Live-Blogging Kerry’s Speech

Deacon hasn’t appeared yet, so I’m stepping into the breach with a little live-blogging.
9:19 — He will never “mislead us into a war,” and he will appoint an Attorney General who will respect the Constitution. The crowd went even wilder on the Attorney General.
9:21 — What is with that tie?? And those hand motions? He isn’t quite as soporific as he sometimes is, but the gestures make him look like a marionette.
9:22 — He just accepted the nomination. The crowd seems appreciative.
9:23 — He pays tribute to John Edwards, a “fighter for the middle class.” Now: “And what can I say about Teresa?” Good question.
9:24 — “She speaks her mind and she speaks the truth.” Yeah, and two years ago she was speaking her mind as a Republican.
9:25 — Now he’s on to the Band of Brothers, in particular, Max Cleland. Will the Bush campaign point out that when he returned from VietNam, he called his fellow soldiers war criminals? A representative of the Bush campaign told me that they don’t intend to do so. That would be negative, apparently. So Kerry’s post-Vietnam history will apparently remain a secret.
9:26 — Now he’s talking about September 11, trying to poach on Bush’s territory. “There were no Democrats, there were no Republicans, there were only Americans. And how we wish it had stayed that way!” Gosh, what happened?
9:31 — Kerry is talking about war, but it’s hard to say what he’s saying. The threat must be “real and imminent.” Any attack will be met with a swift response. We will add 40,000 new troops, but “not in Iraq.” That’s a flop from his proposal to send more troops there.
9:35 — Maybe there is someone out there buying this, but it’s hard to say who. The Democrats have a fundamental problem in that to be credible, they have to acknowledge the reality of the terrorist threat and the need for strong military action. This, of course, is precisely what the core of the Democratic Party either doesn’t believe or would prefer not to admit. But as soon as they acknowledge it, they have to explain why we should expect them to be tougher than the Republicans. So far, Kerry hasn’t done that.
9:36 — Kerry is saying the Democrats are patriotic too. The crowd is cheering, “USA!” They must have brought in some ringers to do that.
9:38 — Now he’s demagoging Social Security and Medicare. Good old Bob Shrum. Bush tells middle-class families to wait for a tax cut so the upper class can get even more. Huh?
9:41 — “America can do better, and help is on the way.” The crowd is starting to join in. Sort of. They have signs, which the cameras just helpfully showed. He’s no Bill Clinton, is he even a Ted Kennedy? Here is our economic plan: first, new incentives to re-vitalize manufacturing. That would be tax breaks, I guess, but not like the tax breaks for Enron that he just blasted a few minutes ago.
9:44 — He will cut middle-class taxes, and roll back the tax cuts for the “wealthiest individuals who make more than $200,000 a year.” That isn’t wealthy, that’s hard-working. But this is standard Democratic stuff, as is what he’s saying now about health care. The people vs. the drug companies.
9:46 — We will stop being the only industrialized country that fails to recognize that health care is a right for everyone. Socialized medicine, here we come.
9:48 — He wants an America that relies on innovation, not the Saudi royal family. The crowd goes nuts. Because it vaguely sounds like Michael Moore. But he isn’t talking about actually drilling for oil in places like Alaska. No telling what, exactly, he’s talking about.
9:50 — Now he’s talking directly to President Bush: “Let’s not misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history–the Constititution.” This got the biggest response of anything in the speech, but what on God’s green earth does it mean? I have absolutely no idea.
9:52 — “I don’t want to claim that God is on our side, as Abraham Lincoln said, I want to pray humbly that God is on our side.” Biggest response of the night. Why? I suppose that the Democratic delegates don’t believe that God is on our side, that is, that we are actually in the right in the war on terror.
9:55 — He and the crowd are going crazy on embryonic stem cell research. I really doubt that this is a vote-swinger, but Ron Reagan is too big a plum to pass up, I guess.
9:57 — They’re playing some good music. I have no idea what it is, but it’s the highlight of the night so far.
How did he do? I think fine. Kerry is basically a poor candidate. He comes across as not very sincere and oddly disconnected. His speech punched all the Democratic tickets but said nothing new, interesting or especially persuasive. This convention is pitched toward the thin sliver of undecided voters, but the vast majority of those voters aren’t watching. For those who are, what would they make of Kerry? I don’t know; he’s goofy, but in kind of an endearing way. On the whole, I thought he did pretty well, but clearly not in any kind of a breakout way. It was really striking how much of an improvement it was when Kerry stopped talking and the music came on.
I actually like Kerry in a weird way, although–or because–I don’t think he believes a word he says. He’s a goofball and always has been; you can see it in the pictures from his youth and from Vietnam. I can’t take him seriously as a lefty; he’s too interested in money, comfort, fame and pretty girls to qualify. (In that respect, he really is like his idol, John Kennedy, the last of the conservative national Democrats.) By the same token, of course, I don’t take him seriously as commander in chief.
Bottom line, tonight changed nothing.
UPDATE: Our buddy Captain Ed live-blogged the speech too. Check out his take, which I would say is generally consistent with mine.
DEACON adds: Great job, Rocket Man. Here are a few more highlights:
9:07 — The Bible makes a rare appearance at the convention (Max Cleland says he gave Kerry one). The crowd’s response is tepid.
9:09 — Cleland introduces Kerry as a true son of liberty. This is the same Kerry who claimed that freedom meant nothing to the Vietnamese and did everything in his power to block the fight for liberty in Nicaragua.
9:15 — Kerry tells us he was born in the left (uh, west) wing of some hospital. If he knows that, his parents must have had big plans for him early on. How many of you know the direction of the hospital wing you were born in? To the best of my knowledge, I was born in the children’s wing.
9:18 — Has any candidate every worked so hard, and so unconvincingly, to convince his audience he had a normal childhood?
9:25 — Kerry says he learned so much from each of his rivals for the nomination. What did Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Mosely Braun teach him?
9:31 — Kerry’s stuff about when he’ll send troops may sound good to the inattentive, but (as Rocket Man says) it’s baffling if you try to follow it. As near as I can tell, we’ll fight only if we have no other choice (this would have ruled out every military action since World War II) and only if our allies are on board, but our allies won’t have a veto.
9:33 — Now we get to the essence of it. Under Kerry we will be “smarter” in fighting terrorism. Naturally.
9:35 — Kerry has tried to thread the needle. He’s signaled to his base that he rejects the notion of hitting the enemy before it hits us, but he’s tried to sound at least as tough as President Bush. He’s the fighting pacifist, or something. Even if this works tonight, it’s not likely to work for long. When voters learn about all the weapons systems Kerry’s opposed and how he’s been unable to take a steady position on Iraq, those who remember this speech will feel they were deceived. The acceptance speech is billed as the candidate’s opportunity to introduce himself to the country. People expect the introduction to be honest. If you don’t believe me, ask Michael Dukakis.
9:39 — The class warfare segment of the speech sounds pretty good until he lapses into the tired “help is on the way” bit.
9:47 — I hadn’t realized until tonight that in this country health care is a privilege reserved for the politicians.
9:51 — Kerry says that he welcomes people of faith. What an extraordinary thing to have to say.
Final assessment — not that much different from Rocket Man’s. He was pretty lame early on when he tried to establish his personal likeability. He picked up steam when he got into the foreign policy/security stuff and kept his momentum during the class warfare phase. But he kept stepping on his applause lines, and overall his oratory was not much more than serviceable. There’s a good chance Kerry will get a decent bounce from the speech, but I don’t think it will have a lasting impact on the race. Basically, I think he held serve tonight, and that’s about it. If Bush holds serve at his convention, we’ll probably be back to a dead heat.


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