Can you believe I haven’t even gotten to Kerry’s speech yet? To hell with Joe Biden, and Kerry’s witless daughters with their toe-curling, wince-inducing "mouth-to-mouth on a hamster" anecdote in one breath and "our dad will protect the right to kill babies" sniff in the next (That vermin-kissing image will be as tough to live down as the sperm suit pic – just watch this
). Let’s get this over with.
First, the big picture. The biographical video was an undeniably brilliant piece of propaganda, slickly narrated by Morgan Freeman and produced by no less than Steven Speilberg, playing up what is pretty much Kerry’s only real strength – the highly selective account of his service in Vietnam. And ex-Senator Max Cleland was apparently sedated with the same meds as Al Gore and Howard Dean, and managed to both rein in his Bushophobia and give Mr. French a strong introduction. Problem is, the nation didn’t see either one because neither was included on the prime-time network broadcast
. The only thing the small portion of voters saw when they tuned in was Kerry himself, standing there, rambling through his speech like a trap door was scheduled to open beneath him, looking and sounding anxious and nervous, and by the end sweating worse than Nixon ever did.
Oddly enough, it’s not difficult for me to understand why. I think Kerry fell prey to the same thing most of us do at a big moment when we’re the center of attention: he realized where he was and what he had to do. Consequently, rather than simply delivering his speech, he tried
to deliver his speech, and the two are very, very different. In the latter you don’t just recite the text as it rolls by on the teleprompter, you are thinking about six different aspects of it at the same time – how to regulate your cadence, vary your pace and inflection, listening to how you sound to yourself as you’re speaking. It’s pure self-distraction and can make a speaker lose focus and concentration very easily. Furthermore, if you feel like you’re failing or losing momentum, or if you stumble over a word or two, the distraction magnifies rapidly, and that’s when you’re apt to start sweating, with a profusity proportional to your sinking feeling. And if you’re as conceited as Kerry is, falling short of your own self-expectations can be panic-inducing. I mean, after all, it’s George Bush who is supposed to be inarticulate, not the Beacon Hill Brahmin.
That having been said, I will simply return to what I said earlier in the week: I didn’t think Kerry would bomb, but I didn’t think he’d blow anybody away either. Given what he is – a pedantic, pompous, unbearable bore – he simply wasn’t going to make anybody forget Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, or John Edwards on the previous three nights. Again, the contrast with Clinton is highly instructive, because Kerry is quite evidently trying to follow in his tactical footsteps. Snowing a crowd of people is what Mr. Bill was born to do – for him it’s an involuntary reflex, like breathing – he doesn’t have to think about it because it just comes naturally. For Kerry…let’s just say that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
That is particularly so given the sheer magnitude of the deceptive challenge that confronts him. He’s got to convince people that the nominee of a party that is completely out of step with the values of four-fifths of the American public understands and embraces homespun Americanism rather than the counterculture depravity of Hollywood. He’s got to convince Main Street America that the richest man ever to seek the presidency on a major party ticket – that’s billionaire with a "b" – and who grew up as a perfumed prince in the privileged parlors of Northeastern aristocracy somehow understands the voters’ puny, pathetic, miserable little lives, and doesn’t really consider them to be little vermin on a par with "Licorice, the unlucky hamster." And most of all, he’s got to convince a post-9/11 electorate that a one-time pro-communist demonstrator, Michael Dukakis’ lieutenant-governor, and one of the most anti-defense, anti-intelligence, knuckleheadedly pacifistic legislators of the past two decades, who has weebled and wobbled all over the place on the war on terror in general, and Iraq in particular
, is a credible commander-in-chief who will unhesitatingly defend Americans against a vicious, remorseless enemy that wants to kill us by the millions
. And all of this at the same time as keeping his restless base simultaneously intact and under wraps.
Even for Bill Clinton, this would be a tall task. For John Kerry it scarcely even seems possible. And his speech reflected that reality.
Out he came, to the obligatory wild applause and cheering (is it any wonder that the bulk of Hollywood is Democrats?), and the first thing he did upon reaching the podium was sketch a salute and say, "My name is John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." This was really, really goofy. It was like since they couldn't find a swiftboat to plunk down right in the middle of the delegates to jack-hammer the Rambo image into spin overkill, they settled for this gratuitous GI Joe imagery instead. They've overdone that so much it's difficult to remember that Lurch is running for president instead of Generalissimo.
And yet only about ten percent of the speech was actually devoted to foreign policy. He used the word "terrorist" only three times. He never uttered "terrorism," or Saddam Hussein, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, or al Qaeda. Ditto "liberation." Iraq was mentioned only three times, and one of those was to insert a "Bush lied about WMDs" jab.
He did, however, insert the word "strength" and its variations into about every other sentence. Which helps explain why so many of the analyses of this address focus so heavily on its foreign policy aspects.
This tells me a number of things.
 Kerry has no signature issue or reason to advance for why he should be president instead of George Bush.
 The reasons for that have heretofore been Kerry's inherently cautious nature and the Dem perception that Americans now hate Bush so much that he doesn't need one.
 With the transfer of sovereignty reducing Iraq as an issue, and with the reports from the 9/11 commission, Senate Intelligence Committee, and Britain's Lord Butler debunking the rabid left-wing charges that the President "lied" to get the country into an "unnecessary" war, Democrats have calculated that Bush-hatred won't be enough to overcome their inherent disadvantage on national security, and the public has not sufficiently reverted to a 9/10 mindset for a Warren Harding-style "normalcy" gambit to be workable. So they decided, once again, to mount a frontal assault on Bush's core strength, this time by trying to put over Kerry as a "smarter" and "stronger" anti-terror warrior based solely upon his four-months put-putting around the Mekong Delta.
