DNC Day One – A Perspective

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Don’t kid yourself. Democrats are pissed. They really really really don’t like Bush. As many on the right have said, Dems dislike Bush more than they like Kerry. How true.

Last night’s festival in Boston was clearly an attempt to take that Bush negativity and channel it into Kerry positivity. This was most apparent in Al Gore’s speech, who reminded everybody of the 2000 election debacle, and blatently said to turn that anger into a movement to get Kerry re-elected. It was unsubtle Al, not at his fiery best, but passingly adequate.

But when all was said and done, last night remained an anti-Bush rally more than a pro-Kerry one. Although Kerry was highly praised, most movingly by a Vietnam crewmate of his, the Dems in the audience clearly responded with greater cheer to those comments directed at what was wrong with Bush, rather than what was right about Kerry.

Although the speakers were supposedly told to "play nice", the attacks on Bush were incindiary. It’s just that you often didn’t NOTICE it. Jimmy Carter could have called Bush a "rat-bastard whore", and due to his buttery-soft wilty Southern drawl, it wouldn’t have sounded like a huge attack. But attack Carter did. And although he didn’t go so far as to call Bush a "whore", much of what he said about Bush was simply electrifying. Carried more by his gravitas as a human rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner (rather than as a fair-to-middling President), Carter called Bush’s foreign policy "extremist", and come as close to calling Bush an outright liar as a Southern genteel-man could. It was, in its way, the most engaging speech of the night. Best line:

"The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of pre-emptive war."

Bam! One wonders how those words would have sounded coming from, say, Howard Dean.

Then came the Big Dawg, introduced by his wife . . .

Bill Clinton, as a speaker, always has the "it" factor. The "it" factor is that unidentifiable quality — sort of charisma, but not really; sort of charm, but not really; sort of snake oil salesman, but not really. Whatever "it" is, Dems really love it and Republicans really hate it. And last night, Clinton was dripping with "it".

I’ve often found Clinton’s "it" to be a distraction. I sometimes get too caught up in his presentation and mannerisms to actually let sink in what he is actually saying. I’m glued to him, but I’m not necessarily with him. For me, listening to a Clinton speech is like going on a long rollercoaster ride — parts of it are really good, but some parts of it are merely transitions where I wonder gee-what-is-to-come-next. Last night’s speech was like that.

But Clinton’s attacks on Bush were also quite forceful, albeit more subtle than Carter. Take his best line, which was possibly the best line of the whole evening:

"Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

Everyone in that hall knew what Clinton was saying. You see, nobody is arguing that Bush lacks strength — therefore, what Clinton was saying was that Bush lacks wisdom. Or, put more bluntly, Bush is strong and stupid, whereas Kerry will be strong and wise.

Anyway, the show (yes, it is just a show) tonight will be the losers of the Democratic race, all of whom (we presume) will punch the same themes. And Theresa "Shove It" Kerry. For me though, the man to watch is keynote speaker, Baruch Obama. For many of you, this will be the first time you see him. Pay close attention — he will be your President one day.

P.S. Much ado has been made about bloggers being allowed to blog from the convention, and how revolutionary it all is, and how it is changing the fabric of the universe as we know it blah blah blah. But so far, these bloggers aren’t really saying much other than "Hey! We bloggers are at the convention and look how revolutionary it all is, and how it is changing the fabric of the universe as we know it blah blah blah blah blah blah". So far, I’m not impressed. It seems like much of the blogging community is obsessed with the blogging community, rather than, you know, on the world around them. Tch-tch.