Kerry gave one of the best speeches of the convention, in my estimation. I’m not alone in noticing1. Kerry made points that might have helped him win election in 2004, if he hadn’t listened to his centrist-leaning advisors.
Now, if Mr. Kerry had stopped there this would have been an effective partisan speech — memorable in the moment but likely soon forgotten. But what John Kerry said at the end of his remarks took a very good speech into the pantheon of great speeches.
For more than two generations, one of the dominant narratives in American politics has been the notion of Democratic “weakness” on foreign policy. Democrats, the stereotype goes, do not love their country; they are not patriotic, they are as Jeane Kirkpatrick famously declared at the G.O.P. convention in 1984, blame America-firsters. And for years, Democrats have struggled to fight back; often choosing political artifice over impassioned persuasion. But, last night in Denver, John Kerry fought back:
How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy, doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn’t put America first.
Pathetic, insulting and desperate are not the words that Democrats frequently use on the campaign trail and particularly not in the context of national security. As for the idea that community service belongs in the same lexicon as military service … well that’s something you are even less likely to hear.
Crooks and Liars has video of the speech.
For a good laugh, check out James Taranto’s analysis. I’m not sure what planet Mr. Taranto is from, especially when he writes sentences like: Kerry: President Obama and Vice President Biden will shut down Guantanamo, respect the Constitution, and make clear once and for all, the United States of America does not torture, not now, not ever.
President Bush has repeatedly said that America does not torture. Can we really afford four more years of the same?
Right, the waterboarding and stress positions are only enhanced interrogation techniques, and not torture. Why? Well, because we’ve just redefined the meaning of the word, torture, to be whatever we are not doing to prisoners. If we do it, it is no longer defined as torture2 Taranto continues in this vein:
In his 2004 speech Kerry did discuss terrorism at length, but he said not a word about global warming, and he mentioned AIDS only in the context of demanding federal funding for stem-cell research. If these things are so important, why is he only getting around to telling us now?
Pretty weak, Mr. Taranto, pretty weak. Let us count the number of mentions of global warming and AIDS in John McCain’s convention, shall we?
Tom Schaller of Salon briefly interviewed John Kerry yesterday morning:
Thursday morning outside the Brown Palace Hotel where he and his wife are staying, John Kerry was helping get Teresa’s stuff packed into a car for her departure today from Denver — she’s leaving, but he says he “isn’t going anywhere.” The Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee is fresh off his widely hailed evisceration of John McCain in a speech last night to the delegates — arguably a better speech, given the relative expectations for the two men, than Bill Clinton’s. (The sad part is that the networks and even MSNBC didn’t run it in its entirety, live.)
Kerry was generous enough to take a few moments of time while extracting his very snappy bike out of the trunk — apparently, he is planning to stretch those long legs today — to speak with Salon. He showed more of that fire from last night, leavened with some self-effacing critiques of his own failures in 2004. And though I can’t be sure who he had in mind as referents when he mentioned “some partisans” unable to get over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, I could swear between the lines I heard the names Paul Begala and James Carville.
I liked this answer to the question, “Where was this fiery Kerry in 2004”3
Well, I feel like — no, on the contrary, I was that John Kerry four years ago … particularly in the last six weeks I was. I won three debates against the sitting president. And I think that I’m proud of what we did. We should have taken those Swift boat attacks on more directly earlier. We just made a miscalculation. The calculation was that we had put the truth out and people saw through that kind of attack. The miscalculation is that if you put a lot of money behind a lie, there are some people who don’t [see through it]. And that’s where we made a mistake. We should have put more money behind the truth.
And I think the Obama campaign has learned that, and they’re not going to give any quarter on these smears, lies and attacks. And I think that’s what’s important. You know, there are plenty of places where I let fire and let loose, like I did last night — believe me. If you go back and look at my convention speech it was a strong speech, well received at the time. But people tend to blur that and they don’t see it in the context of the attacks that came out afterwards. Yeah, we could have done a better job at making certain that we absolutely murdered those [attacks]. Believe me, part of the message I was sending last night was I learned that lesson — and never again.
More reactions to Kerry’s speech compiled by Chris Suellentrop: The Kerry SurpriseFootnotes: