Thursday, July 29, 2004

THE BIG STIFF IN PRIME TIME. I don’t mean to be rude, but much as I want it to work (and it could very well work), I cannot suspend a morbid consciousness of the political purpose of John Kerry’s DNC honor guard tonight.

Max Cleland is a very old-fashioned sort of politician, never mind the wheelchair. He looks proud and wounded all at the same time, and his face glistens in the hard light, as every Southern politician’s has since the days of Henry Clay, and like the most successful of them Cleland seems to enjoy rather than tolerate it. "My body was broken and my faith was shattered…. Although I had lost a lot, I still had a lot left. I resolved to make something of my life." This guy makes me ashamed, as he is supposed to. And you can get a lot of uplift out of that kind of shame in a situation like this.

"No Surrender." That’s a good choice – like all the songs on Born in the U.S.A., tinged with enough despair and regret to make it easier to really take to heart than Bon Jovi.

OK, this’ll be long. Better settle in. But I expect he’ll rush; they all have.

"I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty." Holy shit.

"…because we love our country… united in one purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world. A great American novelist wrote, ‘You can’t go home again.’" Quick, conservatives – find Thomas Wolfe’s commie credentials!

"I was born in the West Wing." Good thing there’s a TV show. "Mother was the rock of our family…" Oh, here’s the personal touch Teresa didn’t put in. "Den mother when I was a Cub Scout… gave me her passion for the environment… march for full equality for all women…" Boy, she sounds like a handful.

"Father… first baseball mitt… Greatest Generation… in the State Department… " Another handful. "I rode my bike into Soviet East Berlin… he promptly grounded me." Ha ha. "Fear in the eyes of people who were not free." I see where this will get to. "I learned what it meant to be America at her best… determined to restore that pride to all that look to America." Do we see that in the Iraqi citizens’ eyes, or fear of the Abu Ghraib torturer? That’s a nut-cutter there, and explains all the toy drives at Instapundit.

"The great gift of service… a Junior, John Kennedy…" Got it. "We believed we could change to world, and you know what? We did… but tonight… we’re going to write the next great chapter… change the world, but only if we are true to our ideals and that starts by telling the truth to the American people… that is my first pledge to you… I will restore trust and credibility to the White House…" Craggy-face Kerry as the voice of youthful America.

"As a young prosecutor… balanced budget… 100,000 police on the streets of America… finally made peace in Vietnam." Nice, tight resume. "Commander-in-Chief who will never mislead us into war… a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the military, and an Attorney General who will uphold the Constitution of the United States." Yeah, not like those weirdos we have now.

"Here is our answer: there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better. We’re the optimists, we’re the can-do people… look at the 90s… we just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again…" Oh, yeah, Clinton, don’t you miss him?

"I am proud that at my side…John Edwards… his life is the American dream…" Every little boy can grow up to be a rich lawyer. Well, it’s true! "Succeed Dick Cheney…" Oh, sorry I was mean to JE. "What can I say about Teresa?" You’ll be asked to, of course. I loved her dipping her head to JE’s shoulder. Maybe by her very weirdness she’s an asset. I don’t mind watching her do her loopy thing for four years.

"Our band of brothers… what we learned as soldiers… every day is extra." That’s ‘Nam talk, son. "We may be a little older… still know how to fight…" You gotta love it -- Uncommon Valor.

"September 11… strength that our firefighters… rescuers… Flight 93… flags were hanging from front porches… it was the worst day that we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us… we were only Americans, and how we wish it had stayed that way…"

It’s all one, you see, the Zen of liberalism. Every facet of public life – fighting terrorism and health care and tax policy -- feeds into the other.

"There are those that criticize me for seeing complexities…" Okay, I’m complex, you got my vote! "Proclaiming ‘Mission Accompished’ certainly doesn’t make it so." Snap. "I will bring back that time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because it wants to, it only goes to war because it has to… I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in battle… On my first day of office… never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace. I know what we have to do in Iraq… I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President." Who is this guy, George McClellan?

"I will never hesitate to respond… no veto over national security… add 40,000 military troops, not in Iraq…" At last, forward thinking. "And we will end the back door draft of the National Guard and Reservists." Hello, this really is news. What about the Coast Guard?

"Strength is more than tough words… I know the reach of our power… we need to make America a beacon… looked up to, not just feared… tell the terrorists… the future doesn’t belong to fear, it belongs to freedom." See citizen, Iraq.

"Right here on our shores… 9/11 commission… I will not evade or equivocate… 98% of our container ships… nuclear and chemical plants… not opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them down in the United States of America." His case on competence grounds.

