if you tweet about him to use the hashtag #sexyface, got off the night’s inevitable Clint Eastwood joke as he praised the President’s health care reform and continuation of Pell Grants:
“Thank you, Invisible Man In The Chair, for that.”
You wouldn’t have heard that joke on CNN or Fox News as Penn uttered it, though; they didn’t carry that speech live.
Keynote speaker Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, was enthusiastic, he was passionate, he was a twin. (His identical brother introduced him.) (At least I think so – it may have been his brother who delivered the speech and the whole thing was a prank.)
But after teleprompter scroll after scroll of how he came up from almost nothing, he capped it with the sort of florid, lame metaphor – his mother worked domestic jobs “so instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone” – that primarily demonstrated the limits of using your own backstory as a measure of how great you/the President/the citizens of the USA are.