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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Politics: What Can You Say? 

There's just no denying how effective Bill Clinton is at communicating his message. Last night's address to the DNC proved that yet again.

Clinton jumped on board the "Two America's" train that Kerry/Edwards has apparently decided will be the running theme of the campaign, and he ran with it in a manner that neither Kerry nor Edwards could ever hope to match.

I can't stand the guy, but he exudes charisma, and when he speaks, people pay attention. Several points that I thought particularly strong:

-His spiel about benefitting from the GOP tax cuts (I never thought I'd be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress. I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it) had the audience going.

-He was able to superficially appear cordial toward President Bush (we've got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their countries, but who have very different world views).

-He played up Kerry's military experience at his own expense (During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice president and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background. He could have avoided going too, but instead, he said: Send me).

Now I don't necessarily agree with all of that. Many of the audience members that cheered his line about the tax cuts were themselves beneficiaries of said cuts. And I don't care how self-deprecating the remark, Clinton has no grounds for assailing President Bush's service record. None. Still, it was effective rhetoric. These conventions are mainly stages for preaching to your choir, but I think Clinton's speech, at least in those areas, spoke to a lot of the undecideds out there.

That doesn't bother me. Though I disagree with 99% of the Democratic platform, I'll concede that they do make the occasional cogent point. However, several parts of Clinton's speech came close to infuriating me:

- His characterization of the Right (Republicans in Washington believe that American should be run by the right people ... in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to. They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power ... leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security) was textbook Democrat; play up sterotypes and create fear.

- Does he honestly think his record on terrorism was strong enough to criticize President Bush (we live in an interdependent world in which we cannot possibly kill, jail or occupy all of our potential adversaries. So we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists)

- He's apparently still upset about not speaking at President Reagan's funeral (Now, we tried it their way for 12 years. We tried it our way for eight years. Then we tried it their way for four more. But the only test that matters is whether people were better off when we finished than when we started. Our way works better).

Last I checked, trying it "their way for 12 years" led to the most significant Geo-political climate shift of the last century. And as far as building a world with more partners is concerned, our Coalition of the willing in Iraq really only lacked a handful of Western nations, and Saddam could have had an arsenal aimed in their direction and they still wouldn't have joined us. In the end it didn;t matter, because the most volatile area in the world today now has its second taste of Democracy. So I fail to see how their way "works better."

I also didn't like the way his "We chose to form a more perfect Union" ending created this impression that the Democratic Party was responsible for all of the sweeping change in America's past. But it was more fluff than substance, so I'll give him a pass.

The Kerry campaign had to have been giddy over Clinton's performance. He summed up their message better than Kerry or Edwards have even come close to doing. And as a staunch Bush supporter, I'm a little worried about the spark or momentum that the Democrats might have gained last night.

Fortunately Ted Kennedy headlines tonight, so I'm sure his partisan tomfoolery will erase at least some of the bump that Clinton created.


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