The Fred and Joe show

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza claims that Fred Thompson “stole the night” at the convention yesterday. He sees Joe Lieberman’s speech as “solid” but weakly delivered.

My view is that Thompson speech, though good enough to have stolen your average night, did not steal this one because of the strength of Lieberman’s.

The speeches are best understood in the context of the overall Republican mission of last night. The Republicans wanted to accomplish two things. First, they wanted compellingly to describe McCain’s life story and heroism to the American people; second they wanted to make the case that moderates and independents should vote for McCain. Thompson drew the first assignment; Lieberman the second.

Both were perfectly cast (Thompson is an actor; Lieberman is an independent), and both delivered almost flawlessly. The difference was that Thompson had a slam-dunk case, while Lieberman merely had a good one.

Not much needs to be added about Thompson’s oration. To Fred’s credit, he went beyond the simple (especially for him) task of telling McCain’s story, and threw in some redmeat. He was “on” from the start when he noted that it wasn’t just the work in the Gulfcoast states that was important; nominating a president and vice president is important too.

As for Lieberman, did his measured, low key delivery reduce the effectiveness of the speech, as Cillizza claims? Not in my view. If anything, Lieberman’s pitch to moderates and independents — that a vote for McCain is a vote for a less frenzied and partisan politics — would have been undermined by impassioned oratory. This was not the place for FRedmeat, much less for Zell Miller (what a fool Joe Klein was last week when he said that Lieberman would be doing the Zell Miller thing).

Lieberman’s calm delivery was an ideal fit for the message he was delivering and the target audience he was delivering it to. Moreover, as John argued, the direct, simple way he stated his case was also ideal.