Steve Klingaman

Steve Klingaman
Minneapolis, Minnesota,
January 01
Steve Klingaman is a nonprofit development consultant and nonfiction writer specializing in personal finance and public policy. His music reviews can be found at

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 10:47AM

Michelle Obama Hits One Out of the Park

Rate: 19 Flag


 “He’s my guy.”


Shortly after Michelle Obama’s marquee speech at the Democratic convention last night, somewhere in conservative America Karl Rove must have picked up the phone, dialed David Koch, and said, “Dave, we’re gonna need another hundred million.” Her “he’s my guy” speech electrified the house, ruined the mascara, and established Michelle Obama as the best campaigner in America.

While Michelle Obama insists that her primary role is that of Mom-in-Chief her true calling may be that of Campaigner-in-Chief.  What made her so successful? One, the camera loves her.  The famously buff first lady is now so buff you could be thinking, “Wait a minute, is this the Olympics?’ Second, after the yelling of former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, Michelle’s voice sounded supple, personal, and real.  Her tone, her measured delivery and spot-on affect were key to her appeal.  But the heart of it all was her story.

She said, in so many words, (and it wasn’t really that many) he’s my guy, through thick and thin. He’s the real deal, up from adversity, and what he cares about is making a difference. From the “concern in his eyes” to dinner time middle-school friendship strategy discussion, she conveyed a narrative that touched the attendees as few have been touched in recent cycles—except for when Barack himself spoke last time around.

Whether or not he can do that again is open to question.  It pretty much goes with out saying that he is a better campaigner than president, but we shouldn’t go too far with that.  The choice is not between President Obama and Mr. Perfect. The choice is between an imperfect president and a corporate raider.  That Mrs. Obama was able to describe the difference in heartfelt terms is a testament to her political savvy and her sense of fine tuning a message.

The speech was not without risks to the reputation of the eminently popular first lady.  In the past she has avoided the limelight in terms of real content.  She has engaged without engaging, lulling interviewers like Jon Stewart into some of their most apolitical moments ever.  But that was not the mission last night.  Her job, like Ann Romney’s, was to “humanize” her husband.  That she went so far beyond that, beyond warming up Barack’s sometimes cold-fishiness, his remoteness, and his insular governing style, went straight to her unassailable sense of real belief in the guy, of real love, and real respect.

A president’s aspirations to do right do matter.  Michelle invoked the soon-to-be-familiar mantra that the work is not nearly finished, that we have more to do together.  Change takes a long time, but not forever, she said.

I may be in the minority here, but I feel that one of the keys to the election for Barack Obama is not to disparage a disparagible opposition, but to make the case for why Americans should continue to believe in Mr. Obama.  If, as I said, his opposition were Mr. Perfect then he would lose in a heartbeat.  So would we all.  If his opposition were the future of the Republican party, Paul Ryan, he would deserve to win, and not on style points, he would deserve to win on the merits of his case and his platform, meager as it is compared to perfection.

Mr. Romney is in many ways a straw candidate. That is, he is a vessel filled with the many strains of opposition to Obama.  From the Tea Party to the NRA to ALEC, the opposition to Barack Obama is legion.  But sometimes, what we need is not more vitriol, but a little honey, a little—to use a dangerous word—hope.  And that is what Michelle delivered. It was in her tone.  It was in her eyes.  And it was in her story about her man.  Is that a throwback narrative?  It could be; it was to a degree with Ann, but in Michelle’s hands it was not. Because in our hearts, her grit is our grit.  It’s what we want to live up to.  Her determination to be her own person, to be part of a couple in love, to be the best parent she can be, that is us at our best.  And that, she told us, is Barack.  Time will tell if we are ready to believe—again. But I get the feeling she isn’t going to be far from the limelight this campaign season.  And if we get discouraged, I think we know were to turn for a little shot of uplift.

