CHARLOTTE, N.C. — First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech on the first
night of the Democratic Convention was, in words even she used, up close
Just as Ann Romney, who spoke on the first night of the Republican
National Convention last week, tried to provide a human side to Mitt,
the First Lady all but reintroduced Barack.
He’s been president for four years, on the national stage another four and perhaps the most famous person on Earth.
But this week is the Democrats’ time of rebuttal, following a
week in Tampa in which Republicans all but characterized the occupant of
the White House in a war with others’ success.
Just as Ann Romney talked of she and her husband’s courtship, so did Michelle.
Just as Ann related to the struggle to relatives up the family tree, so did Michelle.
Just as Ann testified to how her husband could be trusted, so did Michelle.
Last week, we learned that the Romneys lived in a basement
apartment after college and ate meals of tuna fish; this week, we
learned that the Obamas went through a period where their monthly
student loan bills were higher than their mortgages.
But Michelle seemed to try to make the point that while the Romneys said they struggled, their struggles were real. Compared to a more restrained first night at the RNC, the reaction to Michelle was loud, even as she spoke in a softer pitch.
“You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t
have much in the way of money or material possessions but had given us
something far more valuable — their unconditional love, their
unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never
imagined for themselves,” the First Lady said.
Her husband has acknowledged losing control of the narrative
after his historic candidacy, and this first night of the Democratic
gathering was the first step in their attempt to reclaim it.
Parts of the speech seemed written in response to Republican
attacks — and drew some of the biggest applause lines in the Time
Warner Cable Arena.
“We learned about honesty and integrity — that the truth
matters,” the First Lady said, “that you don’t take shortcuts or play by
your own set of rules, and success doesn’t count unless you earn it
fair and square.”
But what may be remembered the most about the speech was her use
of anecdotes, as she attempted to show that even though they occupy the
White House, they are not disconnected from the struggles of students,
parents and working families.
“You see, even though back then, Barack was a senator and a
presidential candidate, to me he was still the guy who picked me up for
dates in a car that was so rusted our, I could actually see the pavement
going by through a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy
whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a Dumpster,
and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.”
A tighter fit than Tampa, the arena nevertheless has skyboxes for
the many bundlers and donors who have made the trek to Charlotte,
attend events with Democratic insiders and, perhaps most importantly
here, get a stay at the Westin. Less lucky have been the California
delegates, who are being put up in the Blake Hotel, which despite a
renovation, is beset with glitches. Some delegates have complained of
being burned with scalding hot water from faucets, of poor food, and
various other annoyances like subpar rooms and broken elevators. Los
Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is staying there but says his
digs have been OK, said that the hotel even has a nickname: The Bleak
Some donors also were surprised at who they were sharing their
area with in the arena. Next to their skybox suites are hundreds of
members of the media.