In what was perhaps the most highly anticipated (and no doubt the most highly scrutinized) moment of his political career thus far, newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was saddled with a huge task Thursday night, but by the end, Obama had both thrown down the gauntlet and risen to the occasion—at least in the eyes of thousands of supporters who came to see his history-making acceptance speech at Denver’s Invesco Field.
In one fell swoop, Obama attacked President George W. Bush’s “failed policies,” linked Bush’s would-be GOP successor, John McCain, to a vanishing and played-out past and invited the audience—and, by extension, the millions more Americans watching his speech on television—to consider themselves the active agents in a change he has rallied behind but didn’t create by himself. “This election has never been about me. It’s been about you,” Obama said in a statement no doubt designed to mobilize his allies as well as to hit back at opponents’ accusations that his following has built him into a “celebrity” with his cooperation and encouragement.
The Illinois senator also made a not-so-subtle dig at McCain’s rumored “temperament” issues, laid out some specifics about tax breaks he would and wouldn’t make as president, articulated his energy and foreign policy positions, and slammed the Republican Party for promoting an idealized notion of “the ownership society,” which he translated to mean “you’re on your own.” Perhaps the most memorable line from Obama’s speech was also the shortest—“Enough!”—delivered with the right level of convincing force and without the slight self-consciousness and hesitation that tripped him up in some other moments during his address.
Finally, drawing on the familiar themes of change and hope that have become emblematic of his campaign rhetoric, and drawing direct links from the evening’s occasion to Martin Luther King Jr.‘s own speech at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago, Obama urged his audience to look forward (once again connecting McCain to a bygone era), infusing the uncertain and few remaining weeks before Nov. 4 with a sense of inevitability and purpose and insisting, “We cannot turn back.”
Watch the speech here.
The New York Times:
The speech by Senator Obama of Illinois—in front of an audience of nearly 80,000 people on a warm night in a football stadium refashioned into a vast political stage for television viewers—left little doubt of how he intended to press his campaign against Mr. McCain this fall. And he linked Mr. McCain to what he described as the “failed presidency of George W. Bush” in cutting language that seemed intended to reassure nervous Democrats that he had the spine to take on what has proven this summer to be a scrappy Republican opponent.
“The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time,” Mr. Obama said. “Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”
“America, we are better than these last eight years,” he said. “We are a better country than this.”
AP photo / Matt Sayles