"To those who would question the patriotism… wrapping themselves in the flag… what America is really about… when Americans stand up… that is not a challenge to patriotism, it is the heart and soul of patriotism. You see that flag up there? We call her Old Glory… I fought under that flag…" We know! "From the gun-turret…" We know! "Draped the casket…" We know!! "It belongs to all the American people!"

What are they going to remember? That John Kerry fought in Vietnam and no one better even hint he’s a traitor.

The crowd chants USA! USA! Kerry still wants to hurry through this. "My fellow citizens… Those who talk about family values should start valuing families… taking cops off the street so Enron can get another tax break… big drug companies… windfall profits… I will not privatize Social Security, I will not cut benefits… family, faith, hard work… that is the American Dream…" Kerry as Boston Irish politician, beating the same pulpit (not literally, of course) as a 19th-century Mick alderman pledging the workingman a better deal.

"Dave McKuen, a steelworker…" This is a good story – oh, it’s not a story? "Marianne Knowles, a woman with breast cancer…" Hey, this is a good – oh. "Deborah Kromins…" That’s – "25% of our children in Harlem… people sleeping in Lafayette Park… three million…" Well, that was a fast transition from the specific to the general. But narrative is a vanishing art.

"Middle class not being squeezed but doing better… new incentives… manufacturing… good-paying jobs… close the tax loopholes… reward companies that keep jobs in the good old U.S.A… never have to subsidize the loss of his own job… give the American worker a fair playing field, there’s no one in the world that he can’t compete against." Seamus O’Kerry will save your full dinner pail!

"We won’t raise taxes on the middle class, you’ve heard a lot of false charges… roll back the tax cuts on wealthier Americans… making over $200,000 a year…" Some gnome is now rushing to find a $200,000 a year family who can’t make ends meet under ee-vil Kerry.

"Stop being a nation content to spend $10,000 to send a young man to prison… Head Start, Smart Start… a real start…" The old playbook.

"Health care… 4 million people have lost their health care… your payments, your premiums… save families $1000 a year… under our health care plan… Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices… less expensive… a right for all Americans…" That’s the playbook again, and it sounds as good as ever. We will of course have to wait for the bill of particulars, emphasis on "bill."

"Independent of Mideast oil…" Another good page from the playbook. "…not the Saudi Royal family." Yeah, you know, those guys Bush is mobbed up with. Victor Davis Hanson will deliver another rant distancing The Movement from the Saudis, but no one on the hustings reads Victor Davis Fucking Hanson.

"Benjamin Franklin could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to" You mean we don’t have to listen to much more of this?

"Let me address these words directly to George W. Bush… let’s respect one another… never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in human history, the Constitution of the United States…" What can I say? When he’s right, he’s right.

"Big ideas, not small-minded attacks… divide group from group… maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us united in one America, Red, White, and Blue… America is not ‘us’ and ‘them’… I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, but faith has given me hope… Abraham Lincoln… I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side." Good, he stopped talking for a few seconds, at just the right time and in just the right way.

"They’re American values… if we believe in them, we can build… so much promise stretches before us… " Kitty Hawk. NASA. Microsoft. "WE did that… and now it’s our time to ask, ‘What if?’" Alzheimers, AIDS, stem cells. "A President who believes in science…" A choice, not a idjit. "Do what adults should do…" Oh yeah.

"Patrolling the Mekong…" We kn-- – oh, forget it. "Literally all in the same boat… that is the kind of America… all in the same boat…. Look to the next horizon.. our best days are still to come… Good night, God Bless You and God Bless The United States of America."

Cue "Beautiful Day." I hear a lot smack about the music here, but this is just perfect.

As oratory it was rushed, monochromatic, and lackluster. But. This guy is alright, and he’s running against Bush. Well, you know what I think. What do you think?

UPDATE. From The Corner: "Um, Mr. Kerry, 'that flag,' that 'Old Glory,' that 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' flew upside down on the cover of your book 'The New Soldier.' So why don't you explain that?"

Translation: they're scared shitless.

UPDATE II. Some of my comrades seem to think I've been too hard on the Big Stiff. Let me be clear. I think Kerry should do well based on tonight's performance, but I insist in judging it by Olympian standards. Why? Because, as the man said, there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better.

Don't worry that there is a chorus of idiots spinning the speech down. (I see Lileks, at the lunar end of one of his frequent mood swings, believes a Kerry Presidency will lead to "a smoking crater in New York." Count on it, Prairie Putz; New Yorkers will vote big for that smoking crater!) They're all in the blogosphere, which, as far as Mr. and Mrs. America know, is one long, contiguous series of mothers' basements where stained-shirted Comic Book Guys lurk and play at politics. Which means that they may have well have the wisdom to elect the right guy.

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