By Richard E. Vatz
What many sources have termed the most critical speech of Hillary’s life is here, but that implies more suspense than actually is the case. It is hard to abjectly fail in a speech wherein her opponent is not a sympathetic figure.
On the other hand, she has to reconcile the image of someone who will be, as her husband implied, an agent of change while nurturing the support of a president whose legacy is not well served by Hillary’s advocating significant change.
Here is what the critic of political rhetoric whom I know best predicted would be in Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech tonight (you’ll have to trust me, dear reader: I wrote this before the speech.)
- An acceptance of the nomination (okay, that was not overly difficult) with an emphasis on the historic first of her nomination
- An apology to Bernie Sanders and his supporters for the Democratic National Committee’s vile anti-Semitism and stealthy anti-Sanders primary campaign. Parenthetically, it is almost condign comeuppance to observe the isolationist supporters of Bernie Sanders still trying to undermine Hillary’s evening by irresponsibly and naïvely chanting “No More War,” as retired Gen. John Allen spoke regarding Hillary’s alleged ability to keep America “safe and free”
- An addressing of the perception by an overwhelming percentage of Americans that she cannot be trusted
- An acknowledgment that it is difficult to follow the Democratic Murderers’ Row of Great Orators: Vice President Joe Biden (because he is beloved); former President Bill Clinton (despite his not being beloved), and Barack Obama
- A pledge not just to minorities but also to police that their lives matter
Introduced lovingly and tastefully by daughter Chelsea, Hillary strode confidently to the podium and warmly hugged her daughter, with Bill Clinton looking on proudly, as Mrs. Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee by a major party.
The crowd screams Hill — ar — y’ Hill — ar — y’. she immediately references Bill, the man from “Hope,” and Barack Obama, the president “of hope.” She compliments her vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine, a favorite of the crowd…she thanks Bernie Sanders to a big roar, as she compliments his citing of social justice: “Your cause is our cause.”
Hillary pledged to turn “our” progressive platform into real change for America. The speech was the most powerful paean to liberalism as a major presidential nominee has ever delivered.
She links Americans to the courage of the Founders. Emphasizing we can do it together, she warns against those not supporting unity and then depicts Donald Trump as a fear-monger, against whom FDR warned when he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” a line so famous that the crowd completed it along with her.
She listed clichés of division (bad), diversity (good), and praised America’s having the strongest military (good) but no indication what she will do with that strength. Hillary takes one of Trump’s ill-considered statements, “I alone can fix it,” and pillories his megalomania and cites it as anathema to the unity that makes America so strong, culminating in her mentioning her famous work, “It takes a village.”
“More jobs with more opportunity” was also promised, with a nod to “coal country,” to reassure those in West Virginia and elsewhere who perceive her as a threat to their employment. Hillary wants to get money out of politics,” ignoring that she may be the pre-eminent recipient of such largess.
She reasserted her belief in climate change and supported a generally humane immigration policy. She is against children “raised in poverty” and praises, of course, equal work and equal pay.
What kind of change?
Hillary pledged change but did not say change from what. Is the Obama Administration’s status quo that which she will change?
Hillary wants to make college “debt free.” Who will pay for this? When Bobby Kennedy used to be asked that question by general American audiences, his response was “You will.”
Mrs. Clinton offers only that Wall Street and the top 1% will have to pay their fair share of taxes. It might be interesting to see some estimations of what kind of tax policy yields what kind of revenue.
Toward the end, Mrs. Clinton talks about foreign policy and the nuclear deal with Iran. She iterates a policy on ISIS that has no elements outside of current policy: airstrikes, working with other countries and support for our military, but it won’t be done quickly, she avers.
This writer was wrong about much of the content of this speech: there was the acceptance; there was an honoring of Bernie, but no apology to him; there was no reference to her “trust deficit;” there was no self-effacing acknowledgement of her speaking abilities; and no pledge to police, but a profound emphasis on her concerns for minorities, especially the disabled.
Hillary took many potshots at Donald Trump’s egocentrism and contradictions and hypocrisies, such as his ”making products in other countries.” She spoke cleverly about “The man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
He is, she said, temperamentally, unfit to be president.
This writer agrees.
Hilary Clinton knows how to deliver a speech; her elocution is superb. The content, however, was less impressive.
Richard Vatz is a conservative commentator and teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of “The Only Authentic Book Of Persuasion.”