Friday, July 30, 2004
By Steven Taylor

Joe Gandelman of the Moderate Voice has an impressive post that asks Did John Kerry’s Speech Advance His Campaign?

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By Steven Taylor
  • Said Jeff Jarvis
    There is no word that damns with faint praise more than “competent.”

    John Kerry gave a competent speech tonight. It was a primary speech, the sort of message you give when you’re running against and not running for. There were scant mentions of George Bush but this was most a speech against Bush rather than for a Kerry vision.


    There was nothing to hate in the speech, nothing to love. It was competent.”

  • BoiFromTroy asks some good questions

  • And JohnL at TexasBestGrok assures me usDon’t Worry, Help Is On The Way
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  • By Steven Taylor

    “See, you can’t talk sense to the terrorists. You can’t hope for the best. You can’t negotiate with them. We will engage those enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home”.– addthis_url = ''; addthis_title = 'Quote+of+the+Day'; addthis_pub = '';

    By Steven Taylor

    From Howard Fineman’s convention blog (which is really more of a blog than Hardblogger) we find the following:

    We’re sitting here on the “Hardball” set and I got a little hot under the collar when Joe Scarborough presumed to give us all a lecture about the “reality” of the Kerry speech. Joe said it was a blown chance because it was too rushed. I think that Kerry, if he didn’t hit a home run, hit a solid double up the gap or even a triple and put himself in scoring position.

    I caught the tail end of this last night (including Fineman rolling his eyes at Scarborough), so I missed Joe’s exact argument (which I gathered was about Kerry’s cadence and general delivery). Fineman and Andrea Mitchell were quite dismissive of Scaraborough’s comments, noting that delivery doesn’t matter, but rather the words matter (not only is that not the way they cover Bush speeches, it really ignores the fact that both the words and the delivery matter).

    The thing that struck me about the interchange at the time, and that is driven home by Fineman’s entry (e.g., “Joe Scaraborough presumed to give us all a lecture”), is that Fineman and Mitchell weren’t exactly treating Scaraborough as a serious member of the panel (which was chaired by Chris Matthews and also included Willie Brown). Instead he was clearly the token conservative on the panel, and wasnt supposed to overly rain on the Democrat’s parade. It really should embarass Fineman who was there as an analyst, not a booster for the Kerry campaign (and unlike Professor Doctor John Lemon, I tend to think Fineman does a good job, although he has seemed a bit more agressive vis-a-vis Bush of late).

    And I certainly do not think that Fineman had to have a negative view of the speech because he was there as an analyst–he could legitmately have had a positive view. However, to get ticked because Scaraborough didn’t like the speech and “presumed” to share his views (which is what he was there for) came across as biased to me. At a minimum he seemed to be treating Scarborough as an interloper who shouldn’t have been allowed to crash the Hardball inner circle.

    Update: A thought I forgot to include: I am not sure that a “solid double” does it. Weren’t we told by the chattering class in the lead-up to the speech that Kerry needed a home run?

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    By Steven Taylor

    Barry Ritholtz notes via e-mail that Security czar Ridge weighs resigning after election

    To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. It is a stressful and largely thankless job.

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    By Steven Taylor

    This is what came to mind last night. (In fact, the image that specifically came to mind was that of Gilligan saluting during the theme song when the song tells us “The mate was a mighty sailing man”–however, I couldn’t find a picture of that).

    Update: Jeff Jarvis has another photographic juxtaposition.

    Update II:protein wisdom has another comparison (hat tip: Mark the Pundit)

    Update III: Included in the OTB Traffic Jam.

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    By Steven Taylor

    TCS: Campaign Finance Deform.

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    By Steven Taylor

    Bite-Size Toast: A Supplement to this week’s Toast-o-Meter


    The week so far:

  • The Pre-DNC Toast-O-Meter.
  • Bite-Sized Toast for Monday/Tuesday.
  • Bite-Size Toast: Recapping Wednesday in Boston


    Assessment: This was a well-managed convention in terms of mechanics. However, I am unclear as to what idea, thought, or theme will resonate beyond the Fleet Center into the electorate. More specifically: what happened this week that will persuade the undecideds that Kerry should be the Commander-in-Chief during this time of international conflict.

