Don't ever let anyone tell you this country isn't great, says ... Michelle Obama

John posted the speech but the key line deserves more attention. Every conservative in America sat up when she said this and had the same thought. She’s lecturing about American greatness? The woman who, in 2008 when she was 44 years old, said this?

For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.

She tried to walk that back at the time but it’s been a key ingredient in the Republican perspective on FLOTUS ever since. What made her bit about America interesting last night was that it seemed to me to be a deliberate allusion to that earlier line. Political figures don’t usually reference, even obliquely, a gaffe they’ve made that’s damaged them but in this case I thought the reference worked to her advantage. Trump’s point all year has been that America used to be great but isn’t anymore; Obama’s counterpoint was that, for Americans outside Trump’s base, it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be. Anyone at the convention could have made that point but it was striking to have FLOTUS do it given the rap on her for being too critical of her country. “You Republicans thought *I* was down on America?” she seemed to say. “Listen to your own nominee.” Earlier in the speech she said, referring to the GOP, “when they go low, we go high.” Her unlikely comment here about American greatness was a supreme example of that. Republicans might not have anything good to say about their country — but Michelle Obama does. That’s where we are in the upside-down election of 2016, with liberals lecturing conservatives to stop badmouthing America.

I don’t think it’ll help Hillary any since Hillary is beyond help but it was probably the most effective speech of either convention so far. When you’ve got a screaming nationalist on one side and a droning cronyist liberal on the other, 15 emotional low-key minutes from the First Lady go a long way. Kudos to Trump, though, for having the basic discipline not to attack her last night. I imagined Paul Manafort sweating during her speech, thinking “please don’t let him tweet, please don’t let him tweet,” knowing how much worse a Trump insult of FLOTUS would play with the general public than his insult of Heidi Cruz. Trump held off. He’s getting better!

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