Opinion: Barack Obama comes out firing

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DENVER -- Barack Obama took his gloves off tonight.

Just minutes after formally accepting the historical presidential nomination the Democratic Party bestowed on him, offering bouquets to Hillary and Bill Clinton, to his vice presidential pick, Joe Biden, and to the ‘love of his life,’ wife Michelle, a mostly stern and earnest Obama took off after the Republicans.

First, he briefly dismissed President Bush, summing up with a brusque ‘eight is enough.’

Then, at length, he went after John McCain.

First came what for Democrats has become the obligatory homage toward McCain’s military service. Obama said his general election opponent ‘has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude.’


But then he shifted into negative gear, and for much of the speech stayed there. He provided the type of harsh critique of McCain that many Democrats have been urging Obama -- his call for a ‘post-partisan’ brand of politics notwithstanding -- to deliver.

He took note of McCain’s record of supporting Bush initiatives ’90% of the time’ and then offered this payoff: ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10% chance on change.’

He questioned McCain’s record as an independent, asserting that ‘on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives ... Sen. McCain has been anything but independent.’

He spotlighted the ill-advised statement by McCain’s friend and economic advisor Phil Gramm that Americans, in expressing anxiety about the economy, had became ‘a nation of whiners.’

The bottom line Obama sought to drive home: McCain is hopelessly out of touch (a none-too-subtle effort to highlight the vast age difference between them?).

Obama’s key lines: ‘I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know.’ And, seconds later, ‘It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.’

And then there was this, later in the speech, when he took on McCain on the question of who is best suited to serve as commander in chief: John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow (Osama) bin Laden to the Gates of Hell –- but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.’

No, this speech bore little resemblance to the soaring, feel-good address that he delivered at the Democratic convention four years ago, a speech that offered him as an example of an America that could go beyond its history of racial strife and turmoil.

Not surprisingly -- and perhaps because of the large venue in which he delivered this speech -- the response was not as electric.

But back then, Obama was introducing himself to America. In this speech, he clearly wanted to show he has the fire in the belly required to compete at the highest level of U.S. politics.

(UPDATE: Late Thursday evening the John McCain campaign issued the following statement:

(‘Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama. When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm’s way.

(The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President.’)

-- Don Frederick

Democratic U.S. Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama reacts (top) and speaks (lower) to the crowd on day four of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) at Invesco Field at Mile High August 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. Top photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, lower photo by Jack Dempsey / AP Photo