This speech may end up doing good for Kerry, it’s hard to say. But I think it’s a terrible speech with a few good spots. It sounds like it was written by a committee. The funny irony is that Kerry is a committee of one. The speech reflects his own burning desire to be all things to all people and to say something “smart” about everything. Part wonkery, part Shrumian populism, several parts cliché, he says everything about everything because he thinks any choice is a false choice if the power of his intellect can be directed at it. You can be proud of serving in Vietnam and not contradict yourself by calling your extended band of brothers war criminals, you can vote for and against, you can be for spending less money and for “investing” much more money. Etc, etc.
As for his delivery, he sounded like an very idealistic Ivy League president to me. All the answers were obvious to those who already agree with him. Perhaps worse for Kerry than anything else: This man cannot tell a joke. Humor is perhaps the most important psychological tool for politicians, particularly for pols who have such a poor ability to communicate other emotional states. Jokes establish a rapport between the teller and the audience; “I see the world in the same way you do.” For Edwards, humor is less vital because he can do the feel-your-pain stuff. But for Kerry, a few good jokes would have gone a long, long way to humanize him. They could have been written beforehand — he certainly has the talent at his disposal. He could have practiced them. Instead he underscored once again that he’s too serious to be someone you could ever want to have a beer with.