Photo: Wikimedia Commons

John Baglow is at the 2014 Liberal Policy Convention all weekend so that you don’t have to be. Here is his second communique from the floor. You can read part one, on Trudeau Jr.’s first talk and Lawrence Summer’s keynote, here.

Saturday afternoon, and here he was again. The Leader gave a far better speech than his opener on Thursday evening, but it seemed overly scripted and rehearsed. “A good mix,” I overheard a young man saying, but maybe a little too good — just the right blend of partisan zingers, hints of policy, humour.

His delivery? As though the speech was slightly bigger than he was. There was an easily detectable self-consciousness about it all. Like Sartre’s famous waiter in a cafe, his movements were a little too deft, his words were rather too polished: Trudeau was playing at being a leader.

Substance? There was little to none, other than a glimpse of a promised land where freedom and opportunity walk hand in hand, and taxes will not spoil the party. We’re nice, and they — the Conservatives and the NDP — are not. They want to mess around with the constitution and be, you know, political. Not us. We’re all friends and neighbours. Right? Here was a bravura display of passionless passion and thoughtless thinking, and the crowd of delegates loved it. The bland, as they say, leading the bland.

The scribes, who have their own knack for stating the obvious, have already said all that can really be said about the speech itself, while having a little fun with JT’s everywoman, Nathalie, with whom we are supposed to identify, or, if not, to whom we might politically condescend.

(Yes, we all know Nathalie, and frankly we do our best to avoid her: she’s so earnest, banal and slightly neurotic, somewhat like the self-gratulatory Liberals at this get-together.)

But the commentariat is missing something even more obvious at the same time. The whole point of such speeches is the performance itself. Did the Leader hesitate, furrow his brow, trail off, show nervousness or anxiety, exhibit defensive body language? Why, not at all. He was smooth, assured, relaxed, he cuts a dashing figure, not at all like that grey and increasingly portly Harper guy, and nothing like the bearded fellow who always wants to talk specifics until your ears drop off.

Did we feel the electricity in the room? we were asked, as the Dauphin exited the stage. Well, no, actually, I didn’t. But maybe that’s just me.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons