Midsummer Classic?

Readers rate John Kerry’s acceptance speech.

How did John Kerry do? Let’s ask zinya, who has long been the most expressive advocate for Kerry on the Fray. In response to a thread headed by QuiTam here, zinya declares:

What matters in a speech like this is the gestalt of it… and the gestalt of it was indeed 5 stars, QT … “my guy” (well, okay, Teresa’s guy :) did us all wonderfully well tonight with such uplifting vision of social and moral purpose, turning our backs decidedly on the dark intrigues of fear and backroom corruption – with his well-toned checkmarks against the Halliburton and Enron tribe – but only as pinpointed counterings which dramatized JUST how much Kerry is the leader of hope and help and vision and honor.

I’m one thrilled supporter!
Kerry partisans may be delighted but DamnRight reminds us:
You’re already in his camp; therefore, it doesn’t matter that you found the speech moving and wonderful and just what you wanted to hear. What’s important to Kerry and his campaign staff is, what does someone like me, an undecided conservative voter in New Hampshire, think about his speech?
Did Kerry’s message hit with the Fray’s demographically ideal swing voter? Click here to find out. How did Kerry’s words do with the Nader audience? Yasfort,who confesses that “Ralph Nader was getting my vote providing he was on the ballot,” was swayed by Kerry and the other speeches at the convention:
those who are not connected, who haven’t inherited fortunes, who live by our paychecks and our efforts and our optimism that our country is, indeed, the land of opportunity, need people on the inside. I believe that the words I’ve heard from these people come from their heads and their hearts without code or artifice and that’s why I’m voting for the Democrats in November. Sorry, Ralph.
Was the Democrats’ strategy to stay above the fray all week merely an attempt to allow Kerry a broadside whack at the piñata? Over in Ballot Box Fray, Both The_Bell here and Poindexter think so:
All week long–with a pre-prime time digression from Rev. Sharpton–the Dem speakers who would normally be expected to pillar the prez kept the anti-BUSH rhetoric in check. That was allegedly the script. Don’t be negative. Stay on message. Even Edwards, who in the traditional role of VP nominee should have been serving up the red meat so that Kerry could appear relatively “presidential,” came across like an alterboy. By the end of the week, the delegates’ underlying rage and their frustration at not having been given a meaningful outlet for it was palpable. Then along came Kerry to tell them what they wanted to hear all along and their raucous reaction made his heavily partisan remarks come across as more a sincere expression of what needed to be said … And it made Kerry appear to be the only one in all of Beantown with the courage to note that the emperor has no clothes, just what a northeastern liberal needed to do to undermine the stereotype.
What about the substance? Modicum gave the speech a listen and found that…
His budgetary agenda can be lumped into three broad categories and one of them has to give: (1) raise taxes on corporations and the rich while cutting taxes on the middle class; (2) implement or increase funding for a plethora of social programs; and (3) implement pay-as-you-go spending limits to halve the deficit. There isn’t a deep enough well of tax increases for the rich and corporations, without bringing down growth, to pay both for middle class tax cuts and the long list of social programs, so one of these three has to give in order to have the other two. Kerry has left the door as wide open to criticism on this score as Bush has on foreign policy.This combination of economic and social platforms reads like old-school, big-government Democrat platforms from way back before Clinton pulled the party more to the center. No Democratic presidential candidate has won with this kind of agenda since Johnson…
Did Kerry reclaim values, patriotism and integrity only to forfeit ground on domestic spending? Speak your mind here. Speaking of values and patriotism, zathras titles his post “John Kerry, Republican?” Here’s z:
After going four days with every speaker trying to avoid mentioning Republicans leaders by name, the Democrats practically fell over themselves trying to imitate them.

The most obvious thing they did was write out for John Kerry a call and response thing that copied Dick Cheney’s speech at the GOP convention four years ago. “Help is on the way,” Cheney told a military community supposedly neglected by Bill Clinton’s Democrats…More than the rhetoric of some convention speakers (I can just imagine some terrorist watching John Edwards say “we will destroy you” and thinking to himself “How about this? I’m having my life threatened by Richie Cunningham”) all the flags and the veterans in full and partial uniform don’t just visually resemble the images of the last several Republican conventions. The images send a message about Democratic values aimed at obscuring the message sent by Democratic positions on issues.
Betty_the_Crow offers a response to z here on the Democrats’ longstanding “‘soft of defense’ rap.” … KA8:40 a.m.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Johnny Feelgood: Here’s zinya on Edwards’ speech…and media response:

As I wrote last weekend in a post, I predicted that the insipid media ‘report’ just a week ago – namely that John Edwards had supposedly been “compromised” upon joining the ticket and had “dropped” his signature Two Americas speech – was just one more lame pathetic media tabloidism grounded in Drudge-Report quality “research” …

