Here are a few excerpts, but read the whole thing:
"For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"
So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.
Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"
Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents.
Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?
For months now, Hillary Clinton has suggested that Mr. Obama is all rhetoric, no substance. This claim, or some version of it, has been at the center of her campaign since November. One day after losing to him in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- her ninth and tenth consecutive defeats -- she rather incredibly went back to it again. "It's time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions," she said -- a formulation that could be mistaken for a sound bite.
As she complained about his lack of substance, tens of thousands of people lined up in city after city, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, for a chance to get a shot of some Mr. Obama hopemongering. Plainly, her critique is not working.
And yet, Republicans are picking it up. In just the past week, conservative commentators have accused Mr. Obama of speaking in "Sesame Street platitudes," of giving speeches that are "almost content free," of "saying nothing." He has been likened to Chance the Gardener, the clueless mope in Jerzy Kosinski's "Being There," whose banal utterances are taken as brilliant by a gullible political class. Others complain that his campaign is "messianic," too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential.
The past week or two, right-wing radio has been asking Obama supporters to call in - then proceed to "marginalize" them by saying that there is no "substance" only rhetoric.
They are essentially acting like Hillary-lite. That is exactly how Sen. Clinton has tried to oppose Obama for the past three months now.
We see how well that has worked.
Inspiration is substance. Hope is substance. The fact that people want to be involved in their communties in a grassroots manner is substance. The thought of having political discourse that is above "how can I defeat my opponent" and instead says "how can I make my community better" is substance. That is the meat that makes people take action.
Clinton/Conservatives try to attack Obama as having failed to provide more and more detailed programs. Oh, he has programs, and he had details. But what I want in a President - and what I think America wants in a President - is not a manager to dig down and do the grunt-work. I want a leader with a vision of where America needs to go. A vision of a greater America. And, maybe most importantly, a vision of how Americans - all of us - can be a part of taking us there.
Or to put it in his words:
"We're not looking for a chief operating officer when we select a president," he said during a question and answer session at Google headquarters back in December.
"What we're looking for is somebody who will chart a course and say: Here is where America needs to go -- here is how to solve our energy crisis, here's how we need to revamp our education system -- and then gather the talent together and then mobilize that talent to achieve that goal. And to inspire a sense of hope and possibility."
That is substance.