'Historic' Hillary and the Stunt That Wasn't: DNC Diary, Day 4

Media Guy Simon Dumenco Reports From the Democratic National Convention in Philly

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Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., celebrate on the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2016.
Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., celebrate on the stage of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2016. Credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC

I want to thank Hillary Rodham Clinton for not yammering on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention as long as Donald Trump did the previous Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.

She spoke for 66 minutes vs. Trump's 75 -- and every minute counts when you're actually in the arena, as I was, and you're thinking about how the hell you're going to get out of the arena. (Lengthy Secret Service road closures around the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly meant that it took me at least a couple of hours each night to get back to my hotel just four miles away; the RNC wasn't nearly as bad because the Quicken Loans Arena is right in downtown Cleveland, close to most of the convention hotels and my Airbnb.)

As much of a slightly scary hassle it's been to see the DNC live and in person (the scary part came from the wall-to-wall crush of bodies in the hallways each night and especially at the close of what seemed like an oversold event), there were times when I felt fortunate to have gotten to experience the show alongside thousands of other people -- the electric, galvanizing moments.

Hillary Clinton's speech, frankly, didn't feel like such a moment -- even though I was, of course, among an adoring crowd.

Though the postgame consensus seems to be that Clinton more or less delivered a solid speech with a critical mass of effective soundbites (e.g., "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons"), her time on stage generally lacked the energy and power of the night's most astonishing speech: that of Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim American soldier who addressed Donald Trump directly. "Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?" he asked before pulling out a mini bound edition and saying, angrily, "I will gladly lend you my copy."

I felt the thunderous applause and cheers in my bones.

Maybe Hillary's speech didn't land for me the way it was supposed to because, being in the arena, I had an intimate view of the all the stagecraft and choreography -- i.e., the inauthenticity involved in trying to convey TV-ready authenticity, enthusiasm and emotion.

Case in pont: the "card stunt."

Unless you were watching C-SPAN or a livestream of the DNC, you probably missed the "card stunt" instructions those of us in the arena received just before 10 p.m. (the big networks and cable-news networks were apparently using this time to let their team of commentators do some commentating). A robotic-sounding female voice addressed us:

"Get ready to hear about your exciting role in this historic celebration. You will be performing a card stunt toward the end of tonight's program, which will create a unified, patriotic picture throughout the arena. You have your card for the stunt folded in a bag on your seat...." At some point, she told us, we'd receive a cue from "audience leaders" to hold our cards in front of our faces.

Wait, what?

I had a white card assigned to my seat -- the card actually being a folded piece of cardstock paper with an eye-slot cut into it, sort of like a burqa.

Call me a spoilsport, but I decided against deploying the card when instructed -- and judging from photos of the inscrutable, executed card stunt, so did a lot of other audience members. (Our cards were apparently supposed to spell out "STRONGER TOGETHER.")

I had an "exciting role" in the "historic celebration" -- witnessing it firsthand all week and chronicling it for you, dear reader -- but, sorry, in my mind that role didn't include donning a DNC burqa and "performing" a cart stunt.

Because, you know, I'm more of an improv guy -- like Bill Clinton.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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