John Kerry’s Convention Speech

I watched the speech in a somewhat noisy bar last night, so admit that I wasn’t in the ideal setting to soak it up. But Matthew Yglesias pretty much sums up my reaction: “I thought it was crap.” Granted, Matt thought so for entirely different reasons than I did.

Like the John Edwards speech the previous evening, this was almost entirely strung together bits from his standard stump speech. While it’s true that idiots undecided voters pay much less attention to the campaign as it unfolds than myself or my readers, thus making some of this “new” to them, it was tired. Acceptance speeches typically have quite a bit of new material and some soaring rhetoric. This was, at best, an incredibly pedestrian stump speech.

The opening salute with “reporting for duty” was lame beyond words. Jay Severin, interviewed on the Don Imus show this morning, observed that it was more “Village People” than “John Wayne.” I must concur. Not only was it incredibly hokey but it was one of the most half-hearted, limp wristed salutes of all time. Didn’t the Navy teach the man how to render a hand salute?

Photo courtesy VodkaPundit via TankGirl

Plus, while I get that he’s apparently basing his entire campaign on the facts that 1) he went to Vietnam and 2) he’s not George W. Bush, I’m constantly bemused that a man who has been in the public spotlight for thirty-odd years wants us to think that he left Vietnam and suddenly emerged last week wanting to be president. His entire political career has been elided for the purposes of the campaign. I honestly can’t recall a presidential nominee who didn’t point to any achievements from his adult career.

Others commenting:

  • Kevin Aylward compiles a list of key words.
  • Andrew Sullivan: “What an arrogant jerk.” and “[H]e is a deeply unlikable guy: arrogant, dull, pompous, mannered, self-righteous.”
  • Black-5 reminds us about John Kerry’s “Missing Years.”
  • Michael J. Totten: “There has got to be some buyer’s remorse in the Democratic Party right now. “
  • Stephen Green: “Man, they didn’t let me get away with salutes that sloppy in high school.”
  • Rob Tagorda is unimpressed by the protectionist pandering.
  • Bill Hobbs: “John Kerry doesn’t want to fight the War on Terror to win. He wants to play defense. That approach got 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11”
  • Michele Catalano: “For a candidate that stresses he wants to be a uniter, not a divider, he sure did a lot of divisive speaking last night. “
  • Bryan S.: “The ‘reporting for duty’ line got a chorus of groans in the newsroom I was in.”
  • Matt Welch has a roundup of the assembled glitterati.
  • Sean Hackbarth is reminded of the Superfriends.
  • Steven Taylor notes that several parts of the speech were “pilfered” and that the salute was “more evocative of Gilligan than it was of the Commander in Chief.”
  • Kevin Drum: “Overall, though, it was at the high end of workmanlike and did what it had to do.”
  • Dan Drezner offers a nuanced assessment of the speech.
  • Michelle Malkin: “Teresa helped write the speech.”
  • Hugh Hewitt: “The promises of a few minutes cannot overcome a record of thirty years.”
  • Glenn Reynolds has his own roundup and crashed his server letting people live-blog the event in his comments section.

Of course, he “Did what he had to do.” Which, I suppose, was deliver a speech so the convention would finally be over.

Update (1038): RealClear Politics, as usual, has an excellent collection of links to Big Media op-eds for the day. Not surprisingly, most deal with the speech. Most dealt with process rather than substance.

  • Thomas Sowell: “If we were fighting the Vietnam war over again, nobody would deny Kerry’s qualifications for being an officer in that war. But that is not the job he is seeking this election year.”
  • John Podhoretz: “John Kerry met and exceeded the task of demonstrating that he was flesh and blood and sinew and not just an animatronic robot that had somehow escaped from Disney World and become a major American political figure.”
  • Tom Oliphant: “Desperate to stay within the broadcast networks’ paltry 60 minutes, Kerry stepped on his best thoughts and lines and blurred important proposals and distinctions, committing the sin of interfering with his own ability to communicate with an electorate eager to learn much more about President Bush’s opponent.”
  • Chris Suellentrop: “Eight losers helped John Kerry write his acceptance speech.”
  • Lawrence Kaplan questions the utility of bandying the war record, noting Bob Dole, George McGovern, and other candidates who tried and failed.
  • Jonah Goldberg: “This theme plays out over and over again in his biography, most famously in his record as both a decorated veteran and demagogic anti-war activist. He was for the Vietnam War before he was against it. In Kerry’s world, squares can be circles, straight lines crooked, cats dogs. To borrow from the immortal Yogi Berra, when Kerry comes to a fork in the road, he takes it.”
  • Debra Saunders: “They should have picked Dean.”

Clearly, the assembled delegates would have preferred Dean. Despite most of them being hand-picked Kerry supporters, they appeared to be bored out of their minds the whole time.

Update (1123): Steven Taylor has yet another Toast-o-Meter supplement, including a roundup of the big paper editorial pages. They weren’t too impressed, either.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Now you see- THIS is the high quality post, I’ve come to expect from you…. I guess you get a pass for drinking beer last night. 😉

    geeze if I guy wants to be THAT demanding he oughta pay ya or something.

  2. Joseph Marshall says:

    “While it’s true that idiots undecided voters pay much less attention to the campaign as it unfolds than myself or my readers, thus making some of this “new” to them, it was tired.”

    Well, James, we can but hope that Karl Rove has the same attitude toward undecided voters that you do, and is willing to make it as clear as you are.

    As for me, I’ll be on the phone banks this Saturday encouraging people to register, and I’m looking forward to some of my fellow Deaniacs from the Ohio delegation being there too. And I’ll be there in November, as well, doing poll judging and keeping the election fair and free.

    I do truly wonder how many of the armchair politicians I see on these blogs will be doing the same things.

    After all, its those same undecided voters that will make the real difference in who wins this election. Everybody who was in Boston will now be knocking on their doors, countrywide.

    Do you think Karl will have found George anything to say to them, or about them?

  3. McGehee says:

    John Podhoretz: “John Kerry met and exceeded the task of demonstrating that he was flesh and blood and sinew and not just an animatronic robot

    True — the robot would have managed a better salute.

  4. Aakash says:

    I didn’t watch the Democrats’ convention… Perhaps I should have. And watching the Republican National Convention might be too painful (and I am saying that as a conservative Republican). The last Republican national convention that was enjoyable and uplifting would be the one in 1996. The 1992 convention was superb. At the last Republican convention, they locked all the true-blue conservatives in the basement, and at this year’s, they just might do the same thing… they’ll probably be emphasizing the Iraq war and the globalist foreign policy of this administration, while ignoring the major criticisms and concerns that conservatives have been expressing with respect to the policies of the Bush White House – on fiscal, economic, social, and foreign policy issues. It is very disappointing… the choices we are faced with year after year.