28 Aug 2008

The Semiotics of Clinton’s Speech

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Bill Clinton addresses 2008 democrat convention

Stephen Green provides some help in reading between the lines of the former president’s address to the democrat convention last night.

Clinton came out swinging, boldly stating right up front that, “I am here to support Barack Obama.” “Second, I’m here to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden. I love Joe Biden and America will, too.” And that’s about as much mention as Biden got in Clinton’s speech.

And why does Bill think Obama is “the man for the job?” Let’s take a look at his words.

Well, Clinton based that endorsement on “everything I learned in eight years as President.” It’s all about Bill.

And why is Obama so good? Because “the long, hard primary” had “strengthened him.” In other words, Obama was weak to start.

And with Joe Biden on board, “America will have the national security leadership we need.” Obama wasn’t qualified, so he picked a veep who was.

But the digs didn’t end there.

Clinton very pointedly mentioned crushing “credit card debt.” And Biden is pretty much a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delaware’s many credit card companies. Clinton knows that. The media know that. And pretty soon they’ll remind you of it, too.

And then there was the claim about Obama’s “acute grasp of foreign policy,” which is sure to remind folks that Obama was against the surge before he admitted it’s working, and that Biden — like Hill — voted for the Iraq War.

He claimed that, “Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she will do everything she can to elect Barack Obama.” But that’s not the speech most people heard her give last night. And, “that makes two of us. Actually, that makes 18 million of us.” The 18 million figure is the number of people who voted for Hillary during the primaries, and that served as a pointed reminder that the Clintons remain a powerful force.

It was a powerful speech, expertly delivered — and much of it could have come straight from Hillary’s stump speech. The recurring theme was that “the job of the next President is to rebuild the American Dream and restore American leadership in the world.” Those are not the themes Obama is running on. No hope, no change, were anywhere to be found.

Michelle Obama noticed, too. When Michelle really smiles, she lights up the entire Pepsi Center. All she gave Clinton was her tight, closed-mouth smile. And unlike Clinton’s rhetoric tonight, that doesn’t light up much at all.

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