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Commentary: Hillary's speech was not good

Clinton's historic DNC speech
Full Speech: Hillary Clinton delivers DNC remarks, accepts nomination 01:04:33

Hillary's speech wasn't good. That's not surprising, really. She's an ungifted speaker, and the delivery, with all those random pauses and strange choices in terms of emphasis, felt off.

Perhaps that's too harsh a characterization. If you're inclined to kind of like Hillary Clinton, you probably thought the speech was OK. Not terrific, not thrilling, but decent enough. The true Hillary fans were pleased as could be. The people who've watched her with uncertain opinions will likely say it achieved adequacy.

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The consensus on this speech, once cable news has powered down for the night, will be something like that last point: it was fine. It will not be remembered as a great speech. There were no real exciting moments, like when Walter Mondale promised he'd raise taxes. It was not poetic, like Mario Cuomo's was the year Mondale was nominated, a speech the Democrats have been referencing all week. It was easily the worst big speech of this entire convention.

But Cuomo was a great orator. Hillary is not, which she wisely acknowledged tonight. "Through all these years of public service," she said, "the service part has always come easier to me than the public part."

We have a lower bar for her. When she looks like she's angry at the crowd, we just accept that that's how she comes off. When she rattles off the laundry list of things she says she'll do, we just accept that she's a wonk, and that's how wonks in that position should talk.

She's studied, she works in specifics, and that can make for a lousy speech.

But Hillary did hit Trump in the gut, and that will please plenty. We also have to acknowledge this was a masterfully orchestrated convention, and the tears and waving flags in the audience tonight lent Clinton's address an otherwise unearned power.

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The sophistication of it all, though, how this convention so perfectly targeted Republicans and right-leaning moderates over the last two days. The Democrats have a real chance of peeling off a substantial enough portion of GOP voters this cycle, which will likely pay dividends for a long time.

It was remarkable to watch them hold a moment of silence, something a Republican convention in any other year would have likely done. It was moving to see Khizr Khan speak about his son, Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim and an American who gave his life for his country. The idea that America is already great has been pushed a lot at this convention. Khan explained why when he talked about how the country his family came to is also the one they're willing to die for.

How it all makes Donald Trump seem so small, so limited. The master showman couldn't even pull off his own coronation. He can't talk about policy. He doesn't do specifics. He doesn't seem serious by comparison. "Imagine, if you dare, imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis," Hillary said tonight. "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."

It was a bad speech; I'll stick to that. Too long, too trying-to-please-everyone. But it also had a few killer lines like that. Plus, after the last week she couldn't afford a misstep here or there.

Because in the end we don't expect Hillary to be perfect, or give a good speech. We don't expect her to tell the truth all the time. We do, however, expect her to show us that she can beat Trump, that accidental nominee, and beat him handily.

And let's face it, as this convention as a whole has demonstrated, she probably will.

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