Monday, September 01, 2008

Audacity of Hype - William Safire's take on Obama's Speech

From the NYT:

Goaded by increasingly worried advisers, he turned personal and mean. “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.” That use of “temperament,” accent on the “temper,” was a throwback to the slur at Barry Goldwater as “trigger happy.” (It worked for Lyndon Johnson.)

Then came a strange one: “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.” What’s that supposed to mean — that McCain is a coward, unwilling to lead a charge into the hills of Pakistan?

Obama’s handlers offered the political version of “American Idol” — the audacity of hype. On the 50-yard line of the football field, at a reported cost of $6 million, they erected a plywood Parthenon, its fake Grecian columns suggesting the White House. At the end, not a traditional balloon drop in a contained hall — enjoyable hoopla — but a fireworks display in the heavens over a mass of humanity in a blizzard of confetti, all too like the collectivist fantasy that opened and closed the Beijing Olympics.

A stern editor could have improved the 4,500-word acceptance by cutting a thousand words of populist boilerplate and partisan-pleasing shots that offend centrists. But the die was cast before the writing began. The pretension of the fake Grecian temple setting clashed with the high-decibel, rock-star format and overwhelmed the history implicit in the event. Ancient Greeks had a word for it: hubris.

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