Politics & Policy

Convention Rapid Response Team

Boston, Day Three.

Dan Casey

Tonight, owing to the fact that the John Edwards speech will be the most picked-apart speech in, say, four years, and it is unlikely I could add anything unique to that sum total of knowledge, I will use up my 300 words with more of a real-time stream of consciousness approach that you can see by the complete absence of a period until now.

Extended ellipses represent deep reflection or otherwise inexpressible thoughts.

……………………………………..This is not working. Oh well, why fix what isn’t broken?

The Sharpton speech was the first crack in the “we are uniters” theme of this convention. Although generally (and correctly) decried as “off message” by the talking heads, it probably worked as a good vent for the delegates on the floor whose real passions have been carefully kept in check. It will mean nothing after the Edwards speech.

Whoa! Ralph Reed just called Cheney a “complete asset” on the Chris Matthews show.

Inside scoop: Kerry operatives are spreading the word today that so far there has been no bounce from the convention. True or false, this is a smart tactic. It lowers expectations, and whatever bounce comes out of the convention will be attributed to Kerry.

Alright, I lied. The Edwards speech is over. Good delivery, plenty of agenda items and very strong on defense. I find Edwards just too precious, but I am not their target audience. But the conventional wisdom is right – virtually no one votes for the bottom of the ticket. The Edwards speech confirms what has become obvious: the Kerry campaign understands that Kerry must be seen as tough on defense or the campaign is over. America is at war and will not elect a commander in chief who is seen as weak.

Tomorrow is the real show.

I told you I couldn’t add anything unique.

Dan Casey is a public-affairs consultant and Republican strategist.

Barbara Comstock

Usually I get increasingly worried during a convention that Democrats are better storytellers, that they are able to use all their Hollywood skills and staging to better advantage than Republicans. Surprisingly, not this time.

Not that I wasn’t impressed by Obama and Granholm. But what does that do for Kerry? They are the future of the party. The present gang just doesn’t seem to get it over the plate (beginning with Kerry’s lame pitch on Sunday). Sure there are some respectable base hits; even some doubles, i.e. Edwards. (And when the kids come out we’ll give him a triple.) But there are no home runs; and, with Teresa and a befuddled Ted Kennedy last night, even some fouls and strikeouts.

Tonight, I switched to watching Mondale and Ferraro on C-SPAN Archives to relieve the boredom. I was reminded that in 1984 I was actually worried that week. Geraldine Ferraro looked so nice in that white dress invoking her daughter-of-an-immigrant story, first woman nominated to run as vice president on a ticket, etc. But then I was also reminded that they were giving the same gloom and doom speeches in 1984 that this crew is giving this year.

So this week my worry quotient has gone down–not something that usually happens to me during a Democrat convention. It’s not cockiness. I know this year is still full of challenges. But these guys just aren’t able to be big–and these are big times. They are small September 10th Democrats in a post September 11th world.

Everything about them is small and just too light. Sure they have some military brass to support Kerry; but it’s about ten percent of the numbers President Bush will have. And there is no one these guys will not bow down to. The Democrats don’t even debate about having someone like Al Sharpton in primetime in the way they did in 1988 with Jesse Jackson. Michael Moore sits in the speaker’s box with the incredibly shrinking former President Jimmy Carter. These guys are going to stand up to terrorists? John Edwards may sue them and John Kerry may flip flop on them and Teresa may speak French to them, but who is going to stand up to them?

And, for once, the staging by the Democrats is off. The small screen behind them as the backdrop visually reinforces their smallness. The only thing that is big, are the smiles on the faces of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Barbara Comstock is a former Department of Justice spokeswoman and currently a principal with Blank Rome Government Relations.

John McLaughlin

The Democrats are back to prime time for at least an hour on the broadcast networks, but actually a little longer on Al Jazeera. Why not? The convention they promised us to be a positive one has more deep digs in just three days than in all the years it took to build the Boston Harbor Tunnel.

For any truly undecided and unbiased voter, of which we all know there are relatively very few watching, how could they fact check the claims of the tonight’s speakers? The only way to characterize tonight’s Democrats would be to name them the “pathological Democrats.” It’s amazing how they can look one another in the eye and straight into the camera and not feel any discomfort that the media won’t hold them accountable.

But the pathological Democrats are getting away with it.

For example, many commentators described Al Sharpton’s speech as the “red meat” the delegates wanted. Well Al Sharpton on TV tonight accused President Bush and the Republicans of being bigots and favoring segregation. When Sharpton claimed that if this president had selected the 1954 Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas wouldn’t have gone to law school, the release from the Bush-Cheney campaign and Republican party should have been a letter to John Kerry demanding an apology. That was just the kind of hyperbole they wanted to set up John Edwards’s attack on “hateful negative politics.” This is beyond code words. This is the Michael Moore effect. You can say and twist anything you want and as long as it’s on film or TV, it must be true regardless of the facts.

Without a doubt John Edwards will be the praised as the speechmaker of the night, maybe the convention. But it’s all a performance that is all about style and has little to do with reality. Certainly Edwards gave the Democrats the issues their base needed to hear with health care, education, and jobs. But when John Edwards says he can cut taxes–a truly great Republican-style idea–to provide affordable health care, child care, college-tuition help, and tax credits to create jobs, is anyone checking his record?

When John Edwards attacks the special interests, did anyone in the media cite the amount of money he raised from fellow trial lawyers?

