Saturday, June 07, 2008

Clinton's Speech and What Seinfeld Once Told Me

Earlier today, I listed three things that I hoped Sen. Clinton would deliver in her endorsement speech: 1. Acknowledgement of Obama's victory. 2. Endorsing Obama as the agent to achieve her goals. 3. Making McCain an unacceptable choice for her supporters.

She delivered on the second in full and merely hinted at the other two, but she did something even more important. She tuned her speech brilliantly to the expectations and emotions of her supporters and she moved them towards acceptance and support of Barack Obama.

I want to talk in depth about what she accomplished, but I'm going to start with a long diversion.

One night in the eighties, the Improv in L.A. arranged a showcase for some of the hot San Francisco comics of the day. The house was filled with producers, agents, scouts. A bunch of comics had flown down from the Bay Area to perform. After the last San Francisco comic finished, half the audience left the show room and headed for the bar.

But the show continued, and the next comic up was Jerry Seinfeld. This was in the time after his role in Benson had ended, and a few years before he got his own show on NBC. He was one of the strongest standups working at the time.

But this night, he went onstage to an audience that had just been disrupted by a major exodus. There was a long pause in the show. The remaining crowd was left talking amongst themselves. Then Jerry came up and did his set. He got some laughs, but not too many. It was tough going.

When he came off stage, he told me, "That was one of the best sets I've ever done in my life." I asked him how he could say that. What he told me was one of the most important lessons you can have in communication.

He said he always rates his own sets on the basis of where the audience is when he starts and where they are when he finishes. If you have any comedy chops at all, you can get up before a hot Saturday night date crowd and kill. The audience starts at a 10 and you keep 'em there. Maybe get them to 11. What Jerry was so pleased with this night at the Improve was that he took a non-audience, just a few clusters at tables talking amongst themselves, and brought them from minus -10 to a healthy 5.

Communication is always about moving an audience from point A to point B. You can't start your speech at point B.

I like to talk about what I call "The Parable of the Taxi." If you call a cab to take you to the airport, it doesn't do any good if the driver heads right to the airport. He has to come by and pick you up first.

Which brings us back to Clinton's speech. She did a masterful job of coming by to pick up her audience before heading to the airport.

She wasn't talking to the crowd at an Obama rally. She was talking to her own supporters, people who had invested their time, money, and aspirations in her quest. She needed to connect with them and move them.

That's why it was important for her to spend as much time as she did rehashing her campaign themes and connecting with her voters. Some critics pounced on this as an unwarrented "all about me" indulgence. But that's not the case. It was all about her audience.

As for the three things I had hoped for, she delivered best on endorsing Obama. She listed her goals and made a refrain of "...and that's why we need to help elect Barack Obama our president."

She did acknowledge his victory, but did not explicitly embrace it's legitimacy. She still flirted with claiming a popular vote majority.

As for making McCain an unacceptable choice, she did it only by implication. She didn't name him. She didn't even name President Bush. Instead, Clinton talked about how the past seven years were a set-back and diversion from the goals that she and her supporters are fighting for.

The conclusion of the speech was another master stroke. Where the opening connected with her supporters on the basis of their shared history, the conclusion connected with the emotional state of their dissappointment. If Clinton is to succeed in bringing her supporters to Obama, this is, perhaps the most critical area to address. "Always work hard, and when you stumble, keep faith. ... and never listen to anyone who says you can't, or shouldn't go on." I trust that means "go on to get Obama elected."

Mickeleh's Take: This speech wasn't for Obama supporters. It was for Hillary supporters. It didn't do everything I hoped for, it did a few things I wasn't clever enough to hope for. I look forward to joining with Hillary's devoted and passionate supporters in reaching our shared goals.

