By Kyle | August 26, 2008
I was going to write about the convention last night (instead, I wound up going to a double feature of two upcoming fall films, “Appaloosa” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) but didn’t. My impression: you get four shots to sock the pinata, Monday through Thursday, and last night was a clear miss.
The only two things that will remain in anyone’s memory are a) Ted Kennedy carrying on despite terminal illness, which may be brave and uplifting but has nothing to do with whether we should vote for Obama; and b) Sasha Obama ordering off the political menu and cutting up a la Rudy Giuliani’s kid during his 1994 inauguration as the finest leader this city has ever had.
People like cute kids (if I may indulge in a stereotype I daresay women voters especially like the idea of having small children in the White House). But Sasha’s dad looked tired and dull in his live appearance from Kansas City, and we all saw exactly how Barack responded to his little girl’s rather delightful antics. He was stiff and distant, tried to speak to whatever talking point he was trying to get across about whatever family he was hanging around with. He wasn’t in the moment. He was a robot.
Here is how a master politician like Bill Clinton would have responded to that unexpected situation: He would have, by sheer instinct, dropped his script and paid attention to his daughter, interacted with her, drawn her out, created a precious little moment.
This is what Obama should have said when his daughter interrupted him: “Hi Sasha! I miss you! What did you do today? Are you being nice to your sister?” etc. The nation would have melted like pistachio ice cream on the Fourth of July.
Moreover, as David Brooks pointed out on PBS last night immediately after Michelle Obama’s perfectly okay but non-influential speech: It was a missed opportunity. She could have presented some candid family anecdotes, shared some snapshots, told charming stories about vacations and chores and teaching values to the girls. (I still remember a shot of Hillary and Bill Clinton chummily sharing a hammock together in a film used at the Democratic convention in 1992: Brilliant stuff.) What did she do? She talked about Barack’s lawyering ability, his community-organizing stuff, his alleged fight for equal rights for women, his alleged support of moving people from welfare to work. All of this is abstract political blah-blah, not the kind of thing that makes you fall in love with the next First Family. And Obama’s history of working in a law firm and doing community organizing (whatever that is; I think I’ll put it in quotes next time) is going to look like pretty weak sauce next week, when America hears about John McCain’s life.
So: Day one, strike one. I’m beginning to think that a comfortable McCain victory in November–four or five points–is quite possible.