When John Edwards says he’ll reward work over wealth, will anyone ask how workers will ever accumulate any wealth if he’s against it?

When John Edwards talks about him and John Kerry making America’s military stronger and more modern, has anyone really checked their records of cutting defense?

It seems the media is missing the real story, by ignoring the facts for the fiction. It seemed typical when on Fox News Ceci Connelly of the Washington Post slipped and said the electorate is evenly split “40-40-10.” It just doesn’t add up, at least to 100 percent. Something’s missing and that’s true media accountability and a strong dose of reality.

Tonight the only critical journalist I heard putting it in some realistic perspective was on WABC radio and was from Al Jazeera. He claimed that many of the Democrat delegates preferred Al Jazeera over Fox News and John Kerry’s campaign rhetoric was to the right of the delegates and he was just being politically correct for the mainstream audience. How perceptive.

If only more Americans could watch Al Jazeera we might be able to hold the Kerry-Edwards Democrats truly accountable for their rhetoric vs. their real records.

It’s time for the Republican party to give them a dose of reality.

John McLaughlin is a Republican strategist and pollster, a partner at McLaughlin and Associates.

Peter Robinson

The most impressive aspect of the speeches by Mr. and Mrs. John Edwards was what they didn’t say. Neither so much as mentioned the death of their 16-year old son, let alone attempted to use it for political advantage. A nice contrast with Al Gore’s speech of a dozen years ago about losing his sister to cancer. Trial lawyers make me suspicious, Lord knows. But Edwards and his wife seem to possess some dignity.

The substance of Edwards’s speech? What substance? He said little more than, “I’m young, I’m buoyant, and I’m not Dick Cheney.” Even his own running mate, in other words, failed to build a substantive, credible case for John Kerry. The whole country, the Kerry campaign must believe, is just as unreasoningly angry with George W. Bush as are the convention delegates. A plan? A vision? Why bother? The campaign need only demonstrate a minimal plausibility on the part of Kerry and Edwards. Voters will rush to toss Bush out.

The Kerry campaign may be right about that. But I doubt it.

Edwards’s speech did open one window onto the seriousness of the Kerry organization. A Kerry administration, Edwards asserted, would preserve the tax cuts of “98 percent” of Americans, raising taxes only on the richest two percent and on corporations. By tomorrow morning, the Kerry campaign either will or will not have distributed a press release showing, in some detail, just how it would pull off that trick.

Peter Robinson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and host of Uncommon Knowledge, is author of How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life.

Larry Sabato

It’s all about strength. And service. And volunteering for Vietnam. Strong service in Vietnam. A strong veteran’s story of strength in Vietnam, and strength today, too, for more service, domestically and in war, but especially Vietnam…. Just wanted to make sure you’ve been paying attention.

I don’t know whether hope is on the way, as John Edwards put it, or whether help is on the way, as Dick Cheney phrased it four years ago, but another presidential campaign is definitely on the way for John Edwards. In his veep speech, Edwards wasn’t as good as Bill Clinton was on Monday night, but Clinton has had twelve years of top-level practice. Edwards was better than Clinton giving his acceptance address in 1992–a more articulate, slimmer, younger-looking, cuter version of the 1992 Bill Clinton. And did I mention that Edwards is cute, as cute as a bug in a rug, TV camera-loving cute, the kind of boyish cute that spawned teenage-girl-infatuation-eyes in the many women delegates that the networks focused their lenses on during Edwards’s address? The men, by contrast, mainly looked jealous.

If Hillary Clinton was watching, she was looking at the person who most likely will deprive her of the chance to serve in the White House as the official president. Edwards may be just a tad too slick, just a wee bit too obviously conscious of his ability to attract and manipulate a crowd. But he’s too good to stop, short of scandal, and he has an excellent chance to be POTUS himself eventually, one way or the other. ‘Maybe when he grows up,’ Republicans would say, but they ought to fear what an even better, more mature John Edwards could do to them on a future election day.

Since I watch these things on C-SPAN, in order to avoid the banal instant analysis provided by all networks, I have no idea what our Olympian anchors said once Edwards concluded. But I’m sure they mainly gushed, and worked in repeated references to his cute–there’s that word again–young family. And surely they must have noted Edwards’s tough stance on Iraq, defense, and terrorism, in an attempt to ward off the attacks coming from the GOP, owing to his and Kerry’s Senate voting records.

Several other items ought to have been mentioned but probably weren’t. Edwards’s “two Americas” rhetoric has its basis in class warfare, which is always noxious (and which directly contradicts Barack Obama’s unifying, inspiring keynote about one America). Second, Edwards’s attack on the Republicans for their “mean, nasty, negative” ads would have been convincing, if he’d also included his own side–or has he never heard of MoveOn.org, a bunch of Democratic 527s, Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, et al. Finally, speaking of hypocrisy, doesn’t it strike you as eye-rolling when people worth tens of millions of dollars make a point to talk about their meals at Wendy’s, their love for K-Mart sales, and their hatred for the greed of the wealthy? I’ve got a suggestion: Let’s urge Edwards and Kerry (and Bush and Cheney, too) to give until it really hurts to take care of the sad human cases they often cite. Surely, this loaded quartet could put together $100 million for charity and barely feel it. Now that’s strong service, though not in Vietnam.

Larry Sabato is professor of politics and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He is editor of the just released GET IN THE BOOTH! A Citizen’s Guide to the 2004 Election.

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