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Good summary. Tough to get comments and ratings to stick this morning. We'll see about this one.
She was inspirational. She has so much appeal to forward-thinking women on all levels: She is well-spoken, well-informed, engaged and engaging, modern and traditional at once - but in a good way - and, like her husband, represents the future of this country on so many levels. Their story is the real American story, which is why they appeal to so many of us in the 99 percent. Rated.
she is genuine. so is he. i am a progressive democrat and a pragmatist, so it should be no surprise that am as solid in my support of barack obama as president as i was when he was running in 2008. i expect that he will win this time, though not by as large a margin as last. listening to mrs. obama's speech last night carefully will tell anyone why i (and many, many people like me) think another term will be a great, good thing. excellent post, steve.
Very well put. You can choose solutions or just plain nothin'. I choose the party of the future not the past. Thanks.
'The choice is between an imperfect president and a corporate raider. "

That's it in a nutshell.
It was a marvelous speech, just as your splendid review points out. Almost as enjoyable as the speech itself was watching the crowds' reaction to it as, again and again, the First Lady connect. I don't mind saying I shed a few tears myself. And as a speechwriter I was in awe at the accomplishment, the subtle ways in which she used storytelling to make a larger point -- the personal as political -- using just the right anecdotes to bring alive the choice we need to make in ths "choice election."
I like that statement. The choice is between an imperfect president and a corporate raider. I could put that on a bumper sticker! And you're absolutely right. Great piece.
The smartest thing she's done, or been advised to do is not be Hillary. I've heard she never did like politics. The piece on her in the NYTIMES yesterday calling her the "hugging" First Lady also added to her appeal, but if I hear one more referral of Obama as "aloof and abstract," I'm gonna puke. I guess it gives the mainstream media a lead in the name of "objectivity" but he's easily one of the best speakers I've ever seen and to make so few mistakes on the podium is the mark of genius.
Dems can't run on reality so they have to run on sentimentality.
best, libby
The First Lady's speech was top notch propaganda. She would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.

She did a fine job of humanizing a war criminal, our Assassin in Chief, responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people. His crimes are legion, yet many so called "progressives" will happily cast their vote for a man who should be in prison.

Vote 3rd party. A vote for Obomber is not a vote for the lesser of two evils, it is a vote for the more efficient of two evils, as Glen Ford from the Black Agenda Report so aptly put it.
well captured and for any who still has heart to feel and soul to imagine what we can become, not in four years, maybe not in ten, but step by step and deed by deed it kept the flame alive. The shots of faces in the crowd frankly captured America.

The critics will take their shots, make empty gestures that cost them nothing- there is no perfection just the labor, often with small gains, disappointment that idols are but human, the pain when they are killed, a hard road so it is understandable that many profess the same causes but find a safe ground from which to carp at those who try.

A new generation is rising because a new generation is being raised, and for that we all owe a debt to the Mothers as brave and committed as Michelle.
I was truly moved too! She was such a hit Ari Fleischer in a CNN "After Speech" comment - couldn't wait to tear her down. True to form & such a waste of humanity. R
Corporate Raider? Like the kind that allows their friends to steal billions from Americans and then refuses to prosecute them for their crimes? That kind of Corporate Raider?
Yes, I particularly admired her honesty in portraying her hubbie as non-partisan. Really.
I wonder how much that dress cost. I'll bet it cost more than I made last year. 1%er at its best.
Spot on summary and analysis. As she spoke,it was like somebody turned on a light and words once again had meaning.

Karl calling Koch is perfect. It is going to be awful hard to attack her. I'm sure they will try, but it's gonna be tough.

See, here's the thing---that's the way she really is. Really.
I admire her strength and genuine spirit. I identify with her on so many levels and appreciated, through tears, her stories of her family now and growing up and saw how very well she pulls so many of us together in this country. Great piece, thanks!
Mrs. Romney is a Stepford Wife; Mrs. Obama is a woman that many more women than only "Moms" can relate to . She brought it home for younger women, especially.
Mrs. Romney is a Stepford Wife; Mrs. Obama is a woman that many more women than only "Moms" can relate to . She brought it home for younger women, especially.
"Don't Cry For Me Argentina " should play everytime she speaks from here on,never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The forward thinking party has a Jimmy Carter,Bill Clinton and Ded Kennedy speaking. They actually had Ded bash Romney during his speech, how tacky is that?

Israel bad-oops could hurt the Jewish vote-those Arabs would never vote Rupublican- God is bad -oops-I mean come on -"Let's vote, who here thinks their imaginary friend is Awesome!!!!! Okay God, you can stay.

Full marks for the speech but I don't like the idea of candidate spouses playing such a big role. It shifts focus from issues onto soft emotions.
Michelle Obama did indeed hit it out of the park, I agree. What surprised me was when she said that every night the President reads 10 of the letters people have written to him...that's maybe 13,000 letters so far. It must give him a unique insight into the hearts and needs of our people.
I'm so glad to hear this! After a day of arguing online with our local morons. All our local media has harped on is the " They left out God!" line. Of course our local redneck morons, have bit right into that one, calling us a bunch of libberal heathen socialists! I am so over Florida!