I missed President Obama’s speech to the convention (okay, I skipped it), but watched Tim Kaine’s. I thought the speech was a tale of two halves.
The first half was mediocre. Much of it consisted of self-congratulation delivered with a certain smugness and no particular oratorical skill.
The only times Kaine came close to achieving lift off was when he spoke Spanish. The convention hall audience loved it.
Kaine was trying play the folksly, average Joe nice guy — in the manner of average Joe Biden — so as to connect both with skeptical (at best) Sanders supporters and the television audience. I thought he was trying a little too hard.
Moreover, Kaine probably lost credibility when he insisted that Hillary Clinton, who has flip-flopped on most of the major issues of our time from the Iraq war to free trade, is “consistent.” The alleged consistency apparently resides in the fact that she cares about children. Wonderful.
Kaine also failed the straight face test when he claimed that, as Secretary of State, Clinton “stood up against thugs and dictators.” Kaine named no dictators (he could have cited Qaddafi, but didn’t for obvious reasons) and only one thug — Osama bin Laden.
Does agreeing with Obama that a military team should kill bin Laden constitute her standing up to him? I don’t think so. And Kaine’s praise will ring false to anyone who remembers the Russian reset.
Kaine may also have lost credibility when he claimed that the modern Democratic party is the true party of Lincoln. Americans, a clear majority of whom don’t consider Clinton truthful, will have a tough time with that comparison. The Democratic standard bearer is no Honest Abe. In fact, she’s lucky not be facing a felony charge.
But Kaine rallied big in the second part of his speech by skewering the Republican standard bearer. He worked off of Donald Trump’s standard line “believe me,” which Kaine imitated repeatedly. Kaine is no Frank Caliendo, but he got the bluster right, and that’s the main thing.
Kaine then proceeded to show quite effectively why no one should believe Donald Trump. He did this by citing various groups he says (not without justification in at least some cases) Trump has stiffed — creditors, folks who believed he would build them condos, Trump University enrollees, etc.
With this, Kaine seemed to win over the convention. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved the needle some with the television audience.
In my opinion, Kaine, no great speaker, could not have been half as effective attacking any of the credible candidates who opposed Trump. Had the GOP nominated such a candidate, Kaine would likely have stumbled along to the end of his speech with only a mixed reaction.
But in Trump, Republicans provided low hanging fruit and Kaine cut it down with a few deft swings. It didn’t take a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama. Just a middling speaker with a somewhat annoying demeanor.
The second half of Trump’s speech provided the Democrats with something they haven’t had much of lately, either on the campaign trail or in Philadelphia — fun. For them, the fun may just be starting.