Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 30, 2004
POLITICS: Like A Dog That's Been Beat Too Much
So, for people tuning in last night, we can answer the question, "Who is John Kerry?": He's an orange man with mechanical hand gestures and run-on sentences like this one:
Was it, as it should have been, the speech of Kerry's life? Well, measured against past Kerry speeches, I'd have to say it was - he didn't drone, and it wasn't a forty-car pileup of banalities. Neither was it a great speech; I'd maybe give it a B or a B+. But then, I'm not the target audience here. Some observations:
*The most striking characteristic of Kerry's speech, as with this whole Democratic convention and as with Kerry's traditional approach to defining himself (or, rather, un-defining himself) - particularly coming from a challenger - was its astounding defensiveness. I am too a patriot. I am too willing to defend this country from its enemies. I'm not gonna let the UN veto actions to defend the country. I do too share your values. I do too believe in God. I'm not gonna jack up your taxes. I'm not a pessimist or a mean, angry guy.
At some point, you have to wonder if the Democrats ever ask themselves why it is that they should have to say things like this. When you have to spend half the time at your own party's convention three months before the general election trying to convince people that you are not an unpatriotic, amoral, unprincipled, godless weenie, perhaps the convention shouldn't be the first time you deal with the problem.
*Echoes of any number of past campaigns here - I can't even count the faux-Kennedyisms, but there was the deliberate echo of both Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bush in 2000:
There was also the verbatim cribbing from Dick Cheney in 2000: "To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way."
Line with the strongest Shrum/Ted in '80 feel to it:
*My wife thought the choppy hand gestures - which got better about halfway through the speech, when the six cups of coffee or whatever started to wear off - made Kerry look like a cheerleader. Though I must say, John Stewart was running footage later of Jennifer Granholm, and Kerry wasn't that bad.
*Cheap shot: after Kerry said his mother "taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature", I half expected him to add, "and I came to see them as my brothers." Another one: when he said
I can't have been the only one thinking, "is he really gonna say, 'the left wing'?"
*I predicted to some friends that Kerry would have his "band of brothers" on the stage alongside him during the speech. Between the salutes, the "reporting for duty," and all the Vietnam-vet stuff, I half expected him to come out in uniform - or at least wearing his medals (not the ribbons, I guess . . . ). Even Ollie North didn't play the man-in-uniform card this hard. Time will tell how the hard sell on his Vietnam service will play, but they definitely left no cliche behind in promoting it.
*Should the Republicans, as some have suggested, try to make hay out of the paucity of substantive attention given to domestic policy? The Democrats generally were long on pain-feeling and talking up job creation and very short on how you do anything about it. But I suspect the GOP needs to stick to its own game plan, which in any event has to include some real details on what the second-term agenda should look like.
*Now, correct me if I'm wrong - I didn't by any means watch every speech - but I swear I didn't hear the name "Saddam Hussein" from the podium once.
*More another time on Kerry's pie-in-the-sky on foreign oil and on the idea that we should be developing more life-saving drugs while imposing price controls on drug companies.
Cont'd . . .