This is a serious, and quite likely fatal, mistake. And the proof of it is in the details of Kerry's own remarks.
The world tonight is very different from the world of four years ago. We are a nation at war — a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have known before.
That's true, as far as it goes. But Kerry did not say in what ways the world is different. Nor did he even bother to define the nature of this war and point out how this "enemy" is unprecedentedly unique, its implacability, its bloodthirstiness, its relentlessness, the impossibility of negotiating or reaching a compromise with it. The pronouncement was nothing but pandering, empty sloganeering for which he went on to obliquely hint at pre-9/11 solutions that have already failed.
Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.
IOW, hundreds or thousands or even millions more American civilians have to die before he'll do anything about it. And notice the qualification? Just how high is his "required" bar? He answered that with this:
I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence...I will reform our intelligence services so that policy is guided by facts.
But when it comes to terrorism, "hard questions" don't necessarily produce "hard evidence," and intelligence rarely yields more than probabilities based upon information that almost by definition is incomplete. Usually, such certitude becomes available only after an attack, which means a president has to make decisions about war based upon his own personal and political judgment.
In other words, there is no risk-free maneuver. Presidents oftentimes don't get to choose between a right and a wrong. They have to choose between a wrong and a wrong. Or a bad and a worse. And sometimes there's no choice at all. If John Kerry can't even acknowledge that, he shouldn't be seeking the job.
How much confidence can we have in his "swift and certain response"? A hint at specificity can be found in the next tidbit:
We need to build our alliances, so that we can get the terrorists before they get us.
But alliances did nothing to prevent the rise of al Qaeda, and those same alliances are strained now precisely because George Bush resolved to "get the terrorists before they get us." That resolve is considered by some of our "allies" as being more dangerous than the enemy that is resolved to destroy us. And even if Kerry shared that resolve, it would last only through the first meeting with Black Jacques Chirac and Gerhardt Schroeder, after which Mr. French would beat a hasty retreat.
Which gives the lie to this outrageous nugget of pandering:
I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.
Of course he will. His entire political career has been centered on subordinating American sovereignty to the United Nations. As a pro-Hanoi agitator he once went so far as to declare that the United States should not take any military action without UN permission. Nothing in his overpoweringly dovish career since indicates a deviation from that extreme view. And as we've seen, his overriding priority on "rebuilding alliances" would make this pledge impossible to keep.
I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go into battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way...I will make sure that America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to; and that we never have to go it alone in the world.
This is a recipe for paralysis. It’s the words of a man who will never send a son or daughter "into harm’s way" because his chief priority is not to defend the country, but to do everything possible to avoid such tough decisions, and then resort to irrational delusions and futile wishful thinking (e.g. his fantasy that he can convince "our allies" to do most or all of our fighting for us) to keep justifying that inaction. It as much as says that there would never be a war that Kerry would deem inescapable, including the current one, which is what his "I’ll be smarter and more thoughtful" line really means. Kind of makes Jimmy Carter's appearance at this convention all the more ominous, doesn't it?
Can we even count on Kerry's supposed commitment to seeing the Iraq mission through to a successful conclusion? This passage casts that into considerable doubt:
You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.
The Bush Administration had a plan to win the peace. Its biggest flaw appears to be that it wasn't clairvoyantly perfect.
But no one ever enters a war with a precise plan for peace. President Lincoln didn't; neither did FDR. Should they have hesitated and hemmed and hawed while the country crumbled around them until their crystal balls were ready? What "plan for peace" could any president offer before committing American troops to combat in the war against terrorism? That just isn't the way war works. The first priority has to be to winning the war first. Otherwise there won't be a peace to plan for.
Perhaps the most disturbing portion of this speech was when Kerry nonchalantly said of the nuclear build-up by North Korea and Iran:
We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation.
That was it. Just this one throwaway afterthought of a sentence.
Well, we already are leading a "global effort against nuclear proliferation," and via the "multilateralist" approach Kerry favors. And Pyongyang refuses to give up its warheads and stop making more, and Iran has once again thumbed its nose at the International Atomic Energy Agency and resumed its production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel.
North Korea has nukes, thanks to past Kerryite foreign policy. Iran is on the brink of obtaining them. Iran; terrorism central, will have nuclear weapons as early as next year
. And al Qaeda, by some reports, already has them deployed in several American cities
, just waiting for the right moment to set them off.
And John Kerry yawns, complacently sits back and demands "absolute proof" of these things before he'll even consider taking action.
He apparently believes that it is possible to wage risk-free, error-free, surprise-free war; that only he has the vast intellect to do so; and that short of those thresholds America should never wage war, period. And that suggests the possibility that a Kerry administration will withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan precisly because they have not been perfectly stabilized and democratized.
And yet the central point of Kerry's address, and now his candidacy, is that he can and will be a "stronger" war leader than George W. Bush.
Democrats couldn't have made the Boston Balker a bigger or easier target. And they appear to realize it, judging by Kerry's "put an axe through your picture tube" moment:
In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another. . . . The high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks.
Yep, just wave the magic wand and make the past three and a half years of acrimony, animosity, annoyance, antagonism, conniptions, dander, disapprobation, displeasure, distemper, enmity, exasperation, fury, gall, hatred, huff, ill humor, ill temper, impatience, indignation, infuriation, irascibility, ire, irritability, irritation, madness, miffedness, outrage, passion, peevishness, petulance, pique, rage, rankling, resentment, sturm und drang
, tantrums, temper, tiffs, umbrage, vexation, and verbal violence disappear.
"Even though I’ve called you a liar and a crook and a warmonger repeatedly in this very speech, just ignore it, because if you don’t, I’ll call you a bomb-thrower and divider as well. Oh, right, I already did that, too. Well, the truth shall bring us together, if only to deport you and your digital brownshirts once and for all."