Here’s what struck me about Kerry’s speech: 1) Given the emphasis on a positive message emanating from this convention, Kerry took harder shots than I expected at Bush — but I thought his foreign policy critique hit home. I was obviously sympathetic to the line, “You will never be asked to fight a war without ...
Here's what struck me about Kerry's speech: 1) Given the emphasis on a positive message emanating from this convention, Kerry took harder shots than I expected at Bush -- but I thought his foreign policy critique hit home. I was obviously sympathetic to the line, "You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace." This is the section that the Bush team will have to rebut:
Here’s what struck me about Kerry’s speech: 1) Given the emphasis on a positive message emanating from this convention, Kerry took harder shots than I expected at Bush — but I thought his foreign policy critique hit home. I was obviously sympathetic to the line, “You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.” This is the section that the Bush team will have to rebut:
Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn’t make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn’t make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn’t make it so. As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system – so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as President, I will bring back this nation’s time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.
2) At one point, Kerry said, “I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities – and I do – because some issues just aren’t all that simple.” Funny, then, that his comments on outsourcing seemed completely simplistic and devoid of facts. And yes, I saw Bob Rubin strategically placed next to Theresa, but I really would have liked a camera to have caught his reaction to those sections of the speech. 3) I was underwhelmed with his delivery. He seemed uncomfortable with the teleprompter — it reminded me of Bush’s speech immediately after Gore conceded. 4) The part of the speech when Kerry seemed the most engaged was when he talked about the sixties generation changing the world. That’s great, but I’m not sure how it applies now. 5) The articulation of Kerry’s “liberal hawk position seemed to me as the most fleshed-out part of the speech:
As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower. In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals. We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared. We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation – to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world. We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn’t belong to fear; it belongs to freedom. And the front lines of this battle are not just far away – they’re right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9-11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9-11 families. As President, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn’t be letting ninety-five percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn’t be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.
The line, “I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation – not the Saudi royal family.” was also pretty shrewd. This section papers over some tricky foreign policy tradeoffs, like exactly how he would get our allies to contribute to Iraq, but I will say this — the speech convinced me that Kerry gets the fact that this election is about foreign policy and the war on terror.
So where do I stand on the fence? I promised Tyler Cowen I’d start assigning a probability of which side of the fence I’d land. At this point, if p = (probability of voting for Kerry), then my p = .54. THE MORNING AFTER: James Joyner has a nice collection of links. Matthew Yglesias is just as pissed as I am about Kerry’s crap rhetoric on outsourcing — Robert Tagorda even more so. Robert Hochman was thoroughly underwhelmed — Virginia Postrel even more so. The parts of Kerry’s speech that appealed to me were the parts that made the same criticisms of the Bush administration that I’ve made in the past. I can’t say the speech made me want to vote for Kerry anymore than I did before the speech — but those sections reminded me why I’m not too thrilled with the Bush administration at the moment. LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan seems to be channeling me this week — or vice versa, as he makes a similar point about Kerry’s speech:
The power of the speech, reflected in a deafening series of ovations that consumed the FleetCenter tonight, came not from Kerry’s biography or the themes he brought to the campaign two years ago. It came from his expression of widespread, pent-up outrage at the offenses of the Bush administration…. In his determination to unite the right, Bush hasn’t just united the left. He has lost the center. Look at last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll of registered voters. “Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq or not?” Fifty-nine percent say it was not. “Which do you think is a better way to improve the national economy—cutting taxes or reducing the federal budget deficit?” Fifty-eight percent say reducing the deficit. “When it comes to regulating the environmental and safety practices of business, do you think the federal government is doing enough, should it do more, or should it do less?” Fifty-nine percent say more. One more Bush voter on the right, balanced by one more Kerry voter on the left, plus the tilting of one more voter in the middle toward Kerry, is a net loss for the president. That’s the lesson of this administration, this election, and this convention. Kerry doesn’t have to write any good lines. He just has to read them.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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