Kerry was nervous. He seemed hurried, this made him seem less boring. He wrongly shut down the enthusiasm of the crowd many times, indeed, almost always. When he finally found his rythm, it was too late. He might not have hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself much either. Almost every word in the speech had a deja vu quality to it (some of the words came from Bush, some from Dean, etc.) It seemed as if a committee had written the speech. Isn’t odd when others make a better case for Kerry than he can for himself? This is not a great candidate. It was not the best speech at the convention.
The Liberal (also anti-free trade) speech verged on a laundry-list mode, yet lacked specificity. The war that the Islamic terrorists are waging was just another point on the list, somewhere near global warming. The same with Iraq. He said nothing about Afghanistan (never mind Iran or North Korea). He did not tell us what he would do in Iraq (or even would have done). He said nothing about democracy abroad, no left-over-idealism of human rights. He said nothing about his career in the Senate. It is true that he intended to give the impression that he is strong and courageous and is able to replace the current commander-in-chief. Did he? Maybe.
His major point is that Bush can’t be trusted, Bush has lied. This is going the Michael Moore, Joe Wilson, et al, route. They are discredited, and the American people will not believe it. They shouldn’t. He will not get anywhere arguing that he will re-establish trust and credibility to the White House. Wrong election. The same with the emphasis on optimism and hope. Kerry missed a great opportunity in this speech: He had the chance to be clear and forthright, especially regarding Iraq and the war. He didn’t take it. He cannot become president by straddling huge issues, the same issues President Bush has full knowledge of, and some control over, the same issues that will continue to dominate the campaign.
Here are some takes on his speech: Chris Suellentrop (Slate); Jonah Goldberg (USA Today); John Podhoretz (NY Post); Lawrence F. Kaplan (TNR); William F. Buckley, Jr. (NRO); Thomas Oliphant (Boston Globe).