What HRC Must Do In Her Speech: Obliterate McCain

Sen. Clinton is about to make her concession speech. I'm looking for three things:

1. Concede that she lost fairly. This will be tough for her. She's been making the case that she's the real winner based on popular vote. It's false claim for two reasons. First, the contest was always about delegates, not popular vote. Second, her count takes unfair advantage of the fact that Obama supporters in Michigan had zero opportunity to vote for him. Zero. And it takes advantage of the fact that some caucus states simply didn't report any vote totals. Obviously the super-delegates were not persuaded, but many of Clinton's supporters were. To them, Obama is a trickster and a usurper. Clinton has to fix that.

2. Annoint Obama as a strong advocate for her own agenda. She needs to let her supporters know that Obama will work for the issues that she values. There is very little that Clinton and Obama disagree on. The only significant issue is whether participation in a health care system should be mandatory or voluntary.

3. Kick McCain in the nuts. Hard. Somehow her hardcore supporters have the notion that Obama is the anti-Hillary. That's just crazy talk. It's a hookah vision. She needs to tell the Harriet Christians of the world, in the friendliest way possible,what W.C. Fields told Grady Sutton in The Bank Dick, "Don't be a luddy duddy. Don't be a moon calf. Don't be a jabbernowl. You're not those, are you?" Do you want what Hillary wants? McCain ain't gonna get it for you.

Mickeleh's Take: It was Clinton who famously brought the threat of obliteration into the campaign. It's time for her to obliterate the idea that McCain is an acceptible plan B for her own supporters.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Rep. Insee's Menschy Letter Endorsing Obama

My Congressional representative (and former Clinton superdelegate), Jay Insee (WA-1), announced his decision to endorse Barack Obama for President. It's well done, menschy, with a powerful unity message to both Obama and Clinton backers.

Dear Michael,

First of all, let me offer my congratulations to those who helped Senator Obama secure his historic nomination.

As this Democratic primary process concludes, I want to let you know that I am going to work very hard to help unify our party behind our nominee, Barack Obama. This Saturday, Senator Clinton will announce her support for Senator Obama, and I will be officially endorsing his candidacy as well.

Some of you who receive this are strong Hillary Clinton backers, and have passionately supported her campaign. Others of you are strong Barack Obama supporters and passionately support his candidacy. To all, I ask that we now pull on the same rope.

For a guy who admires Senator Obama, I am deeply concerned when I read in the paper or receive e-mails from Hillary supporters vowing to not support our new candidate. I am already excited about an Obama presidency, but to those who are hesitant I implore you to join this cause because time is a luxury we cannot afford.

Over the next few weeks, or as long as it takes, I will be urging Hillary supporters in Washington State and across the country that we must put the past behind us. We must be unified in our support of Senator Obama, or else we risk another disastrous four years of a Republican White House. Whether Obama or Clinton supporters in the primary, we all are neighbors, we are friends, we are Democrats, and we are family. And, like any family that has occasional squabbles, but who has learned to put their problems behind them and move forward, we must do the same.

I know that many people didn't agree with the candidate that I endorsed. I respect their feelings, and all I can say is that sometimes I even disagree with my own wife after 35 years of marriage. Now we have a job to do together, so let's do it.

I know personally that Senator Obama is uniquely capable of bringing our family together. A couple of weeks ago when I ran into him on the House floor, I asked him when will he get a hoop up on the South Lawn of the White House. He replied "As soon as I'm president...hey, did you know that I've been playing basketball with the North Carolina Tar Heels?" I jokingly replied "Of course, that's why you won North Carolina by such a large margin." He laughed a big Obama laugh. This is a man who can put past differences aside and move on to unify the Democratic Party, as well as the country.

I was asked by a reporter today if I was disappointed in this result. I answered honestly and said no, I always knew that we had two brilliant candidates each in their own way, either of whom would represent a break through for America.

Senator Obama's genius is obvious, his inspirational qualities have touched millions, and I am confident in his ability to win this race - if we all pull on the same rope. Now I am chomping at the bit to hear Senator Obama's Inaugural Address, one that has the capacity to have the same effect as the one we heard in January 1961 by JFK. I will do everything within my power to ensure that America has the chance to hear that speech. I hope that you will do the same.

Very truly yours,

Jay Inslee