Hillary did well, can do better

    Hillary Cllinton speaks on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Hillary Cllinton speaks on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    It was a big at-bat for Hillary Clinton. Did she deliver?

    A solid base hit, I thought, not a home run.

    In some respects, the most important thing about the speech is that it happened, that a woman was there accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination. That is huge.

    Her message was on target, and there were some well-crafted phrases, including some particularly biting lines about Donald Trump.

    And it was smart that she’d decided ahead of time she wasn’t going to let angry Bernie Sanders people shout her down or make her stop. So when they starting booing or chanting, she just kept going.

    But her delivery suffered from the usual problem — a uniform volume and cadence that sounds mechanical after a while, and thus lacks emotional presence.

    It’s a little thing, maybe, but I’ve noticed that in speeches she always pronounces the article “a” as a long vowel, as in “ay,” instead of the “uh” which is how everyone says it in normal speech.

    So when she says her family “were builders of ‘ay’ different kind,” and that Donald Trump is someone “you can bait with ‘ay’ tweet,” she sounds like someone reading an address, not a person talking to people.

    It’s okay. Political oratory isn’t her strong suit, and the speech was enthusiastically received. But she needs to start whittling away at the negative opinions reflected in her poll numbers, and appearing human and likable can only help.

    Another take

    Yesterday I noted that journalist Larry Tye, who’s written a great new book about Robert Kennedy, sees a parallel between Kennedy and Clinton.

    When Bobby Kennedy started his 1968 campaign for president, he was viewed negatively by a lot of people. But he turned it around because he’d undergone a transformation in his own political thinking and was open and honest with people, including reporters.

    I asked what he thought of Clinton’s speech.

    He said Hillary had come into the campaign with many people regarding her as untrustworthy. “I think she took an enormous step last night to overcoming that,” he said.

    When I asked what about the speech made him think that, he said, “I thought she embraced the wonk and boring policy person she is rather than trying to come across as something she isn’t. She was not trying to be Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, and that was compelling. All she has to be is real and serious to be better than her opponent.”

    He added, “She needs to be authentic, and stop running away from the press. She’s been ducking and parrying with the media most of her public life. She’s got to not be afraid to talk to them and show who she really is. The other guy is so inauthentic that there’s a lane open a mile wide for her.”

    Tye notes that many reporters covering Kennedy’s campaign began with a very skeptical view of him. But he won them over with his candor and commitment to his ideals.

    That, of course, was in the media environment of nearly a half-century ago.

    Our town

    From what I’ve heard, most visitors loved the Philadelphia experience. There were traffic headaches, many due to security measures imposed by the feds. And of course it was hot as blazes.

    But this place is special, and that came through.

    And I’ve got to give props to Mayor Kenney, City Council and the Philadelphia Police Department for the light touch approach to protesters this week. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did, and other cities should observe and learn something.

    Our team

    If you’re a regular NewsWorks reader or listener to WHYY, I hope you’ve appreciated the hustle and insight our staff have brought to our coverage of the convention.

    We started “Morning Edition” an hour early at 5 a.m., did a one-hour special Thursday night, featured all kinds of great content online, and did our best throughout the week to augment the outstanding NPR coverage with local pieces that brought color and understanding. I’m proud to work with these people. I know they’ll keep it up.

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