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DNC: Rounding Up the Reaction to Michelle Obama

by Elizabeth Ryan 


Tags: Democratic National Convention, DNC, Politics, Michelle Obama, media, James Forsyth, Spectator, Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, Michael Gerson, Newsweek, Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, Jim Geraghty, National Review, Obama campaign, Elizabeth Ryan,

Throughout the Obama campaign, Michelle has been skewered for her remarks on the stump, but her speech at Monday night's DNC kickoff got decent, even good, reviews across the political spectrum. Here’s a roundup of quick takes on the potential First Lady’s delivery:

Here's Jim Geraghty for the National Review:

In one sense, Michelle's speech did what it needed to tonight, and that is... little or no harm. It was a serving of mashed potatoes from her, but considering her comments that have generated headlines so far in this campaign, generic happy talk about working hard and dreaming bigger and aiming higher will be a pleasant surprise.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan raved:

There was plenty I didn't like about this night, as you can tell if you scroll down. But it succeeded in the most important task. Michelle did it. She more than did it. She struck fear in the GOP tonight. Their lies about the Obamas will fail. As they should.

Newsweek tapped former Republican speechwriter, Michael Gerson, and former Democratic speechwriter Michael Waldman for their takes, and both were impressed. Says Gerson:

Michelle Obama [was] impressive—confident, fluent, and appealingly personal. The sharp political edge she has sometimes shown on the stump was nowhere in evidence. Instead, she told a compelling working class story and rooted her own considerable accomplishments in the American dream. She clearly brings a liberal sensitivity to a variety of issues, but, in this speech, it was the soft liberalism of service and community, not the hard liberalism of anger and radicalism.

James Forsyth of the Spectator was only slightly disappointed:

Michelle Obama played it safe tonight. Gone was the sassy campaigner I remember seeing in Iowa and South Carolina. The aim of the speech was to introduce Michelle Obama to the public and to dispel the idea of her as an angry, divisive figure. On that score, it worked. 

And Dahlia Lithwick of Slate had this sharp analysis:

Here is a woman with a degree from Harvard Law School, who could have talked about law and policy and poverty, and yet she talked about her kids, her husband, and her family. And she didn't do that merely to show us that smart women are soft and cuddly on the inside. She did what everyone else in this campaign is terrified to do: She risked looking sappy and credulous and optimistic when almost everyone has abandoned "hope" and "change" for coughing up hairballs of outrage. Every Democrat in America seems to be of the view that optimism is so totally last February; that now's the time to hunker down and panic real hard. Good for Michelle for reminding us that to "strive for the world as it should be" is still cool, and for being so passionate about that fact that she looked to be near tears.

Watch Michelle Obama's speech:

For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.