Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama Delivers: “The Picture Counts. Staging Matters. Pretty Words Seduce”

Democrats began to notice during the last presidential campaign that the Republicans were better at such things as stagecraft than they were, although the knack for cleverly framing their leader backfired on the GOP with its infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner high above the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln when Dubya prematurely proclaimed victory in Iraq.

This time around the Repubs have struggled to compete with the Dems in staging events and theatrical performances. From Berlin’s Victory Column to Denver’s Invesco Field, Obama has proven his rock star status before hundreds of thousands of adoring fans.

In today’s Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi reaches back to the Reagan years to find a comparable political phenomenon:

“DENVER MORNING IN America. Destiny in Denver.

"The high point for Democrats was Reaganesque, as Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination to run for president. An inspirational video. American flags. Fireworks. Red, white, and blue glitter cascading through Denver's thin air. Obama, Joe Biden, and their families, audaciously framed against a set designed to look like the White House.

“Obama spoke about the promise of the future and wrapped up with the history that makes his quest so poignant. Referring to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered 45 years ago, Obama noted that King's listeners did not hear anger; instead, they heard "the preacher " say that "in America, our destiny is inextricably linked."

“It was a powerful message. Ronald Reagan would approve.”

Vennochi summed up Obama’s acceptance speech and predicted the Republican counter attack:

“Obama made many promises in his speech, including pledges to launch new programs to solve complex problems, as well as cut taxes for the middle class. Republicans will do their own math. They will conclude the Obama platform doesn't add up and write it off as more of the same expensive, foolish, and failed liberal idealism. Their problem will be voters who want to believe in it, because it feels so good, especially in tough economic times.
“But, how does McCain reclaim the all-important feel-good mantle the Obama campaign stole from Reagan?”

Vennochi concluded:

"He {McCain] can try to unwrap the gauzy story spun by Obama at Invesco Field. But if all McCain does is attack, he becomes the candidate of gloom and doom, a fateful designation Republicans pin on losing opponents.

“In Denver, the Democrats wrapped themselves in flags and admirals, and Obama delivered the poetry that got him to this improbable point.

‘"We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy,’he said.

"But Obama also flaunted an impressive understanding of the party of Reagan.

“The picture counts. The staging matters. Pretty words seduce.”

(What Vennochi failed to mention in this op-ed piece was McCain’s game-changing pick of Alaska Gov. Sara Palin as his running mate announced the morning after Obama’s performance in Denver.)

To read Vennochi’s op-ed column in its entirety, go here.

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