Thoughts About The Convention, The Speech, & The Kerry Campaign

As I turned off Adam Sandler’s “50 First Dates” and turned to John Kerry blabbing about “trees being cathedrals”, his dad, and his “pride in freedom”….I pondered the reported 55 minute length of Kerry’s speech and was tempted to go back to the movie. But, I plodded on and did my duty as a blogger and listened to the whole speech. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have missed much by finishing the movie.

Sadly, this whole convention, the speech included, has been as dull and amorphous as Kerry’s campaign. Listening to Democrats talk about their “optimism”, how much they love middle-class tax cuts, playing “Amazing Grace”, and talking about how tough they’re going to be on terrorism is…I’m tempted to say hilarious or odd, but actually the best word would be “representative” of how the Kerry campaign has been run so far.

After Howard Dean imploded, Democrats turned to John Kerry not because they loved him, but because they viewed him as “electable”. Perhaps unsurprisingly given how he got the nomination, John Kerry’s campaign up until this point has almost entirely consisted of talking about his time in Vietnam & claiming that he’d do the same things that Bush would — except better!

Kerry’s pick for VP, John Edwards, was selected primarily because he’s pretty and slick, JFK’s unimpressive 20 year record in the Senator is hardly mentioned, time after time we’ve been treated to Kerry & his surrogates complaining about non-existent attacks on their patriotism, & John Edwards keeps carping about imaginary little girls who’re going all winter without a coat they can buy at Goodwill for $5.

Meanwhile, outside of the fog bank that is the Kerry campaign, Al Gore is raving about “digital brownshirts”, Michael Moore who sat beside of Jimmy Carter at the convention is accusing the President of invading Afghanistan for oil, Kerry’s supporters at MoveOn are posting ads accusing the President of being a Nazi on the front page of their website, Whoopi Goldberg is making Bush jokes while pointing at her crotch during Kerry fund raisers, and 93% of the delegates at the DNC are against the war in Iraq.

In other words, John Kerry’s campaign thus far — the “Republican-lite” convention included — has had very little to do with his voting record, with the Democratic Party he leads, or how even his own supporters believe he’s going to govern if he’s elected. And anyone with even a cursory knowledge of politics isn’t going to have much trouble figuring that out once they start paying attention.

That’s why I believe that when it gets right down to it, the American people, in a time of war, are not going to pull the lever for a cypher who’s willing to portray himself as anything they want him to be to get their votes, especially when there’s a strong, politically savvy, candidate on the other side and the economy’s good. We’ll find out in November if I’m right…

*** Update #1 ***: More from Dick Morris on the Kerry speech…

“He opened up his talk with a lengthy and evocative description of his childhood and what it was like growing up in divided Berlin. He told us of the “goose bumps” he remembers getting when the band struck up “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Then, after this long rendition of his childhood, he tells us at length what it was like to serve in Vietnam for the four months that he was there. So far, so good.

But then he spent only about one minute talking about what he has done since.

Beyond a brief allusion to his efforts for crime victims and to prosecute crimes against women as an assistant district attorney, his support for Clinton’s plan for extra cops and a balanced budget and a reference to his work with John McCain on the POW and MIA issue in Vietnam, that’s it.

What did this man do as an adult? What happened during his service as Michael Dukakis’ lieutenant-governor in Massachusetts and in his 20 years in the United States Senate?

What bills did he introduce? What initiatives did he sponsor? Which investigations did he lead? What amendments bear his name? What great debates did he participate in?

What did he do for his constituents in Massachusetts? What businesses did he persuade to come to the Bay State? Which elderly did he help get their Social Security benefits? What injustices did he correct?

Kerry’s biography ends at 24.

America does not want to elect a lieutenant to the presidency. The voters want a commander-in-chief, but there is precious little in the autobiography of John Kerry, as we heard it last night, to commend him to us.

…John Kerry? Oh yeah, he’s the guy who fought in Vietnam and then he ran for president. That’s not enough. Where did his 20 years in the Senate go?

Oddly, his absence of biography confirms the impression I formed of him during my White House years: He’s a back-bencher. I never can recall a single time that his name came up in any discussion of White House strategy on anything. He was the man who wasn’t there. We were always figuring out how to deal with Ted Kennedy or Pat Moynihan or Tom Daschle or Phil Gramm, or Al D’Amato or Bob Dole or Jesse Helms or Orin Hatch or Joe Biden. But nobody every asked about John Kerry.

He wasn’t much there then, and he’s not much there now. Only now he wants us to trust him to be president.”

*** Update #2***: More on this topic from Debra J. Saunders

“Bottom line: The Democratic Party did not have to nominate a candidate who supported the war, but Democratic voters for some reason chose to do so.

Item: According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, three-quarters of Democratic voters opposed the war.

Item: The same poll found that 86 percent of convention delegates opposed the war.

Item: 100 percent of the Democratic ticket voted with GOP President Bush on Iraq.

Nonetheless, this convention is packed with politicians who are boasting about the tremendous party unity they see everywhere. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said that the party is more united than she has seen it in 40 years. Three in 4 Democrats disagree with the nominee on the biggest issue out there — and that’s unity?

“It’s not just a toning down of rhetoric, but a turning inside-out of reality,” said Massachusetts GOP politico Todd Domke.

…Veteran Kerry observer Domke told me months ago the Democrats should have picked Dean.

I now see how right Domke was.

I see it as I watch a group of well-meaning delegates gush about how excited they are, how united they are, because they chose a man with whom nearly 9 out of 10 of them disagree on the most fundamental issue — the war.

It must hurt. The delegates can’t argue their most deeply held belief — that the war was wrong — because they nominated a man who voted to authorize it.

Think: America is in the middle of a war, and speakers at the Democratic National Convention can’t really address this war in an honest manner. Many can’t say what they really believe.

They have to pretend they will go along with positions they detest.

For a campaign to succeed, Domke noted, its energy has to come from both the message and the candidate. “It turns out that with Howard Dean, (the Democrats) would have had not just a messenger they could believe, but a message that they obviously do believe in.”

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