The Clinton Speech

Bill Clinton's speech to the Democratic National Convention cemented his reputation as a great speaker with impeccable technique and mastery of "arithmetic." Photo by Joeff.In an era when political speech is scripted in sound bites, Bill Clinton's point-by-point, almost wonkish defense of President Obama's first term stands in stark contrast.

Spanning nearly 50 minutes, Clinton mounted a fact-based refutation of Republican charges against Obama about the economy, Medicare and welfare-to-work, a program he initiated during his presidency. Employing masterful technique, simple language and colorful phrases ("double down on trickle down"), Clinton kept Democratic National Convention delegates glued to his every word.

The speech won wide praise and reinforces the point that political speech can and perhaps should be more than a string of platitudes, half-truths and evasions. Facts still matter. (FactCheck.org said, "With few exceptions, we found his stats checked out.) 

Speakers who respect their audiences enough to talk with them about serious issues, not just talk at them with bromides, are very much appreciated, even in this day of the short attention span and the need for TV networks to pause for station breaks.

Aptly Timed Political TV Ad App

As the presidential campaign heats up this fall, a dizzying array of ads will appear on TV. Now there is an app for that.

Former MIT Media Lab students developed Super PAC App, a free iPhone app that allows users to learn who paid for a TV ad and consult non-partisan fact-checkers for the validity of claims made in the ad.

The app was developed with a grant from the Knight Foundation and has no commercial purpose, according to its creators.

"The [presidential] campaigns are spending a lot of money and all of that money is going into television ads," Dan Siegel, one of the co-creators of the app, tells CNN. "Therefore, there's a need for users to be able to play through the noise a little bit."

The idea for the app came to Siegel while he was attending business school at MIT and his collaborator, Jennifer Hollett, was attending the Kennedy School at Harvard. The concept went from class project to an aptly timed app.

The project involves collecting all the political ads pushed out by the presidential campaigns, including those just intended for websites, which is no small task since new TV or video ads emerge almost daily. Users can tap into the political ad database by playing a 10-second audio sample from an ad they have seen on TV. The app will tell the user who sponsored the ad, whether it is an actual presidential campaign ad or an ad by a superPAC and something about the fundraising of the responsible group.

Users then get a chance to rate the ad and, afterwards, see how others rated the same ad.