Hard News by Russell Brown



My eyes have teared up twice this week. One was when I tried to roll over during treatment on my messed-up back on Monday. And the other was while I watched Michelle Obama's Democratic convention speech.

I thought she was incredible. We're used to the idea that her husband is a great speaker, but he has become wearied on the campaign trail, turning metronomically between his left and right teleprompters in speech after speech. Michelle Obama seemed to be barely glancing at her prompts for quite long stretches, and she exuded an energy that seemed authentic and inspiring.

This is all the more remarkable given that her first task in this speech was to not frighten the horses; to disarm the right-wing talking points and the carefully-seeded rumours that have her as the Scary Black Woman.

Indeed, the text of her speech, worked on for weeks, is so jammed with apple-pie tick-boxes that it could have become facile, and she risked being turned into some sort of faithful 50s wife. But she got up and she owned it.

Yes, Hilary Clinton's supporters can rightly think that it's not the same as having a woman running for the White House in her own right, but they might console themselves that there has never been a prospective First Lady like this one.

I watched it again on the Voice of America slot on Stratos late last night, and it was clear that much of the opening night of the convention was given over to low-risk cheesiness. Her speech was bookended with treacly family tributes -- Michelle's basketball-coach brother Craig introducing her, and a clunky video link to Barack in Kansas afterwards -- but, especially from the point where she shifts up a gear and talks about standing, as a black woman, "at the cross-currents of history", it's very powerful. Many women in the room seemed to be in tears by the end.

All eyes are now on the speech of another woman: Hillary Clinton, which will be made in the next few hours. I don't seriously think she'll deliver anything but a rousing speech of endorsement for the nominee, which won't be enough to sway the behaviour of the fanatical rump of her supporters, the so-called PUMAs, who are so crazy that you wonder if they're McCain plants. But Hillary had better bring it.

Because I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking: America, please don't fuck this up.

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