The vision thing

Here’s my recap of what I thought was excellent speech by President Bush:
10:12 — He’s off to a flying start. He’s taken us through 9/11 and the nation’s comeback, and now he’s ready to look to the future and tell us what’s ahead in his next term.
10:15 — He’s going to tell us where he stands, what he believes, and where he’ll lead the country. These are precisely the things that John Kerry can’t or won’t tell us. Heck, he can’t even tell us where he was on Christmas 1968.
10:17 — The President is doing a nice job of tying his core beliefs to his key legislative accomplishments — No Child Left Behind, the medicare prescription drug and tax cuts. One complaint, though. He gives no figures to show the effectiveness of NCLB or to quantify the job creation that he attributes to his tax cuts. The figures are out there, but there seems to be an unofficial ban on citing any data at this convention.
10:20 — Now he’s talking about programs for his next term. To some extent, it’s a Clinton style laundry list, but he’s still doing a good job of linking programs to where he stands and what he believes. The common theme is government involvement without government control. The “ownership society.”
10:30 — He’s still talking about his domestic agenda. There’s something for everyone — opportunity zones, funding for community colleges, tax code simplification, comp time and flex time, tort reform, etc. Bush needed to do this, but he’s done it and now he should move on.
10:32: But instead he talking about social security reform. This is a delicate subject, especially considering what happened in Florida in 2000. However, Bush isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before. He’s emphasizing giving young people a chance to control some of their retirement money. There has been talk that Bush isn’t doing as well as he should with young voters. Maybe this will help.
10:34 — He’s delivered his “soft bigotry of low expectations line,” so now maybe he will move on.
10:36 — Nope. He’s talking about early intervention programs for students at risk and enrolling poor children in health insurance programs. “Message, I care,” as his father would say. Actually this president does care, and he certainly doesn’t have his father’s problem with “the vision thing.” But he really does need to move on.
10:38 — He finally has. He’s contrasting his domestic vision to John Kerry’s. He finds Kerry’s (alleged) $2 trillion in new spending a bit much even for a Massachusetts Senator. Good line.
10:41 — Now the president is talking about values. He affirms the place of the unborn and the need to defend the traditional notion of marriage from activist judges. He’s handling this part just right, it seems to me, by staking out his positions without belaboring them or taking shots at those who disagree (except, of course, for activist judges).
10:43 — And John Kerry. Bush is skewering Kerry for claiming that he’s the candidate of conservative values. Kerry deserves whatever he gets here.
10:45 — He gets plenty. Bush nails him for claiming (in connection with that glitzy fund-raiser where Whoppi Goldberg and others ran amuck) that our values reside in Hollywood; for voting against the defense of marriage act signed by President Clinton; and for calling the Reagan administration “eight years of moral darkness.”
10:46 — Now it’s on to topic A, terrorism. With Kerry still in mind, Bush reminds the audience that it knows where he stands. He stands for the proposition that freedom will bring us peace.
10:48 — Protesters (I think there are more than one) are disrupting the proceedings. Their timing is good. Bush is moving into a very effective portion of his stump speech which builds up to his defense of the Iraq action.
10:49 — The protesters seem to have been cleared out, but they have succeeded in breaking Bush’s stride slightly at an important juncture.
10:50 — Bush is explaining why he made the toughest decision of his presidency, to intervene in Iraq. It’s an effective presentation, I think, because it conveys the agony of the decision but also provides an unapologetic and reasoned defense. As Bush presents it, his choice was between forgetting the lessons of 9/11 and taking the word of a madman or taking action (that Kerry and Edwards had voted to authorize). “Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.” Somehow, though, the audience steps on this line a little bit. It may have been responding to additional protesters.
10:52 — The speech is starting to become too long. He’s delivered his key lines on Iraq and the war on terrorism. It’s time to contrast his position to that of his opponents, and then move on.
10:55 — He hasn’t moved on. He’s starting to repeat himself. Freedom will bring us peace.
10:57 — Now he’s after Kerry and Edwards. He’s reciting the famous Kerry flip-flop on funding the war. He uses one of the best lines from his stump speech. John Kerry says the issue was complicated, but there’s nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.
10:59 — Not only is the president going on too long, but he may be hurting himself by overdoing the theme that freedom will bring us peace in the Middle East. Does the president have in mind further military adventures in that region to spread freedom? If he keeps at this much longer, people may start to wonder, to Bush’s detriment.
11:00 — On the other hand, I like the shot he’s just taken against editorial writers after citing a defeatist editorial about our occupation of Germany in 1946. And he’s finally mentioned Israel. I had hoped he would do more on this subject. Still, he has now exceeded what Kerry had to say about Israel.
11:08 — I think he’s getting ready to conclude. He throws in some great self-deprecating humor that he might better have used earlier. He has occasional trouble with English; it seems that even Arnold is correcting him. He’s sometimes accused of having a swagger in his step. In Texas they call that walking. He may be too blunt at times. Blame that on the lady in the balcony with the silver hair. (Unfortunately, though, his mother has apparently left the building, or at least the balcony). This is great stuff — a great response to people who say he’s too arrogant and that he never apologizes or admits he’s wrong.
11:13 — His closing lines are good. Some very moving statements about his experience with the loved ones of fallen soldiers. From this, the president concludes that we’ve come through troubled times and shown that we can achieve anything (he’s still overreaching a little here). We’ve reached a time for hope.
11:14 — The president has reached a time to stop, which he finally does.
What do I think of the speech as a whole? I think it was excellent, my nit-picking blow by blow account notwithstanding. The president came across as steady, strong, and visionary. His vision is controversial, but he presented it well, and I believe that most Americans will prefer a steady and strong president with a vision that is at least plausible to a flip-flopper with no vision that he can publicly advocate.


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