Just back from my daily run, lunch and CNN check to confirm that—despite all the industriousness, inventiveness, courteousness, patience, maternal love and peace evident over four miles here in Chiraq—the world is still a hot stinking mess that only Donald Trump can clean up. Check.
We might think better about "the establishment" if we referred to it as "the house we live in." Thus anti-establishment would mean, "I hate the house we live in." And the idea of tearing the establishment down would be expressed as, "tearing the house we live in down." And the question would come, "What sort of house are you going to build in its place? Do you have the building materials and do you have the skill?" I love me some radical thinking—but life ain't Lincoln Logs, and radical acting (and radical voting) requires responsibility.
Hillary Clinton ought to have every one of her staffers memorize these paragraphs from President Obama's speech last night, because they supersede Trump's inconsequential ups and downs and all the other funhouse echoes that don't seem to congeal into words that hold. These paragraphs are the whole point, and the more frequently and more imaginatively they can be repeated in various ways over the next three months, the less chance Trump has of winning.
Ronald Reagan called America "a shining city on a hill." Donald Trump calls it "a divided crime scene" that only he can fix. It doesn't matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they've been in decades, because he's not actually offering any real solutions to those issues. He's just offering slogans, and he's offering fear. He's betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.
And that's another bet that Donald Trump will lose. And the reason he'll lose it is because he's selling the American people short. We are not a fragile people, we're not a frightful people. Our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don't look to be ruled.
Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that we the people can form a more perfect union. That's who we are. That's our birthright, the capacity to shape our own destiny.
Last night a close speechwriter correspondent who follows my live blogs closely, wrote at the end of President Obama's speech last night, "This is the problem with live blogging. He gave a great speech and now you feel like a dick for being petty in the middle."
I think he was referring to this post that I made toward the end of the speech.
"That's what happens when we try." And the [man-in-the] arena bullshit, that I've always hated, that gets used by every politician as a rebuke to all criticism. Thank God he didn't end on that hoary shit.
My friend is right: I probably should not have used that moment to jump on my hobby horse about Teddy Roosevelt's famous 1910 speech in which he said "it is not the critic who counts," but rather "the man who is actually in the arena ... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Self-pitying leaders from Richard Nixon to Miley Cyrus have regurgitated that speech over the years to tell their critics off.
Of course Obama wasn't referring to himself as the unappreciated man in the arena, but rather Hillary Clinton as the put-upon woman. I still don't like it. I can give a "woman-in-the-arena" speech in appreciation for Hillary Clinton, and someday I just might. But Hillary can't give it, and either can another fellow beggar-for-public office like President Obama. You folks asked for this. Now people who find you wanting are mere "cold and timid souls"? No, not for you to say.
Still—it wasn't the time to get on my hobby horse, and I had I written a reasoned critique of the speech afterward, I would have positioned that as a quibble if mentioned it at all. But you would have been in bed by then. Look to this space today for said thoughtful "Rhetorical Recap" of last night, by George Washington political science professor and Vital Speeches contributor Michael Cornfield. And BYOB tonight, for another bullshit live-blogging of the main event.