No, my post title to the contrary, I don’t actually want to be a Democratic political operative. Want I want to be is a speaker who can be pleasant, charming, and say nothing at all — and still get paid (at a guess) $30,000 per 90 minute speech. I can do that. I’m quite charming, I can be extremely clever, and I’m just a master at saying lots of nothing.
I mention all this here because I unexpectedly got the opportunity to hear David Axelrod speak at the Marin County Civic Center yesterday. I took detailed notes but, once I reviewed the notes, I discovered there was nothing there, not to mention the fact that I don’t want to run afoul of Axelrod’s intellectual property rights in his own speech. Still, I think I can keep my nose clean, and avoid intellectual property theft charges with this bullet point list of my impressions:
- Axelrod got a full house, which means around 3,000 Marin-ites gathered to hear him speak.
- The average age in the audience was OLD. I was one of the young’uns there, and I’m no spring chicken. (More of a late summer, early autumn chicken.)
- Axelrod was charming. He has a very pleasant baritone voice, and a relaxed, easy speaking style.
- Axelrod was also dull. The Italians call his kind of speech “fried air,” meaning that there were lots of words, but there wasn’t much content. (I’d be really good at that kind of speech, plus being charming.) He described how he met Obama, how wonderful the young Obama was, how wonderful the mature Obama is, etc. He made a few half-hearted attacks against Republicans (especially Perry, which was interesting), but mostly he just wandered on with his canned speech. At periodic intervals, he spouted obligatory conclusions about the wonderfulness of his liberal ideology and the foulness of the Republican world view, but he never made the case for either of these points — which is unsurprising, I guess, since the audience was already on board with his position.
- The whole thing was lifeless and lackluster. Axelrod seemed tired and, while the audience was very friendly, it lacked energy.
My main complaint about Axelrod’s speech was that he didn’t talk about his work. I wanted to hear the nitty-gritty about how a major campaign operative plots a national campaign. I wanted to learn how he looks at the demographics, how he targets speeches to different audiences, how he sizes up and plots challenges to opponents, and how he responds to attacks from opponents. I didn’t need dirt, but I wanted detail.
Instead, Axelrod gave a Hallmark card overview of Obama being gifted at reaching out to people and Obama writing his own speeches and Obama this and Obama that. Axelrod implies, graciously perhaps, that Obama ran his own campaign (and didn’t break a sweat doing so), but by vanishing so far into the woodwork, he sounded bored and the audience never got interested.