Hillary Clinton’s challenge last night was to let Americans inside her shell. She succeeded. (More)

“The ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part”

The most talked-about moment of Clinton’s acceptance speech was a devastating one-liner about Donald Trump:

A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons

More on that later.

But the most important part of her speech came earlier:

Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage. As you know, I’m not one of those people.

I’ve been your First Lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great State of New York. I ran for President and lost. Then I represented all of you as Secretary of State.

But my job titles only tell you what I’ve done. They don’t tell you why.

The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.

I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me. So let me tell you.

She spoke of her grandfather, who worked in a Scranton lace mill, and her father, who served in the Navy and then opened a fabric printing business.

She also spoke of her mother, whose parents left her alone at age four, telling her to take coupons to a nearby café when she got hungry. By age fourteen her parents had abandoned her, and she was working fulltime as a domestic maid:

She was saved by the kindness of others. Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share.

The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me:

No one gets through life alone.

We have to look out for each other and lift each other up. She made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith:

“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

Only then did Clinton begin to share her history of activism with the Children’s Defense Fund in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There she dug deep into the details of a specific problem: why disabled children were kept out of public schools, and how to ensure that every child could get a public education.

And she explained why the details matter to her:

It’s true … I sweat the details of policy – whether we’re talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.

Because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid, if it’s your family.

It’s a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president.

Those three points – the values of community support she learned from her mother, her willingness to sweat the details that either make policies effective or let people fall through the cracks, and her aversion to the spotlight – explain both her amazing lifetime of service to others and why she is caricatured as a ruthless, ambitious ice queen.

“This is my fight song, take-back-my-life song”

The New York Times’s Frank Bruni explained why Clinton had to introduce herself to a nation who believe they’ve known her for decades:

The party was making history with a female nominee, and it rightly and fully celebrated that, imagining a woman in the American presidency for the first time, after all this time. “When any barrier falls in America,” Clinton said in her speech, “it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

But this particular woman needed to be humanized, softened. In order to touch the sky, she had to reach out as never before. Her story had to be transformed from one of unquenchable ambition to one of boundless heart, and the urgency of the task was underscored by the attention to detail with which she and her campaign team went about it.

That video, shown just before Clinton took the stage, was produced by Shonda Rhimes. It was narrated by Morgan Freeman. He concluded by telling Americans that “this is the woman.”

Then Clinton appeared, to music with these lyrics: “This is my fight song, take-back-my-life song.”

She was taking back her life in order to claim her desired future.

If you don’t like to toot your own horn – and unlike most political leaders, Clinton doesn’t – someone else will supply the soundtrack. Clinton’s opponents have spent 25 years supplying an ugly cacophony … and last night she changed the tune.

“Clinton gave an unmistakably progressive speech, but her party looked more welcoming rather than less”

ABC’s Rick Klein said Clinton opened a bigger tent last night:

The wild week of the Democratic National Convention brought anger and unpredictability, loud disagreements and flashes of patriotism and a party exposing its divisions and anxieties for the nation to see.

In other words, it revealed America. And when Hillary Clinton made it all official, accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night, she presided over a party that looked stronger, and potentially bigger, than it did just a few days ago.
Clinton’s team designed four days swathed in nostalgia, and enough red-white-and-blue balloons to swim in. They looked back in the hopes that the nominee can look forward – to a more optimistic future, particularly by comparison to the Republican nominee.

“America is great because America is good,” she said.

At the same time, the party featured a diverse array of voices – of different races and religions, different sexual orientations and physical abilities, plus a robust military presence, despite differing opinions on war and peace. Clinton gave an unmistakably progressive speech, but her party looked more welcoming rather than less.

Associated Press writers Juliet Pace and Robert Furlow agreed:

Clinton took the stage to roaring applause from flag-waving delegates on the final night of the Democratic convention, relishing her nomination as the first woman to lead a major U.S. political party. But her real audience was the millions of voters watching at home, many of whom may welcome her experience as secretary of state, senator and first lady, but question her character.

She acknowledged those concerns briefly, saying “I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.” But her primary focus was persuading Americans to not be seduced by Trump’s vague promises to restore economic security and fend off threats from abroad.

Clinton’s four-day convention began with efforts to shore up liberals who backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and it ended with an outstretched hand to Republicans and independents unnerved by Trump. A parade of military leaders, law enforcement officials and Republicans took the stage ahead of Clinton to endorse her in the general election contest with Trump.

