Obama’s Speech Hated, Too

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Pretty much everyone agrees: Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night was a historic moment. Most people would also probably agree that the 84,000 people cheering him on were a sight to behold. Beyond that, there's less to agree on. It should be expected that a political speech of this magnitude would divide the political commentariat on the basis of their ideology. We've ordered, roughly, our pundits' reactions from the most glowing to the harshest.

• Taegan Goddard calls it "the greatest political speech I've ever heard. He was better than Reagan and better than Kennedy." [Political Wire]

• Andrew Sullivan gushes that "[t]his is a remarkable man at a vital moment" and "[w]e are in his debt." [Atlantic]

• Greg Sargent writes that Obama "proved tonight — again — that he's one of the few most gifted public communicators of the last generation," but he did it "by not excelling in soaring rhetoric or delivering a speech that will be remembered for the ages." [TPM Election Central]

• Joe Klein calls it "the perfect speech for a skeptical nation." He was "tough," and came across "not as an orator, but as a plausible chief executive." [Time]

• Michael Crowley says Obama "delivered another wonderful speech that will long be wistfully remembered" and "demonstrated an ability to give an address that combines policy seriousness with rhetorical uplift." [Stump/New Republic]

• Kevin Drum calls it a "helluva speech." Obama came out with "an iron fist in a velvet glove. Or is it a velvet fist in an iron glove?" Either way, Obama "put a serious dent in McCain's ability to continue campaigning with dumb soundbites and too-cute-by-half innuendo." [Mother Jones]

• John B. Judis has "heard Barack Obama deliver speeches better, but in this acceptance speech, Obama did exactly what he needed to do to set the stage for the fall campaign." It was "one of the most intellectually elegant speeches I’ve heard" and should "do Obama and the Democrats a lot of good in the weeks ahead." [Plank/New Republic]

• Walter Shapiro doesn't think it was the "most eloquent or boldest speech of his career," but his "gift" is that he makes it "all seem natural" that he "rewrote the history" of a nation's struggle with slavery, segregation, and racism. [Salon]

• Josh Marshall says the speech was "very strong" and "[a]bout exactly what was needed." The tone wasn't "defensive or outraged," but "assertive contempt." [TPM]

• Franklin Foer was reminded "of the Beijing opening ceremony" because "[i]t outdid every version of the event that came before it." It will make Obama "much harder to caricature." [Plank/New Republic]

• John Dickerson writes that "[e]ven when Barack Obama deliberately tries to tone it down, he can send an audience over the moon." Even though he went for substance over rhetoric, it worked. [Slate]

• Noam Schieber finds it "remarkable ... that he managed to stay so optimistic while throwing elbows." But it was "still well within bounds for a man selling hope." [Stump/New Republic]

• Craig Crawford thinks Obama finally "defined change instead of just calling for it" and "played street-smart offense and defense in this speech." [CQ Politics]

• Jonathan Cohn writes that while Obama's 2004 convention speech was more of a "rhetorical triumph," last night's "was far more provocative — and, because of that, it may prove far more important." But at times it was "unwieldy," "pedestrian," and "tempered by a more naked agenda — namely, making swing voters believe Obama stands for them." [Plank/New Republic]

• Melinda Henneberger writes that the speech "was a loaded triple-bacon burger of substance." It was brave of him to call drilling what it is: a stop-gap measure, and it was also brave to bet "that voters really are smart enough and grown-up enough to want the common-sense approach they always say they want" on hot-button topics like abortion, immigration, and gun rights. [XX Factor/Slate]

• Peggy Noonan thinks it was maybe a little too dark, with Obama looking "stern, and somewhat indignant, certainly serious throughout." He "left a lot of space for Mr. McCain to play the happy warrior next week" and "left the Republicans a big opportunity to wield against him, in contrast, humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy." [Declarations/WSJ]

• Megan McArdle was "disappointed," calling it "basically standard Democratic Convention Boilerplate" that could have come from "every Democratic presidential candidate in living memory." [Atlantic]

• Ross Douthat claims the "speech had good lines and good sections, but for the most part it felt surprisingly banal and jury-rigged, and it suffered throughout from a failure to cohere around any single theme or rhetorical style." [Atlantic]

• Jonah Goldberg doesn't think there was, substantively, "anything new to it." His "shots at McCain were ill-advised," and "as the details of the speech are picked apart and compared to his actual record ... his lead in the polls will fall apart." [Corner/National Review]

• Linda Chavez calls the speech a "downer": "all about the pain" and "very short on specifics on how he’ll cure it." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jim Geraghty maintains that the "speech was predictable, it was implausible, and it was strikingly, inexplicably, angry." [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• John Podhoretz proclaims that the speech was "dreadful" and "terrible," without "a memorable sentence." [Contentions/Commentary]

Related:
Heilemann: Seven Ways Obama’s Speech Succeeded, and Why It Wasn’t Perfect
Waldman: The Euphoria of Witnessing Obama’s Speech

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.