Duty won out last night, for a while, anyway. I steeled myself to watch Hillary’s acceptance speech, beginning with the introduction by her daughter Chelsea.
As the Fox hosts carefully noted after Chelsea finished, politicians’ children are traditionally off limits for criticism. Sure: but if you choose your son or daughter to deliver an important speech at a national convention, people are going to form some kind of judgment on his or her performance. Three of Donald Trump’s children spoke at the Republican convention, including his introduction by Ivanka, and as everyone acknowledged, they performed magnificently. Hillary may or may not have chosen her daughter to introduce her in order to parallel Ivanka’s speech at the RNC, but in any event, the comparison is inevitable.
Chelsea was bad. There is no other way to put it. Beyond the fact that she is a painfully poor public speaker, the content of her speech was, in my view, all wrong. Her focus was on Hillary as a mother and grandmother. With all due respect, are we really going to vote for a president because she is a good grandmother? I don’t think so. Chelsea’s soft focus apparently reflected the Clinton campaign’s conviction that, after decades in public life, Hillary still needs to be “humanized.” I think it is too late for that. What they need to do is convince us that Mrs. Clinton will be a competent president, notwithstanding her undistinguished tenure as a senator and her disastrous experience as Secretary of State.
Then came Hillary. Her speech got off, we thought, to an awful start. It was slow, for one thing; it took her too long to get going. Any practiced speaker knows that an audience’s attention peaks at the beginning, but Hillary wasted precious minutes posturing herself, first, as a mother and grandmother–that “humanizing” thing again–and then aimlessly praising her husband, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders. Her comments about Sanders, in particular, were laughably disingenuous.
From there it was on to the Constitutional Convention and the Founders, about whom Mrs. Clinton had nothing interesting to say. By the time Hillary got to bashing Trump, she had pretty much lost the attention of those watching in our kitchen. Conversation had turned to other topics, and before long we turned off the television and went to bed. I am pretty sure we were not alone.
As Barack Obama noted a few days ago in his typically backhanded way (“you’re likable enough”), Hillary isn’t much of an orator. After many years of practice, the best style she can achieve is robotic. Her speech last night–as much of it as we heard–was a blend of boring, generic content and mediocre-to-poor delivery. Hillary may yet win the presidency, but if she does, it won’t be because she has inspired anyone on the stump. And if she wins, it won’t be because, after 25 years, she has finally been humanized. It will be because she has convinced most voters that, for all her faults, she is better on the merits than the alternative.