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Small Change From Obama

But the prime-time spots on the convention program went to Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Joe Biden, the vice presidential nominee. All are comfortably familiar figures to members of my generation, and all are part of a Washington that is hardly the favorite of most voters.

My guess is that an Obama administration, if there is one, would bring a lot of new faces and fresh ideas to the nation's capital. But by giving such an ordinary speech and filling the TV screen with such familiar faces, Obama missed a chance to signal that such change is his mission.

He is not the first Democrat who has promised a new day. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, in different ways, tried to change Washington, and both wound up frustrated. The status quo forces -- the interest groups, many in Congress and parts of the media -- all are powerful.

The only time a new president can really change Washington is when he makes it the central message of his campaign, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980.

Reagan's skill was his rhetoric; hence the label "The Great Communicator." After the 2004 Obama speech, Democrats thought they had found one of their own. It's too bad that fellow didn't make it to Denver.

davidbroder@washpost.com


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