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Friday, July 30, 2004

Born in the west wing

When Kerry got to that line-- preceded by the ham-fisted “now, I’m not one to read into things, but guess which wing” and a goofy smile, there was much wincing in my house.  Janet actually left the room and began to pace in the hallway, fearing that this would be one of the worst presidential-nomination acceptance speeches since Ulysses S. Grant stumbled to the podium in 1868 and said, “sure [hiccup], what the hell.”

Really, with all the bloggers covering this campaign, can’t someone provide this guy with better warmup material? 

And those gestures!  I turned to Nick and said, “it’s like he took a correspondence course from Gesture School but didn’t quite understand the illustrations.” Out of sync, distracting, nervous-- and what was with the subtle swaying back and forth?

So after half an hour of truly wonderful setups from Alexandra and Vanessa, from Jim Rassmann, and most of all from Max Cleland, we were having ourselves an uneasy five or six minutes, to say the least.  And then:

As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.

The first zinger of the night!  And what’s Bush gonna do, run on the Onion headline, “Bush 2004 Campaign Pledges To Restore Honor And Dignity To White House”?

And then:

I will be a commander-in-chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.

Much cheering.  And also:

And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.  You don’t value families by kicking kids out of after school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break. . . .  You don’t value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service, if you deny veterans health care, or if you tell middle class families to wait for a tax cut, so that the wealthiest among us can get even more.

We like it when people mention Enron.  Nice bit about the body armor, too.

And we were thoroughly surprised to hear the Saudi royal family called out by name-- well, Kerry lost any chance at their support right there, I guess.  And he picked up the red/blue thing from Obama, a few hints of economic populism from Edwards, and an unexpectedly effective “all-in-the-same-boat” closing.  All in all, pretty good stuff-- and a terrific recovery from those first five or six minutes.  (Whew.)

However:  it was not a home run.  Nor was it a touchdown, a three-pointer, a shorthanded goal, a try, or a perfect 10.  Kerry did not get a hole in one, he did not google a six, and he did not do that thing in curling where someone does something good in curling.  In fact, the speech wasn’t anything like a sporting event, so I don’t know what all these other commentators are talking about.  I think they should get out more and see some actual sports.

I don’t know what Matt Yglesias is talking about either.  Usually this kid’s very bright, but maybe he isn’t familiar with this here genre yet.  You don’t lay out the ten-point plan for salvaging Iraq in an acceptance speech.  You don’t explain the details of what will have to be an exceptionally complex fiscal policy (for the reasons Brad DeLong described a few days ago) in an acceptance speech.  You just try, usually in pretty general terms, to convince people to trust you, to see you as President, and-- in some cases-- to care enough to get out and work for you.

Well, he did the job in this house:  we’re off to Harrisburg to help welcome the Kerry-Edwards team to Pennsylvania.  I’ll be back tonight with a report from the rally (to make up for the fact that I was too damn stupid to apply for press credentials and try to get to the convention) and a new posting policy for August.

Posted by Michael on 07/30 at 07:47 AM
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