Monday, July 26, 2004

Democratic Convention Day 1

Hmmm, yes there's been quite a bit of buzz about the blogging of the conventions and media at the conventions. I'm covering it from California (where I at least have the advantage that the convention day ends for me around 8PM PDT). So much is being said of this highly scripted event that I don't know whether my few words here can do much to add or subtract from the media's secret rituals. Perhaps most interesting were the pundits themselves, who found ample words to effectively say very little or nothing without offending anyone. Republican David Brooks of PBS, The New York Times and senior editor for the Weekly Standard, for example mentioned Fox News: "Democrats think they can win, but they fear Republicans have some awful power. Perhaps it is Fox News" or something like that. Perhaps that's what it is.

Clinton gave by far the best speech of the night. Its wonkish aspects were similar to what he has been saying these many years in places such as his Newshour Interview on Globalism: Bush wants to act unilaterally when he can and multilaterally only when he has to; the Democrats will act multilaterally when they can and unilaterally only when we as a nation have to. Clinton, as usual the master of substance, talked about substance and specific bills in his speech --- (Official Transcript) about how the Republican's protected "his" tax cut while cutting funding for NYC police, afterschool programs, vital container security at our nation's ports, &c.

Given the circumstances, he talked much more about Kerry in this particular speech: his military record; Kerry came from a privileged background, yet chose to serve in Vietnam, while many others from privileged backgrounds, like Bush and Clinton himself, chose to avoid that same service. He talked about how Kerry he performed well under remarkably difficult battle conditions. Kerry, as others pointed out tonight, was a serious man for serious times, who knew both how to fight terror and cooperate build a world with less terror. He urged delegates to "chose as the captain of our ship a brave good man who knows how to steer a vessel though troubled waters to the calm seas and clear skies of our more perfect union."

Clinton's anger in the speech at Bush for abusing the unity after September 11th is likely genuine. I had privilege of hearing Clinton speak in person shortly after 911 (he was globetrotting in those days doing nothing but giving impressive speeches). A very impressive speaker, Clinton expounded in great detail on various problems of the world, but most notably urged unity with the President in the face of 911: dangerous crises demanded strength through political unity.

As the pundits pointed out, it was a very good speech, and probably the best speech of the day, but it did not rise to "Quomo" status, whatever that is. (They were referring, of course, to a notably rousing convention speech made some years ago by then NY Gov. Mario Quomo, although I was unaware it was now a status to be attained as well.)

I have to come back to the pundits. I was much impressed by how much the "real" journalists at the convention can could say and yet simultaneously say very little or next to nothing. Given just how scripted political conventions are, the pundits were truly the most impressive part of the convention so far.