    The early signs are that the Democrats will get a small bump in the polls: Zogby Poll Shows Democratic Ticket Up 5 Points. I will be most surprised if the bump is much more than 5 points or if it lasts long. Indeed, Kerry-Edwards ought to get some bump just from the fact that this past week has been All Kerry All the Time (as is fair).

    Still, despite the mechanical success of the convention, I don’t see this convention creating a substantially different view of Kerry amongst the undecideds than they had prior to the convention. If that assessment is correct, then the convention was a failure. Kerry was supposed to give the Speech of His Life last night, and I don’t think he did. It was an adequate speech, but it was hardly an awe-inspiring one. If voters didn’t know Kerry before the convention, what new thing do they know now? That he served in Viet Nam? Please: the technologically deprived denizens of the Amazon jungle know that by now.

    As such, I don’t see a lot of heat being generated by the convention itself, or the speech. It may jazz up those already predisposed to vote for Kerry, but they were jazzed up already just because they get to vote against Bush in November. As such, the convention did not really further Kerry’s goal of turning Bush into Texas Toast in any substantial way. I still think that the breaking point for this election season will be the debates.

  • My live-blogging of last night can be found here and here.

  • Here’s Dale Franks of QandO’s views of Kerry’s Night.
  • Stephen Green’s observations aren’t to be missed. (Start here and follow the trail).

    The Film

  • Roger L. Simon wasn’t impressed with the Kerry flick.

    The Speech

    Editorial Pages

  • The editorial page of WaPo, (in a piece entitled “Missed Opportunity”): “while he may have been politically effective, he fell short of demonstrating the kind of leadership the nation needs.
  • The LAT’s piece starts with sarcasm: “Over four days of the Democratic convention, we have come to suspect that John F. Kerry may have served in Vietnam.” From there it goes on to praise the Democrats for displaying faith and flag at the convention, as well as being organized. However, I maintain that if the goal was to appeal to truly religious voters, the chide about wearing religion on one’s sleeve and Kerry’s statement that he was saved in Viet Nam by the “grace of a Higher Being” ain’t gonna cut it. That may sound really religious to a non-religious audience, but it will sound hollow to a truly religious ear.

    The basic assessment by the LAT editorial writers is positive, calling last night’s event a “brilliantly crafted acceptance speech.”

  • USAT points out: “Trouble is, Kerry leaves Boston still not having formed in voters’ minds an image of where he’d take the nation on its most urgent issues: the war on terrorism and resolving the mess that is the U.S. situation in Iraq. So far, his policies sound a lot like those of President Bush.”
  • The Dallas Morning News: “All in all, it was an impressive performance and one that should serve Mr. Kerry well in his quest for the White House.”

    Mainstream Analysis/Columnists

    The analysis piece in WaPo, A Challenge to the GOP on Values, Security, aptly notes the following:

    There were notable omissions in Kerry’s speech, however, that raise questions about the course he and his party have chosen for the campaign. Like other speakers during the four nights of the convention, Kerry only briefly touched on Iraq, the issue that has shaped and dominated this presidential campaign, divided the Democratic Party and at times bedeviled his own candidacy. At a time when many Americans are looking for an exit strategy and may wonder whether Kerry has a plan for Iraq that is different from Bush’s, he offered only the assurance that he knows how to get it right.

    Nor did Kerry or running mate John Edwards use their speeches this week to confront their opponents directly or persuasively argue the case for turning out the administration. His advisers believe the public already is looking to replace Bush and needs only to find a level of comfort with Kerry to change presidents. They may be correct, but that too is a gamble, for there will be no better opportunity to make that case before the fall debates.

    And I think that this is a correct assessment:

    Still unanswered is how Kerry plans to keep all his promises for new programs and tax cuts and still meet his pledge to cut the soaring deficit in half in four years.

    While I know that for a large block of voters, change is the goal, but I still wonder as to the degree to which this “we can do better, but I won’t say how” theme will persuade the undecided.

