Verdict: Gore Endorsement Speech Gets an A+ for Delivery, But Did the Speech Really Deserve A Passing Grade?

Gore gave a rousing endorsement of Obama

My previous post announcing Gore’s endorsement of Obama speculated as to which Gore we would see this evening when he gave his endorsement speech… the milquetoast “Bruce Banner” Gore or Incredible Hulk Gore! Refer to Gore Endorses Obama, Finally! What this Means for Obama!

The Verdict: The Hulk, but with caveats.

The Good: Gore went on the attack! He gave a great speech, equally inspiring and biting!

Best Point: Gore got in this brilliant, although overly verbose counter attack neutralizing the chief critique of Obama as inexperienced.

Nevertheless, the other party seems to think that age and experience are factors that will work in their favor during this campaign. But our shared — our shared experience as a nation tells us otherwise. I remember when one prominent Republican wondered out loud whether the Democratic nominee, and I quote, “really is grown up enough to be president.” Another used the phrase, quote, “naive and inexperienced.” Yet another said, quote, “the United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House,” end quote.

Who are they talking about? Every single one of those quotations came from the campaign of 1960, when the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be president. Richard Nixon’s slogan in that campaign was “experience counts,” to which John F. Kennedy responded, and I quote, “to exclude from positions of trust and command all those below the age of 44, would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the Continental Army, Madison from fathering the Constitution, and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America

Right on Target?: No statement was right on target. Fact is, not once in the speech did Gore directly attack John McCain. This is a critical and epidemic error of the Democratic party that has spelled its demise for the last two elections and even though this election seems practically a slam dunk with everything skewing Democrat, it must be corrected post haste or I’ll say it… McCain will win.

Do I Hear An Echo?: This speech had moments with eerie structural and rhetorical similarities to both Bill Clinton’s 1992 convention speech (both recollect boyhood memories of JFK) as well as Clinton’s 1992 stump speech which reiterated the iconic line “We Need a Change.” The major difference, Clinton’s speech critiquing the economic climate of 1992 was a direct assault on the policies of an incumbent, whereas this time around, the Democrats are undertaking a high wire expending much unnecessary effort trying to link McCain to Bush in order for these attacks to work.

What He Should Have Said: For as masterful as Gore’s speech was, it didn’t have any “Oh my god, he really nailed him” moments such that the speech could have legs in the TV news and talk radio circuit.

Fact is, Gore has gained mega-capital as the grand Swami and pre-eminent Guru of environmental policy – and has the Nobel Peace Prize hardware to prove it.

While I’ll give Gore the let that perhaps he was saving this play for later in the campaign, Gore needs to come out and use that Nobel Peace Prize for the weapon that it is by bludgeoning McCain’s environmental.

All he needed to say was one high value shock statement like “I’ll wager my Nobel Peace prize if McCain is elected…” and then take your pick… Gas will be $10 a gallon? Manhattan will be underwater in under 30 years? Oil company profits will sky rocket even more? Take your pick. Point is, Gore has that hunk of medal, why doesn’t he put it to good use by dominating the news cycle for a week with a highly charged statement?

As I said predicted in my earlier post, Gore glossed over the opportunity to provide rapid response support by using his big stage to take McCain to task for his earlier in the day proposal to increase drilling. Purists may object saying “well it was such a pretty speech, he didn’t need to dirty it up with attacks,” but then elections aren’t generally won with “pretty.” Ask Gore, ask Dukakis, ask Kerry.

Where Was His Editor Moment: In a “Gore the statesman” moment, he praised McCain. Not only did it receive “Boo’s” from the crowd, and not only did it give credit where its hardly due, but it could possibly serve as truncated-statement ammunition by the Republican’s at a later date.

As the general election begins, let us remember our obligation to honor the highest values of our democracy and conduct this campaign in a spirit of respect for the Republican nominee. No, no. In that case, I’m glad I brought it up because, as Senator Barack Obama has said, John McCain is deserving of that respect. He has demonstrated bravery in war and as a prisoner of war, and has served in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for many years. Moreover, he has demonstrated a willingness to debate some critical issues, including the climate crisis that many Republicans have refused to discuss at all.

This is precisely the attitude that will lose the election for the Democrats.

Favorite Moment: I’ll let this interlude speak for itself…

If you think the next appointments to our Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter. If you live in the city of New Orleans, you know that elections matter. If you or a member of your family are serving in the active military, the National Guard or reserve, you know that elections matter. If you’re a wounded veteran, you know that elections matter. If you lost your job, if you’re struggling with your mortgage, you know that elections matter. If you care about a clean environment, if you want a government that protects you instead of special interests, you know that elections matter. If you care about food safety, if you like a “T” on your B.L.T., you know that elections matter. If you bought poisoned, lead-filled toys from China or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter. After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter.

Something massively cathardic in hearing Gore basically subtly suggest to everyone “If you elected me in the first place, all this wouldn’t have happened.” (Full disclosure: The Hatchet Man worked on the Gore-Lieberman Benedict Arnold campaign for two years.)

Biggest Failing: Gore’s biggest failing was assuming that his brilliant dismantling the Republican “impotence, neglect, and failure” of the last four years would be understood as foreshadowing what’s to come under McCain. While he’s entirely correct, this was too intellectual of a parallel for most voters to reliably draw and resulted from Democratic myopia which assumes everyone sees McCain as the logical extension of Republican ideology that he is. The themes of 1992, when Clinton-Gore ran against an incumbent riding out the 12th year of Republican failings, are less analogous to non-incumbent McCain because the theme “we need a change,” was a direct attack in 1992, but is only an indirect attack in 2008.

Complete text of the speech available here.

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