Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 3, 2004
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part III
Bush's speech, I thought, was solid; it lacked a single huge flourish that would bring the crowd to a frenzy (the way, say, Zell Miller did with his "spitballs" line), but it didn't need to be poetry; it needed to tell people what Bush intends to do in the next four years, particularly on domestic policy; and it did just that. Bush needed to get first downs, not throw the Hail Mary pass, so to speak. He said, "Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years." And he delivered it.
*Bush seemed to shrug a bit too often during the speech - it's a mannerism of his, but he seemed to use it a lot.
*Bush did a good job, I thought, of drawing together a single coherent theme to his various proposed reforms:
The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents’ generation typically had one job, one skill, one career often with one company that provided health care and a pension. And most of those workers were men. Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives, and in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all Moms also work outside the home.
*This one puzzled me:
Aren't these called Enterprise Zones? What's Jack Kemp doing these days, anyway?
*I credit Bush's attack on Kerry's desire to raise taxes and to raise spending, but Bush would have a bit more credibility on the latter if he hadn't overspent so much the past four years and if there weren't so many places in the speech where I was holding on to my wallet. Show me the spending cuts!
*There are a lot of damning Kerry quotes to choose from; Bush picked two particularly good ones by honing in on the pot shot at Reagan (eight years of “moral darkness,” ) and the more egergious pot shots at our allies (“coalition of the coerced and the bribed.”). Both embody Kerry's sneering contempt in a way that can't play well with independent or undecided voters.
*Like Cheney and - from what I could see on TV - unlike Kerry, Bush knew to stop for a drink of water during his liveliest applause lines.
*If you couldn't tell at home, a few of the times when the crowd started chanting "Four More Years" in the middle of something Bush was saying - particularly during the section where he was contrasting the nations that have turned to cooperation in the war on terror - were efforts to shout down the protestors who got in (one of whom held up one of those infantile "Bush Lied People Died' signs - if it didn't ryhme, who would listen?). It definitely did interrupt the flow of the speech, but anyone who thinks this sort of thing will help Kerry defeat Bush needs to get out of Manhattan more. It should hardly bear reminding that even the furthest right wackos never tried to interrupt Kerry's or one of Bill Clinton's convention speeches. Fools.
*I thought the end of the speech went on too long, and there may have been a better place for the jokes. But Bush does self-deprecating humor quite well; it's one of his biggest contrasts with Kerry, who had almost no humor in his speech and who seems to have little or no ability to poke fun at himself (quite the contrary). That's a bigger distinction than it seems. And it's a bad one for Kerry; even Al Gore knew how to mock himself.
*Kerry's response was so predictable it could have been pre-programmed - he accused Republicans of (yawn) attacking his patriotism (Rueters, of course, took this unquestioningly as true) and then (yawn, stretch, rub eyes) on to Vietnam:
Speaking of Iraq, I had no problem with Bush not doing more to explain the ins and outs of the decision to go to war. 'Splainin' is for the debates, when Kerry will have to face questions on the same issues.
UPDATE: Is it too much blog triumphalism to point out that, before bloggers started digging up stuff like this, the President of the United States would not have used a 1946 New York Times article in a speech to the nation?