We know who Cory Booker wanted to be tonight: Barack Obama in 2004, the young charismatic African-American politician who electrifies the convention with a soaring speech and sets off a generation of Democrats dreaming of him in the Oval Office. But instead, Booker became Bill Clinton in 1988, who spoke for 33 minutes and received sarcastic cheers when he reached the words, “in conclusion.”
The text was fine. There were nice lines like, “You can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen.” He landed some punches on Trump, such as pointing out the sad state of Trump’s once-hyped casinos in Atlantic city, and his habit of stiffing contractors. But two avoidable problems — delivery and length – kept Booker from the lofty heights he wanted to reach.
But the first problem was, much like Rudy Guliani and Donald Trump, Booker chose to effectively shout his entire speech. Maybe he had been told to wake up the crowd, or to try to turn their attention from the persistent grumbling and chanting of frustrated Sanders supporters. It didn’t help that he had to follow a dreadfully unfunny appearance by Senator Al Franken and comedienne Sarah Silverman, and a painfully off-key performance from Paul Simon.
And then Booker’s shouting just kept going on, and on, and on. He had to quote or cite Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln and Maya Angelou and John F. Kennedy. Towards the end, he tried to get the audience to chant with his punctuating phrase, “we will rise!” Unfortunately, his verbiage in between the chant opportunities dragged on so long, the audience forgot they were supposed to join in.
Perhaps the shouting will make for a very nice twenty-second snippet on tomorrow’s television news, or a short segment on YouTube. But for anyone watching, it was long, and monotonous, diminishing what otherwise would have been an effective speech.