As the fireworks figuratively and literally went off at the conclusion of Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver last night, a few observers were reminded of another powerful political speech some 13 years earlier — that of President Andrew Shepherd.
Shepherd of course ran in a hotly contested re-election campaign against Senator Bob Rumson when the whole Sydney Ellen Wade controversy was raging. Confused? Don't be. The rousing speech by Shepherd came not on a convention dais but a Hollywood soundstage. The film was "The American President" and the words were delivered passionately by Michael Douglas (and written by acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin).
While last night's persuasive oratory by Obama didn't directly quote Sorkin's uplifting finale, there were several moments that had us feeling déjà vu. And even MSNBC's Keith Olbermann mentioned the similarities. Here's a brief comparison.
Do their opponents "get it"?
Barack Obama: "Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. ... It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it."
Andrew Shepherd: "I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I'd been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong, Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it; Bob's problem is that he can't sell it."
Our take: Shepherd is a bit harder on poor Bob Rumson than the gentleman from Illinois. Obama took great pains to portray Senator McCain as an honorable if perhaps ignorant public servant while President Shepherd damns Rumson derisively and decisively.
Ready for a fight
Obama: "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have."
Shepherd: "We've got serious problems — and we need serious people. And if you want to talk about character, Bob, you better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up."
Our take: Both men took a long hard look at the American people (ahem, the camera) and issued a challenge to their opponent. Again, Obama's rhetoric was a bit more subtle than Shepherd's "we need serious people" dis, but you have to remember that Rumson was grilling the president's girlfriend over the coals. Say what you will about McCain's tactics, at least he's kept his attacks focused squarely on his opponent and not on Michelle Obama.
Obama: "The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook."
Shepherd: "We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them."
Our Take: We get it. It's time to get serious.
The big finish
Obama: "Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."
Shepherd: "My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the president."
Our take: Shepherd's finish is an undeniable fist-pump provoker, but he committed cardinal sin numero uno for any person seeking the highest office in the land. Always, we repeat always say "God Bless America." And he wasn't even wearing an American flag pin. Our guess? Shepherd didn't win re-election.
If you're hungry for a more, er, serious take on Obama's speech, tune in to MTV tonight at 7:30 for "Obama Decoded." In the meantime, tell us: Did Obama's speech remind you of any other fictional heads of state?