The Slatest

Is America As Good As Hillary Clinton Says It Is?

PHILADELPHIA—On June 15, Politico ran a story about Hillary Clinton’s bureaucratic speechwriting process. It describes how she gets input from a handful of staffers, various consultants, and her husband. She tweaks it herself, usually to make it more prosaic. “Clinton is known for taking a draft of a speech and changing it some indelible way to make it more literal and less readable,” the piece said. Created in this fashion, the speeches are comprehensive but lack poetry, a sustained argument, or a narrative arc.

Anyone who expected her to transcend this clunky method was probably disappointed on Thursday night. Her speech was workmanlike, more a series of bullet points than a story. She seemed loosest when she was making fun of Donald Trump: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”

On Twitter, people complained about her voice. Wrote Steve Clemons, an editor at the Atlantic:

Tweeted Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle:

Both were quickly attacked, but my guess is that a lot of people felt the same way. If you’re a feminist, it’s deeply moving to see a woman in a white suit—one of the iconic colors of the suffragettes—hug her daughter and then accept her party’s nomination for president of the United States. Nevertheless, Clinton is never going to be a great orator. She’s certainly not an entertainer. She clearly prefers listening to others to talking about herself. As she said, “The truth is through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier than the public part.”

The question now is whether this matters. Clinton presides over the party of sanity and decency and whose convention showcased the best of America. It honored mothers who’ve lost sons to police violence, even as it left Republicans envying its optimism and patriotism. Its candidate is running against a cruel and unstable madman. If America is as great as convention speakers claimed, her citizens will not decide to blow it up because they don’t think Clinton is likable enough. This was precisely the challenge Clinton and the Democrats laid out this week for the country: Are you as great as we say you are?

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.