Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Democrat Convention, Two Days Later

I missed a day of posting because of a computer problem. (The cat destroyed the only telephone cable I had for the dial-up modem here at the beach house; have you ever tried to find telephone cable in a beach community? I knew we should have left him at home with the dog.) It all worked out well in the end, as my half-baked thoughts are now more fully-formed and, I find, supported by writers whom I respect.

Tough Criticism of Kerry's Speech

Lawrence Kaplan writes for the left-of-center New Republic, which admittedly has a strong recent neoconservative tradition. Still, I was surprised at the ferocity of this critique of Kerry's speech. It makes me want to wince on Kerry's behalf.

Adding to that is this well-reasoned and devastating analysis by Amir Taheri. Clearly Kerry's speech does not fare well on careful reading.

So What, If Anything, Did The Speech Accomplish?

Having thought the speech over for 24 hours now, I think it was substantively a colossal failure although stylistically adequate. Kerry did manage to come across as more human, likeable, and so forth, so the speech was not a total failure. But the content and general themes of the speech were awful, as Kaplan's piece so eloquently establishes. I really don't know what convincing response an intellectually honest Kerry supporter can offer.

I'm somewhat gratified to read David Brooks agreeing with me here. As Brooks notes, the speech sounded good but on re-reading is "an incoherent disaster."

But Does Substance Really Matter in This Campaign?

That's a serious question. Maybe, just maybe, Kerry can go on giving vacuous speeches and it won't make any difference. Indeed, that may even be Kerry's strategy: Fuzz over his record, emphasize platitudes, and coast to victory, relying on a compliant elite media not to take him to task for doing so. (As blind as that elite media is, I wonder if even they could allow such a thing to happen. After all, as Dan Rather says, they're all really "common-sense moderates." Har-har.)

Is Kerry planning to coast his way into the White House? Here's what Fred Barnes has to say about that in the latest Weekly Standard. As always, Fred's take is thoughtful and interesting. He notes in the first paragraph of his piece, for example:

IS THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE John Kerry's to lose? After a successful
Democratic convention and an adequate but uninspiring acceptance speech, Kerry would never say so publicly. But that's what he and his advisers believe. Their theory is that the country has fundamentally made up its mind that President Bush shouldn't have a second term. After all, his reelect number--the share of the electorate that thinks he deserves another four years--is only 43 percent. So Bush would need almost all of the undecided vote to tilt his way, but normally they wind up voting two-to-one for the challenger. That's Kerry. Besides, political analyst Charlie Cook has studied the undecided and found them to be overwhelmingly anti-Bush. All Kerry has to do is make himself minimally acceptable.

Editor's Note: Indenting is supposed to stop here, but try as I might I cannot figure out how to turn it off. So the rest of this post is indented. I hope you all are having fun watching me learn how to do this.

Problem is, as much as I love Fred, I have been following his
prognostications since 1988 or before, when he was a famed yeller on the McLaughlin Group. (Remember them?) And I have never known Fred to be right. I don't intend that as a put-down of Fred, who is not alone in his errors; I can't think of any pundit who's ever correctly predicted the twists and turns of electoral behavior. (Bill Schneider of CNN has an even worse record, and he is more obnoxious because he delivers his predictions with such certainty.)

As Fred Barnes himself notes at the end of the same piece, ". . . I think the race is not Kerry's to lose but Bush's to win. But I've been wrong before."

Michael Moore: The Heart and Soul of Democrat Foreign Policy Thinking?

As for Mr. Moore, here is a pretty tough discussion of his role in the convention and in the Democrat party generally. It touches on the same basic question as Kaplan's piece: Just how honest (or dishonest) is the face Democrats and Kerry are putting on their foreign policy?

Finally, the Democratic Leadership Council, in a review of Dude, Where's My Country? has actually attacked Moore's dishonesty as an author and documentarian. (The DLC review does not comment on Farenheit 9/11, which had not been released when the review appeared).

Just when I thought the entire party was disgracing itself by buying into (or not denouncing) his slimy craft. Read the DLC review here. And here's an excerpt [what follows is also supposed to be indented; as to my inability to do that, see above]:

Is Michael Moore a courageous political documentarist who unmasks the chicanery all around us -- or just a charlatan in a clown suit? Is he an entertainment genius or a dangerous ideologue? The answer, of course, is all of the above. The problem is that you never know which of the four is doing the talking in Moore's movies and books. The end result is that the writer-filmmaker spreads a fog of misbegotten notions about America, politics, business, and international affairs among his youthful, left-leaning following at home and, indeed, around the world. Uninformed readers and viewers tend to believe everything he says.


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