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Game On

Jul
30
2004

Posted by Chris Nolan
Maybe it’s Bill Whalen’s influence – I say we keep him around, no? – but didn’t John Kerry’s acceptance speech sounded a lot like Ronald W. Reagan? I’m serious.
Fiscal responsibility. Strong military. Middle class folks struggling to do what’s right. American being uh, America again, respected – not loved – abroad because we show our enemies who’s boss and our friends a helping hand. I kept shaking my head at the TV.


It was, appropriately enough, a thoroughly political speech that tagged all the bases before rounding for home. Kerry got off to a strong start with the “reporting for duty” line and the salute — he looks better than Bill Clinton, I’ll give you Republicans, that — but he didn’t hit the ball out of the park. It was a line-drive, not a home run.
That’s fine. And it may be enough. But it worries me that the Democrats, are falling into what I think is a very clever trap laid by the Republicans. Kerry did not, except in passing, draw the distinction that needs to be made between the so-called war on terror and the Iraqi conflict. They are different and the line between them should be drawn loudly and clearly. One is a necessary conflict in which we have been drawn against our will and at great human cost, the other is a war we’ve started without direct provocation that has inflicted chaos, uncertainty, and the potential for civil war in part of the world where instability is dangerous to everyone, where this nation is unloved and resented. It’s not a nuanced argument. And it needs to be made. Otherwise, voters are likely to buy the Bush campaign’s idea about strong leadership from a winning team and how dangerous it might be to change course.
Then there was the something-for-everybody stuff — outsourcing, health care, Medicare, and prescription drugs — the cutting and pasting (some people call it pandering) that Democrats have to do to their different supporters. Yeah, I know, that what’s all politicians do. But there are ways to do it well and then there are speeches that sound like laundry lists. Kerry’s feel somewhere in the middle; he sounds better than President Bush but not as good as his fellow Democrats. Listen again to Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards’ speech – his sincerity, his cadence, his clear belief in what he’s saying – or to Senate hopeful Barack Obama’s 20-or-so minutes and you see what I mean. They covered much of the same ground that Kerry did, with better rhetoric, more personality, clearer language, and sharper images. It would have been nice to see Kerry’s sharp salute followed with some sharp distinctions. But, well, we sort of got rhetorically spoiled earlier in the week, didn’t we?
From here on in, it’s game on and Whalen is right to point out – again – the importance of the debates. The stakes are getting higher as we approach those show-downs. The RNC has been pouring out a steady stream of media advisories all week — four or five a day — and they’ve been very effective getting their responses into the mouths of various TV folks. This morning, we registered Democrats were hit with a good old fashioned piece of direct mail from the DNC asking me for money. Kerry’s on the campaign trail. Bush has left the ranch. After months of waiting around, we’ve finally got ourselves a campaign.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 4:20 PM | Permalink

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