Name a female leader who has soared rhetorically. Movie characters don’t count — though there are not too many of those either. When Americans want gravitas, baritone Morgan Freeman is the go to actor to play the President or, as he did tonight, narrate Clinton’s biographical video.
Germany’s Angela Merkel, the U.K.’s Theresa May, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, all are much better known for their pragmatism than their stirring oratory. Barack Obama talked every day in 2008 about the moral arc of the universe bending toward justice, while Clinton talked about “the America I see” and detailed it with 19 policy points.
Eight years later, she’s still spouting policy points, much to the outrage of many political pundits hoping for an acceptance speech less heavy on the monotone. Here’s a sampling of some of the political Twitteratis’ response to Clinton’s speech:
From the New York Times’ John Harwood:
From the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons:
From the Financial Times‘ Ed Luce:
From the New York Post’s John Podhoretz:
From writer Rob Long:
Some other pundits took notice. From Yahoo’s Amy Sullivan:
Clinton had the burden of following many other great speakers at her own convention, including, notably, Michelle Obama — who did achieve unusual lift for a woman. She has also never claimed public oratory as a particular strength. Fairly early on in her acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night in Philadelphia, she straight up admitted she wasn’t a great campaigner. “The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part,” she said. “I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.”
This echoed her past comments that she not a “natural politician” like her husband is. But that didn’t deter her from seeking the Democratic nomination. And, yes, there have been women who’ve given great speeches at conventions. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, was widely lauded for her speech — though not so much for subsequent remarks. “Other female convention speakers have been quite persuasive including Barbara Jordan in 1976, Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and [Texas Governor] Ann Richards in 1988,” says Michele Swers, a Georgetown University political-science professor who has written two books on women in politics. “She will likely perform better in a debate setting than a campaign speech. She was clearly more comfortable talking about policy details then sharing her personal story.”
But surely even then there will be pundits to tell her what to do better, to smile, to look at the camera or not to yell. That has pretty much become the norm for Clinton. Though she has broken one barrier Thursday, it is unlikely to change anytime soon.