August 29th, 2008
09:00 AM ET
6 years ago

Gergen: A Political masterpiece

CNN

Watch Obama says the country is better than what it has gotten the past four years.

I imagine that lots of you out there remain fierce critics of Barack Obama. Next week Republicans will legitimately debate and challenge many of his ideas, especially about his call for a more activist government. It will be fascinating now when John McCain and Obama meet in debates.

But for this moment and for this purpose, I saw Obama's speech tonight as a political masterpiece. As I had a chance to say on CNN a few moments ago, it was in many ways less a speech than a symphony. I also sensed that we saw tonight an Obama who is growing into a new, more mature leader - stronger, tougher, harder-hitting than he had appeared only a few weeks ago.

Watch: 'Our work won't be easy,' Obama says

Whether Obama will win this Novemember or not is still very unclear, but if he does, I imagine we may look back and say this was a major turning point.

Many of you, I know, will disagree. From all of you, I would welcome your thoughts - you, after all, are the voters who will actually decide the fate of the country.

soundoff (214 Responses)
  1. Bosworth

    I agree that it was a "political" masterpiece – emphasis on "political." The emphasized adjective, however, is hardly indicative of quality or substance. Most of his "details" were pretty much for the partisan activists; little more than preaching to the already converted. Obama may have believed what he said; he may not have. It's hard to tell with a guy that has not a single political accomplishment, other than being the favorite of a cadre of partisan activists. I'm still waiting on hearing some actual "how to's" (such as how exactly can an executive branch CEO cajole congress into his tax breaks – whatever they are).
    In theory, these should come out in the debates with McCain. However, I suspect that he'll stick to the usual vague generalities, throw in the word "Bush" ad nauseum, and hope no one notices his utter narrative ineptitude. Of course, he'll always have the advantage of the MSM protecting him by emphasizing that any tough question is unfair, racist, etc.
    His anointment before an Olympian temple didn't impress me the way it apparently does a large body of the faithless seeking a new religion. Frankly, I think I'll stick with my own religion and try to focus separately on political realities.

    August 29, 2008 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  2. McCain for Pres.

    The people following Obama only want to see a bi-racial man in the white house. He is half white, how is that forgotten by the democrats and the press. Anybody can give a speech, lets see how he does in the debates.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  3. James

    Could not agree with Gergen more.

    I do not see Obama as a typical Democrat, using the typical "failed" Democrat ideas. What he said last night was unheard of from a major political player... it was about integration and the potential power we have if we can take care of our marginalized and disempowered.

    I am thinking... and I think he stands on his own. The experience argument is ridiculous... the past eight years proves this. Fresh and new can be a good thing for this nation... we are not ready to become the Romans of the modern era.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  4. Ron

    It was an incredible speech to end an amazing convention! It should put Obama over the top and heading straight for the White House.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  5. Not so Eloquent Independent

    This will be an interesting election, and I am definitely watching both sides to see who gets my vote.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  6. Unfit for the Presidency

    David Gergen wrote, "I also sensed that we saw tonight an Obama who is growing into a new, more mature leader — stronger, tougher, harder-hitting than he had appeared only a few weeks ago." What you really saw was a man whose foundation for leadership is weak and whose rhetoric fails to match his ability to enact real change. Of course you heard stronger and tougher (and may I add totally scripted) language because the only thing this poor excuse for a candidate can do is create the appearance of a leader by barking loudly because he has no demonstrated record of actually having done any thing of real substance.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  7. Larry in TX

    Obama's acceptance speech was inspiring. I was amazed how every single sentence was something that brought a nod of agreement, a moment of reflection, or even a cheer.

    McCain has a lot of work to do if he is going to convince me that he's the man for this job. I'm all ears.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  8. Bob Ballentine

    Obama's speech was one of the best speeches I have heard, and the best acceptance speech I have ever heard. I didn't think I had any hope left for this country, but he helped me find some again.

    He makes me believe my children may actually have a future.

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  9. rich Phila pa

    Obama's speech offered nothing we haven't heard him say before, and it contained nothing substantial.

    I think everyone was awestruck by the theatrics and pyrotechnics and failed to see that the story line was just the same old stuff. So much for his promise of CHANGE.

    I eagerly await CNNs "balanced coverage" of the RNC!!

    August 29, 2008 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  10. lynn

    Obama has always had these qualitites. The media has just bought its own snarky line about who this remarkable man is. The media line fed upon the negativity of first Clinton and now McCain. We with eyes wide open always saw who Obama truly was. He has always been this, but tonight he gave a performance that made it impossible for the lies and deception of the media's anti-Obama narrative and GOP smears to stand against him. The media now has to clean up its act. No one needs to fawn over Obama, but the media should stop with the double standard and the lies and criticize McCain just as much as it criticizes Obama. And when McCain gives a lousy speech say it, because he mostly does.

    August 29, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  11. petena

    Absolutely brilliant! And it is only because the man is intelleigent, knowledgeable, and articulate. I can't see anyone in the GOP even coming close.

    August 29, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  12. Dimitri

    Awestruck! Is that what you’re looking for? Someone who impresses you with his speaking ability? Look for substance people, not fluff. Hitler was great as a speaker also, not so as a leader!

    Obama is all wonderful promises, but how is he going to pay for it? Windfall profit taxes on big oil? They don’t make enough money to pay for his commitments. Let’s not mention the fact that nobody called for windfall profit taxes when all of you were all obscene money during the housing boom! It was called free markets then.

    This guy is just another politician. Say anything you need to get elected.

    August 29, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  13. J.D.

    I have been an Obama supporter for a long time (although not as long as many others). I watched the speech with my kids (ages 15 and 13). The 13 year-old fell asleep (no real surprise there). The 15 year-old, who is not political at all, thought it was incredible.

    For me, I thought the speech showed both promise and failure. The promise is that we can change the way we debate the issues and resolve the conflicts that face our nation. Obama spoke of the need for common ground, and the need for civility. He properly honors John McCain for his service and his sacrifice. And by doing so, he challenges all of us to do the same - to debate these matters with force and with respect.

    However, he failed to echo the call that John F. Kennedy put to us over 40 years ago - to ask what we can do for our nation. Both major political parties err when they proclaim what "they" will do for "us." I for one am tired of the "what's in it for me" theory of American politics. ("This election is about you" was one of his biggest disappointing themes.) We already have too many Americans being asked to shoulder the burden for us - those who serve on distant shores to protect "our freedoms" so we can go out and "spend" for our country, or those who work at minimum wage so that we can have all the comforts we need, or those who benefit from huge tax cuts so our schools can be underfunded.

    We as a nation are at our best when things are at there worst. When we rise together, not because we have to do so, but because it is the right thing to do, we can accomplish more than we can possibly image. Why else do we have countlerss volunteer firefighters who band together and train every week, and risk their own safety, in the simple belief that when a neighbor's home is buring, the right thing to do is put the fire out.

    My hope is that Obama can make civility a central theme of this grand debate. Then he should go the next step and call on this nation to share the sacrifice to overcome the challenges of the day.

    If he can do so, he would have truly changed our world.

    August 29, 2008 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  14. marie

    I was in total awe as well. What a speech! An amazing man!

    August 29, 2008 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
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