The Clinton Speech and the “Campaign of Ideas”
Scott Galupo identifies the main strength of Bill Clinton’s convention speech:
But the case he made against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan was devastating.
It was, and it was all the more devastating because Romney and Ryan made no concerted effort to make the case for their ticket and their agenda last week. If Clinton’s speech seemed extremely long to many of us watching it, I suspect it was partly because most of the specific arguments that Clinton made were already old news to a lot of us. The speech was very long, but it also covered familiar ground for a lot of us. Many of the pundits and journalists watching the speech had talked these things to death over the last week, and here Clinton was rehearsing all of the same objections to the misleading or hypocritical claims in Romney and Ryan’s arguments. Part of what made Clinton’s speech so devastating is that he compiled all of these objections, linked them together, and presented them to a large television audience all at once in a way that was easily digestible.
Another reason the speech was so devastating to them was that he gave the sort of speech that Ryanmaniacs might have once imagined that Ryan would deliver and the sort that some Romney supporters still imagine Romney is capable of giving. Romney-Ryan was supposed to be the presidential ticket of the “data-driven” manager and his budget wonk sidekick, and between the absence of any significant policy discussion last week and what happened tonight that has lost all credibility. Clinton outperformed both of them in terms of discussing policy details, and underscored just how meaningless the “campaign of ideas” phrase has been. Ryan fans had been convinced for over a year that the election had to be a contest over “big ideas,” and when it came time to engage in that contest their party leaders didn’t even try.