  • Howard Kurtz: Kerry Wows the Media.
  • Thomas Oliphant, writing in BoGlo: Rushed speech, lost opportunity.
  • The LAT’s Ron Brownstein: “Sen. John F. Kerry capped a Democratic convention centered on his Vietnam experiences with an acceptance speech that seemed the political equivalent of a surprise attack on an enemy’s strongest point.” To which I say: HUH?! Did we watch the same speech?
  • Lawrence Kaplan at The New Republic Online
    And when he did get around to discussing the matter of our national survival, he basically took a page from the post-Vietnam playbook favored by an earlier generation of Democrats. “We shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad,” the candidate declared to rousing applause, “and shutting them down in the United States of America.” Suggesting that Europeans won’t send troops to Iraq simply because they can’t stand his opponent, Kerry promised to be nicer to our allies so we could “bring our troops home.” Unlike, say, in Bosnia, he pledged to go to war “only because we have to.” Leaving unsaid exactly by whom and at what cost, he dedicated himself to making America “respected in the world.” Finally, and without saying precisely what it is, Kerry said he knows “what we have to do in Iraq.” He has a plan, you see. Just like a candidate from long ago claimed to have a plan to end a war–the war that put Kerry on the stage last night and which, for him at least, wasn’t so long ago at all.

    Blogospheric Reaction

  • James Joyner (who also has a Blogospheric round-up): “”Like the John Edwards speech the previous evening, this was almost entirely strung together bits from his standard stump speech.”
  • Kevin Drum: “My take: not bad, but not a slam dunk killer either. Some of the notes it hit were pretty good, a few were oddly off key, and the second half had a bit of a laundry list quality to it. Overall, though, it was at the high end of workmanlike and did what it had to do.”
  • Glenn Reynolds: “A not-bad speech, badly delivered. It was short on substance, and long on cliches, but nomination acceptance speeches often are. It was too long, and his delivery was rushed. The sweating and bizarre gestures didn’t help. I don’t think it will swing the momentum in his favor, which is what he needed. It may turn some people off.”
  • Matthew Yglesias: “To put it politely, I thought that was crap.” More specifically:
    Mainly, I’m pissed about Iraq. How to handle Iraq is the most important question facing the president and he just punted. On other looming foreign policy issues (Iran, North Korea, Sudan) where, again, the president can pretty much do whatever he wants we are left with no idea of what a President Kerry would want to do. Nor do we even have a particularly smart backward-looking critique of the Iraq War.

  • Michelle Malkin opines that Teresa helped him write the speech.

  • Andrew Sullivan: “it was a B – performance, not as disastrous as Al Gore’s rant in 2000, but nowhere near the level of the best. I mean, even Dole was better eight years ago. Some of it was so pompous and self-congratulatory I almost gagged.”
  • Chad Edwards assesses the speech here.
  • Kevin Alyward’s thoughts are here.
  • Pieter Dorsman was prepared to be impressed. but doesn’t sound like he was.
  • Viking Pundit has a mini-round-up.
  • Bryan of Arguing with Signposts has his reaction from a media room at the convention itself.
  • Robert Tagorda reacts here, given special attention to Kerry’s economic policy proposals.
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  • By Steven Taylor

    Wrote Kevin Drum yesterday:

    Four weeks ago, John Judis, Spencer Ackerman, and Massoud Ansari reported in The New Republic that the administration was turning the screws on the Pakistanis to round up an al-Qaeda bigshot before the election. That seemed plausible to me, but the additional specification that they had been told the capture should be announced on “the first three days of the Democratic National Convention” seemed like a bit of a stretch.

    Silly me. The Pakistanis, apparently eager to please, have done their part right on time.

    Scary, isn’t it? Maybe it’s time to get measured for a tinfoil hat after all.

    Given that most people probably didn’t even know about the arrest (it hardly preempted convention coverage), I have a hard time buying into this theory. Really, this is a major arrest that was over-shadowed by the convention, not the other way around. Surely it would have been politically better for the administraton to have this information come out next week.

    Only the arrest of Osama would have been enough to disrupt coverage of the DNC.

    Further, when the reaction to a major arrest in the war on terror (the 1998 bombings killed over 200 people) is “see: Republican dirty tricks” it is clear that one has been overly consumed with partisanship.

    And I reiterate: if the goal here was to disrupt “Kerry’s Night” it was a miserable failure.

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    By Steven Taylor

    addthis_url = ''; addthis_title = 'Report+of+Suicide+Attacks+in+Uzbekistan'; addthis_pub = '';

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