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So the word is out that Bill Clinton rocks at giving a speech (full video). For older readers, this is not anything new. However, I am glad that a generation of people younger than me, with no memory of Clinton (I was 10 1/2 when he left office), got to see him in this context. Sometimes you try to tell your kids or younger friends about an actor or an athlete and their greatness during your formative years- but they're washed up or alcoholic so the same experience can't be replicated. But with this speech, you can truly say "this, my friends, is why I like Bill Clinton."

I should preface this all with the statement that I am not a Democrat, nor am I likely to vote for the President come November. However, I can, like many Republicans and independents, appreciate good speechcraft and a rare moment of substantiative discourse in this vapid, shallow election season.

In a rare commonality with Clinton, I usually do quite a bit of improvisation when I speak in front of a group. Sometimes I don't have anything prepared and you go by what moves you and what sounds good in the moment. An issue with going of script (which given the allocated time for his speech, featured twenty minutes off the cuff) is that you can end up in the weeds. Speeches are like Hansel and Gretel. If you go off into the woods, you may not ever make it back home. Sometimes you're forced to, and there is a glaring roughness to the transition. Clinton stumbled a couple times during his ad libs, but he never lost the thread. As the most credible supporter of President Obama at this convention, he has to look composed and forceful, and deliver emotion to the President's policies in the first term, and proposals for the second. He did that.

What annoys me with major party conventions, and why I've avoided them this cycle, is that 95% of the many, many speeches given over the four days are cheap, partisan attacks on the other candidate. They often use cliché and soundbites that fall flat, and have nothing for independents to latch onto. I'm proposing a new measurement of political speeches: the statistic-to-strawman ratio. Most convention speeches have very few policy details, and prefer wide platitudes and disingenuous comments about the other party.

Clinton brought something to the table. What I thought of afterwards is that the former president was like the public policy version of Bill Nye the Science Guy. He went through a staggering array of topics- Medicare and Medicaid, welfare, the ACA, the auto bailout, skills training and education. Yet his folksy manner kept light what would have been very academic and sometimes grim material.

However, it wasn't dumbed-down, it was simplified. It was compression without information loss. One user on a website I frequent called it "content-dense."

This was something that had very little red meat for the party and the party alone. This was selling to independents- and given his Third Way reputation it's not surprising. So in a rare event, a convention speech actually was aimed at winning new voters- not firing up existing ones.

In my perfect world, politics would be as content-dense. Instead, as a friend of mine who's studying for a political science Ph.D said, it's essentially a circus for the public. Political science, where you look at the ramifications of policy, is something that rarely crosses paths with politics. In this speech, they met.

And it was damn impressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rat racer, koNko, pot

    "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

    by Kazmarov on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 12:22:30 AM PDT

  •  Perhaps, just this once... (4+ / 0-)

    ... please vote for the Democrats. At least until the Republicans become sane again.

  •  But (6+ / 0-)

    you're not likely to vote for the president? Are you not going to vote then? Very puzzling!
    What would persuade you to give the man a vote who took a great challenge by grabbing the mop?
    A pony?

    •  Registered Green. (0+ / 0-)

      Look at the diarist's profile.  My assumption is that he'll vote for Green party candidates.  Great.  Just don't expect any thrilling kudos from us over your concession that the Big Dog gave a great speech on behalf of another party.  Why no thrilling kudos from us?  We're a site aimed at electing Democrats not Greens.

      "I'm not writing to make conservatives happy. I want them to hate my opinions. I'm not interested in debating them. I want to stop them." - Steve Gilliard

      by grog on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 06:07:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I miss Bill...and no one can sling it better. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, pot, koNko
  •  Given your respect for substance... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ksingh, koNko, gramofsam1, wasatch

    ...I don't see how you can possibly vote for Romney/Ryan. Vapid, jargon-strewn happy talk with all the depth, substance and intellectual rigor of a fortune cookie.

    What Sen. William McAdoo said of Warren G. Harding could just as well be said of either Romney or Ryan (but not of Obama or Clinton):

    "His speeches leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea. Sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly, a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork."
    So, I guess you're staying home, huh?
  •  Based on the title of your post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ksingh

    you're implying that the current administration lacks substance.  Is that correct?  Way to rally around Obama, Kazmarov.  Which right-wing site should I go to in order to find other posts by you?

    •  This site (0+ / 0-)

      serves the Democratic cause better when it is more than just a refuge for our sides intellectual and moral equivalent of the teabaggers.

      I do not really agree with the diarist but it is comments like these that diminish this place.

  •  Clinton has the common touch (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    global citizen

    It's what got him elected and saved his ass every time he got in trouble; his humanity and the ability to communicate it.

    Thus, Clinton playing the saxophone badly on TV was not a stunt from a carnival side show but a facet of his personality people could related to and made him kind of cool.

    And Clinton treating people like adults and equals, and taking the first step in their direction, disarming resistance.

    That's the gift of good public speakers - they consider the audience and put things in direct (but not overly simplistic) terms in a language the audience can relate to.

    And this is why his considerable intelligence is attractive, not off-putting or threatening (except to opponents that raise his ire).

    The guy is far from perfect and I disagree with him on plenty of issues (more on finer points than principles), but I like Bill Clinton and really admire his ability to communicate.

    Regarding politics, facts and presentation, to paraphrase A. Einstein from memory:

    "Make things as simple as necessary and not one bit simpler."

    In fact, when we try to over-simplify complex issues, the result is often further complication. But the political problem I see today is people have gotten so used to the pandering and rhetoric disconnected from reality, they have come to expect it as inevitable and join it instead of fighting it.

    And so the feedback loop becomes a GIGO situation.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 04:03:39 AM PDT

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