As my colleague Brent Baker noted earlier this morning, the "[m]ost prevalent theme during Tuesday night's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, after speculation over healing the Clinton-Obama feud" was "TV journalists worrying about how the Democrats are not adequately aggressive in their attacks against John McCain as reporters." The speeches weren't full of "red meat" to toss to the ravenous partisan crowd, lamented broadcast journalists.
But the complaint isn't constrained to the broadcast media. Evaluating the Tuesday night speeches for Time magazine, reporter Mark Halperin has given the best marks to Democrats who have tossed out meatiest attack lines.
Below is a breakdown of Halperin's grades and comments on the key speeches thus far. You'll notice that the pols with the lower marks tend to be faulted for failing to give the convention hall a healthy serving of red meat. We'll have to see how Halperin grades Republicans next week and if right-wing sirloin is slapped as grade A beef or slapped with a recall label (emphases mine):
- Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (Kan.) -- C+ -- "The veep also-ran took the podium with a delivery as flat as Kansas and no apparent training on a teleprompter. She offered a mild-mannered, monotone attack on John McCain (his multiple homes, his Bush connections), and some general platitudes about Barack Obama and change."
- former Gov. Mark Warner (Va.) -- D -- "He made some brief, passable efforts to paint John McCain as four more years of George Bush and excite the audience with the promises of an Obama Administration, but his efforts at bipartisanship were confusing, his specifics irritatingly vague, his style bland and his speech meandering."
- Gov. Ted Strickland (Ohio) -- B+ -- "Finally (finally) got the crowd going with some snappy, clever, specific attacks on John McCain, hitting the Republican nominee for his political and professional failures wrapped in his personal foibles and frailties (out of touch! stuck in the past!)."
- Gov. Deval Patrick (Mass.) -- B -- "He threw some daggers at the Republicans, including a pointed Katrina remark, but quickly moved on to a mature argument for hard work and partisanship with purpose."
- Gov. Brian Schweitzer (Mont.) -- A -- "A folksy, tough, funny, home-run of a speech. Opened by gliding down the path of chatting up his own state and relating his own history, but he soon turned to some carefully detailed, specific attacks on John McCain that were cheery, casual, confident and ultimately roof-raising."
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) -- A -- "She had some clever anti-Bush and anti-McCain lines, and explained that her friend John McCain is not the person to lead the country into the future, insisting all Americans must come together to elect Obama. The camera also captured a teary eyed, ruddy Bill Clinton, who could be seen apparently saying 'I love you, I love you forever' when she took the stage and clearly relished the speech throughout."
- Caroline Kennedy -- A -- "Looking sleek, elegant and composed, she spoke with clarity and warmth about both Obama and her uncle Ted Kennedy, linking the Democratic presumptive nominee with her legendary family."
- Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) -- A+ -- "The ailing political lion electrified the hall with a strong, passionate speech."
- Craig Robinson, Sen. Obama's brother-in-law -- B+ -- "gave a relaxed and sweet overview of Michelle Obama's life from a personal perspective"
- Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) -- B- -- "a cheerful, personal speech. It seemed to fall a bit flat and wasn't as focused an attack as will likely be required to achieve the message goals the party has in Denver."
- former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) -- C- -- "offered an argument for bipartisan harmony as a Republican supporter of Obama. The symbolic importance of a longtime member of the opposition party appearing at a Democratic convention was seemingly lost on the crowd in the hall."
- Michelle Obama -- A -- "In a slim turquoise dress by her favorite Chicago-based designer, she glowed while she spoke affectionately of her devoted, hard-working parents, her love for her husband and the issues facing the country. There were brief but heartfelt nods to women's suffrage, Martin Luther King, public servants, soldiers, Joe Biden and, most conspicuously, Hillary Clinton, but she generally kept things light and cozy as the crowd went wild for her every smile and sigh and her mother proudly looked on."