Finley: Clinton missed chance to drop mic

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Philadelphia — Hillary Clinton gave what seemed to be two speeches in accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night, the first woman to ever do so for a major party in the United States.

The first half of her address was almost Reaganesque in its expression of “boundless optimism” about the future of the country and her faith in the American people to make it better.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addresses delegates on the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Clinton called on Americans to “join us” to make a great country greater. Presented herself as up to the task of meeting the country's challenges at home and abroad. And sought to reintroduce herself to the American people with a charm and folksiness she’s rarely displayed.

“We have to all work together so we can all thrive together,” Clinton said, capturing the positivity missing from Donald Trump’s acceptance speech a week ago.

She was rising to what promised to be a stirring finale. And then she flipped the switch. Where the first part of her speech was an appeal to unity and hope, the second half fell back into what came across as an obsessive preoccupation with her Republican opponent. She repeated the fearmongering of Donald Trump that had been expressed by nearly every other speaker at this convention.

It was a mistake. Speakers before her had already done the job of dismantling Trump. Her job was to build up herself.

The awkward pivot changed the mood of the speech. The momentum slumped, and the talking points sounded all too familiar. We’d heard them 100 times this week.

She should have dropped the mic after the “Join us” moment and walked off the stage.

Other thoughts on the speech:

  • Clinton acknowledged that the public part of public services was harder for her. She’s not an orator at the level of her husband or President Barack Obama. But at least for the first half, she did better than I’d ever seen her. The delivery was forceful, yet restrained. It was nicely paced, warmer, and she didn’t shout. It really did keep listeners engaged. She was even funny at times.
  • She walked a very fine line between praising the Obama economy and noting it needed to “work better for everyone.” Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported home ownership, the barometer of the American dream, had fallen to its lowest level since 1965 and the Labor Dept. said unemployment claims were rising.
  • There were moments of sheer hypocrisy. She promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who will take the money out of politics and throtle the influence of Wall Street. But she will raise and spend $1 billion to defeat Trump, and much of it will come from Wall Street.
  • The speech was an odd tug of war between an appeasement of Bernie Sanders’ socialist supporters and an appeal to moderates and independents. She offered a long list of new spending on programs that Sanders championed like free tuition for all and expanded health care. She said she would pay for it by soaking the rich. But the middle class is smart enough to know who will pay the bill.
  • She brushed by terrorism and national security, perhaps because earlier speakers on those subjects were shouted down by Sanders’ supporters chanting “No More War!”
  • At several points she mentioned Michigan and the auto industry, including the Flint water crisis, which Oakland University political science chair Dave Dulio takes as an indication she thinks the state is in play.
  • The attacks on Trump were strong and played into the fears many voters have of the erratic billionaire. But again, they seemed out of place in a speech that purported to unite the country.