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News analysis: Oba-meh: Observers left and right underwhelmed in Charlotte by President Obama's speech

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 8:14 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia wave after President Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.  (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press) President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia wave after President Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)

Speaking to a downsized audience after retreating from the football stadium to the basketball arena, President Barack Obama delivered a downsized speech that left even supporters wishing for something bigger.

When Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast pans the president speech, it's pretty clear that a consensus has emerged. A staunch Obama supporter, Tomasky wrote Friday morning that the speech lacked specifics and elegance.

"Let’s be blunt," Tamasky wrote, "Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase."

"The night’s big thematic device, the “it wasn’t me, it was you” business, sounded like a somewhat forced attempt, frankly, to come up with … something. He was trying to re-inspire the Obamabots of 2008. But it felt very superficial to me. Nothing in this speech was developed, nothing given hard thought, nothing that built to a great moment," Tomasky said.

President Barack Obama stands on stage after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.  (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) President Barack Obama stands on stage after addressing the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

At Time, Joe Klein was torn between his strong admiration for the president and his record and his wish for more leadership and vision Thursday night.

"I like and admire the President; he’s smart and funny and exemplary," Klein wrote. "He’s made some very difficult decisions, correct decisions under impossible circumstances. He pulled us from the brink, from an economic disaster largely caused by the plutocrats now criticizing him so shamelessly and falsely. But I want more from him, more guidance, more leadership. Somehow — and this is still true for an electoral majority of Americans — we all do."

Mike Allen at Politico was even less supportive, more critical, reporting the sense of the press corps after the speech: "Reporters think President Obama’s speech was lame — meandering, and sounding like a State of the Union address. People at the after-parties seemed baffled that he didn't lift his game for the big moment."

President Barack Obama waves after his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.  (Jae C. Hong, Associated Press) President Barack Obama waves after his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (Jae C. Hong, Associated Press)

The Washington Post editors were disappointed in the president's "refusal to fill in any substance, his once again promising hard truths that he did not deliver."

The Post also noted Obama's implied critique of Paul Ryan's controversial budget proposals, and the absence of an alternative from the president: “ ‘They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan,' he said of the Republicans. If Mr. Obama has a plan, Americans who listened Thursday don’t know how he would achieve it."

For once, there was not much daylight between the reads of the mainstream media and conservative pundits. At Hot Air, Ed Morrisey wrote that Bill Clinton overshadowed Obama, and "it wasn't even close."

"The President had an opportunity to craft a new message outlining his specific agenda for a second term at a moment when Obama had the attention of the entire nation," Morrissey wrote. "Failing that, he could have offered a ringing defense of his first term, talking specifically about how his signature efforts — ObamaCare, the stimulus package, and Dodd-Frank — not only addressed liberal wish lists but had improved the economy. Instead, he didn’t do either, but offered a State of the Union speech with fewer specifics, more platitudes, and less personal investment."

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden board Air Force Two at North Carolina Air National Guard, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C., en route to New Hampshire.  (Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press) Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden board Air Force Two at North Carolina Air National Guard, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C., en route to New Hampshire. (Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press)

On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer said he was "stunned." "This is a man who gave one of the great speeches of our time in 2004, and he gave one of the emptiest speeches I have ever heard on a national stage," Krauthammer said. "Yes, it had cadence, and yes, there were deceptions in it, but that is not what is so striking about it. There was nothing in it. This is a man who believes that government can and should do a lot. There is nothing in here that tells us how he's going to go from today to tomorrow. For any of the so called goals and what government is going to do, what is he going to enact?"

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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