Free Dartmouth
7/30/2004 01:59:00 AM | Timothy

Reaction to John Kerry's Speech
First, it was not the speech I expected. It was much more liberal than I expected (but see below), and also much more pointed and on the attack: it was a bit harsher than the 'velvet glove' approach of the rest of the convention (but not much more so). I am half convinced the Kerry people edited the other convention speeches so as to leave it to Kerry to really rouse the crowd with new lines of attack (new for the convention that is). Moreover, at the beginning of the week, the pundits were saying that Kerry would have to answer questions about what he would do in Iraq. I thought it was surprising that he didn't say as much as Al Qaeda, and the failures of Bush on Homeland Security and being diverted from the war on terror.

The Democrats did a lot of interesting things this convention. One is that they re-introduced domestic issues to a surprising degree; they had generally liberal issues with more talk of 'responsibility' and other Clinton-type themes. They also constantly harped on 'John Kerry is a war veteran'. I am not sure I like this concept of electing a 'commander-in-chief' (well, what I REALLY do not like is the idea that we should not criticize the 'commander-in-chief' in time of war). On foreign policy, there was a constant emphasis on truth ("I will restore trust and credibility to the White House". I thought some of his lines on terms did not come across as too tough (not like John Edwards. I am thinking when Kerry said: "And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: 'You will lose and we will win.') In terms of cultural themes, there was also an interesting dualism. The talk of patriotism was interesting and rousing to people like me, but my mom noted that it was the Vietnam protesters' notion of patriotism. I don't know how this speech will play to most people. I also really liked a similar line about religion, we don't say god is on our side, but as lincoln said we humbly pray that we are on God's side. So far the pundits seem to be loving it. My favorite moment of television was when Triumph the Comic Insult dog appeared on MSNBC and told Joe Scarborough (who had said that Kerry's deliver was too rushed): 'Joe, you just had to find some fault with Kerry. We know you hang more to the right than Marmaduke's pink thing.'

Anyway, there were a few moments I didn't like, like when Kerry said he "was born in the West Wing" of the hospital. What were his advisors thinking? Why perpetuate this notion that he has been thinking about being president since day one? But generally I think Kerry has been served well by his advisors, or as well as he could be. Another thing I didn't like was one of his foreign policy statements that said something like that the only reason we should ever go to war is when our nation's interests are threatened. You can abuse the notion of humanitarian war, as Bush has. But why take such a stark and basically realist position? I'm not saying smart people don't believe that position. I think realists are better than neoconservatives idealogues right now. But liberals seem to be adopting too much realist rhetoric in reacting to the conservative idealist hawks. Did we 'choose' to go to war in Kosovo? Or better yet, should we have 'chosen' to intervene in Rwanda (or Bosnia)? I suppose you could make the argument that when Kerry was talking about being forced to go to war rather than 'choosing' to go to war, he was also talking about American values; maybe you could append that stopping an ongoing genocide (which does not include Iraq in 2003) is an American value that forces us to act. But Kerry didn't say that, and would you buy it? Also, what is this 'help is on the way' crap? (someone said, i think it was a Cheney statement in 2000) But the pundits seem to be eating up Kerry's speech, so maybe keeping it simple (and vague) is a good strategy.

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