My first impression was of height. There was the veteran who led the Pledge, Hart and Kerry — lined up on stage in ascending order. Kerry towered over both men. As a colleague in the Department says, this could prove advantageous in the debates — if we are allowed to see the difference. I have doubts.
He was articulate; he’s not as stiff as Al Gore (thank goodness). His face lights up when he shares a genuine smile — as when he broke into a grin when seeing someone in the audience (former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA)?). We need to see that face more often, instead of the poker-faced, measured persona more often on view.
Early in his speech, Kerry referenced “weapons of mass murder” — a phrase that I think more accurately reflects the fear average citizens have about terrorist groups. However he returned to the standard WMD from that point forward.
He spent too much time, in my opinion, using the “rogue nuclear weapon” card. My notes show FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in the margin in the various references to nuclear weapons, which included a new call for nuclear containment.
Twice he labeled actions of the Bush Administration as “stubborn” — reinforcing this with a Naval anecdote about “staying the course.” (If you’re headed for the shoals, it’s time to adjust the rudder.)
He also quoted two Republican presidents but no Democrats: Teddy Roosevelt (“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”) and Abraham Lincoln (paraphrase: We cannot escape the judgment of history.). Is he trying, subtly, to illustrate just how far this Administration has strayed from party roots? For that, all you need do is look at an electoral map from 1896 and compare it with 2000. Either both parties have changed in 100+ years or voters have done a 180.
Near the close, he said, “If I am President….” when the stronger statement is “When I am President …” Why? Does he truly have the “fire in the belly” necessary to win? Hart seemed more passionate — and although I know, intellectually, that being a dynamic speaker is not a prereq to the White House (for illustration, see who is there now), my heart (soul?) yearns for the passion of the 60s. [For the record, I was too young, then, to know or care.]
It was my first Kerry speech. I was a Dean delegate to my Legislative District meeting, where Dean ranked second. I know that I need to get to know the candidate, and I want to like him. This speech moved me along both paths — but I’m still not convinced he can win.