The contrast was stark … and surprising….

“It’s about loving America”

As Talking Points Memo’s Katherine Krueger summarized the alarm among conservatives who watched Democrats become the Party of Patriotism:

The evening also hammered home the stark tonal difference between the two conventions. After Trump painted America as a downcast country in need of a billionaire savior, night after night of all-star DNC speakers preached a sermon of American exceptionalism, with values that unify us all – talking points once exclusively owned by Republicans.

She offers several tweets. This was my favorite:

Day after day, speaker after speaker, Democrats presented American stories of service, sacrifice, courage, and compassion.

“You have sacrificed nothing. And no one.”

Perhaps none was more effective than Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant whose son enlisted in the U.S. Army and died in Iraq:

Donald Trump was speaking at an event in Iowa, complaining that America was not allowed to waterboard terrorists, when Khizr Khan and his wife walked up to the microphone at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Khan’s son, Humayun, was a captain in the U.S. Army. When a vehicle packed with explosives approached his compound in Iraq in 2004, he instructed his men to seek cover as he ran toward it. The car exploded, killing Khan instantly. He was awarded the Bronze Star posthumously.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America,” Khan said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.

“Donald Trump,” he said, “you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” He pulled a copy of the Constitution from his pocket. “In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’ ” Earlier this month, Trump promised congressional Republicans that he would defend “Article XII” of the Constitution, which doesn’t exist.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan said. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

“You have sacrificed nothing. And no one.”

Harsh words … and true.

“I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin”

Trump’s response, predictably, was still more authoritarian bullying:

“You know what I wanted to. I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard,” Trump said. “I would have hit them. No, no. I was going to hit them, I was all set and then I got a call from a highly respected governor.”

Trump didn’t immediately clarify what he meant, but he said he was made particularly upset by an unspecified person he called a “little guy.”

“I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy,” he said. “I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin and he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

How bad was Trump’s week. Bad enough that Republican security experts want Congress to investigate the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computers:

Two dozen Republican national security experts signed a letter to congressional leaders Thursday asking for an immediate investigation into the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee, writing that “this is not a partisan issue” but rather “an assault on the integrity of the entire American political process.”

The letter, signed by conservative luminaries of the Reagan and Bush administrations, urges political leaders to reject any effort to seek partisan advantage from the hack and its fallout.

“Congress has a responsibility to get to the bottom of this extraordinary breach, not only to determine who was responsible but also to consider the appropriate response,” reads the letter signed by Republican foreign policy hawks such as Elliott Abrams, who served as an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration and as deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush.

And Reuters reports that the FBI are already investigating the hack … as possible espionage.

“Her election should be the cause not only of Democrats but anybody who cares about democracy”

Vox’s Ezra Klein puts this year’s election in stark terms:

What we just witnessed in Cleveland and Philadelphia defies our normal political vocabulary. We are used to speaking of American politics as split between the two major parties. It’s Democrats versus Republicans, liberals versus conservatives, left versus right.

But not this election. The conventions showed that this is something different. This campaign is not merely a choice between the Democratic and Republican parties, but between a normal political party and an abnormal one.

And New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait is blunter still:

One would expect a Republican to form a low impression of Obama’s leadership skills. But it is bizarre to compare the “leadership” of a democratically elected president to that of Putin, who leads his country by intimidating and suppressing its opposition. Obviously, an executive’s “leadership” is more likely to take hold if they can silence, imprison, or murder their opponents. Last December, when Trump praised Putin, Joe Scarborough pointed out that Putin had killed journalists. Trump replied, “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader. You know, unlike what we have in this country.”
Trump has declared over and over, over a long period of time and with no incentive to do so, that strong leadership entails the suppression of dissent. He does not draw a distinction between the exercise of this form of leadership in a democracy and in a dictatorship. Instead, he compares the former unfavorably against the latter.

When you begin to take seriously Trump’s belief in “strength” as the measure of effective leadership, and the actions that flesh out those beliefs, then it overrides every other issue. The election is not fundamentally about whether a Democrat will beat a Republican. It is about whether a small-d democrat will defeat an authoritarian, and her election should be the cause not only of Democrats but anybody who cares about democracy.

America doesn’t need a strongman so thin-skinned that he longs for violence against speakers at an opposing party’s convention.

America needs a woman strong enough, and warm enough, to play balloon-ball with kids on her convention stage.


Photo Credit: Associated Press


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