Well, sure enough, the speech was exactly his signature speech decrying our Two Americas and calling for a One America system of justice and opportunity …

But, foiled again, I suppose, cuz their effort to cast Edwards as somehow having sold out – but then, lo and behold, he hasn’t “sold out” on his message one whit… SO what do they turn to? Mark Shields, who’s plummeting by the day in his astuteness, bemoans that Edwards sounded like the 20 other Edwards speeches that Shields had already heard (well, who gives a shit whether it was “old news” to you, Mark – the inverse of course of the very thing the media had claimed a week ago, that the familiar speech and message was going to be swept away) and then David Brooks chimes in similarly … bemoaning the Edwards supposedly “rushed” his delivery, Brooks couldn’t stop beefing that Edwards had talked over some of the applause to keep building a momentum instead of languishing in applause, as Brooks wanted him to have done. THIS – THIS – is the basis by which pundits choose to find fault??
In the same thread, run75441 offers this in response to Edwards’ policy proposals. And The_Bell writes:
It occurs to me as I watch Edwards come out to a big ovation that he faces two daunting challenges. First, tonight’s theme centers around defense and homeland security and these are not supposed to be his strong points. Second, Edwards has to play against his natural strength – his charisma – and must figure out the exact extent which to do so.
Did Edwards overcome these two potential pitfalls? Read The_Bell’s stellar DNC Night 3 analysis.  Meanwhile, Demosthenes2 has been scooping out the Fray during the DNC and has determined that “those who were already in the Kerry camp are more firmly there and excited, but that the elusive moderate swing votes remain as yet unaffected, hence the importance of tonight’s speech.” The Subtext: Among those who weren’t taken in by Edwards is baltimore-aureole who fills in the subtext of his speech here:
“I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina. My father worked in a mill all his life, and I will never forget the men and women who worked with him. They had lint in their hair and grease on their faces.” (and i said - this sucks. i want a desk job in an air conditioned office)…

“We shouldn’t have 2 public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else.” (wait! i meant to say public schools are just fine - there’s no problem. did i just lose the NEA endorsement? i’m still against vouchers, you know. come back …)
Krytezer isn’t quite so cynical, but found Edwards…
very affected in a way that may even surpass the fabled emotive abilities of Bill Clinton, which were most recently on dispay in his Monday night convention speech…For better or worse, such affectation has become a mainstay as presidents have to be excellent salesmen because politics is all about persuasion, a skill that Edwards has honed through years of practice. He empathizes with people, and conveys a winsome personality to win others over to his causes, first in the courtroom and now in the court of public opinion.

Throughout the speech, he struck the right tone in an upbeat way, with emphasis on the economy, values, family, and responsibility. The Democrats must emphasize these issues because they cannot win on national security or as the protest vote of those disenchanted with Iraq…
To spar with Krytezer, click here.The Main Event: So how important is Kerry’s speech tonight? Here’s appolonious:
John Kerry has it in his hands to shape the world from this night; if he has the force in his heart to make it so. We shall see if inspiration has found it’s way into the text that I do not doubt he is speaking this very minute into a mirror or a digicam.

We shall see if inspiration has found its way into John Kerry so that the words will leap rather from his heart than from the paper or the memory. Let us hope that the words have been shaped as near to the core of Kerry as they might come, so that he, as himself, can light the room and inspire so many who wait now in trepidation on uncertain ground.

I do not think there is a more important speech to be given. Aside from the debates, which will have many a hidden control, this is it. This is ‘showtime’. The speech is important not just for the Democrats and for those whose hopes are of a kind. It is important to the whole world. It is important to everyone who knows where we may find ourselves otherwise and wishes not to go.
While JimmytheCelt is squarely in the Kerry camp, he’s clearly had enough:
I hate the whole damn convention. I watch a lot of it because of the Pavlovian bell that sounds every four years. It’s a habit born of youth. Conventions used to be unrehearsed, less controlled, sometimes dramatic, and often wackily entertaining. Not any more. When the sea of “Hope Is on the Way” signs emerged mid-speech, right after Edwards begin his own Hope Is on the Way litany, I wanted to puke.
Console Jimmy here.  Best post of the Convention that’s only tangentially Conventionish? Fritz_Gerlich’s “Where have you gone, Marshall McLuhan?” Perhaps he’s still hiding out in movie theatres lobbies on the Upper West Side, ready to pounce on Columbia profs who would misappropriate his work … KA3:25 p.m.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Convention Analysis: The tour of the Fray begins with The_Bell here. After walking us through the convention’s first night, he offers up this report:

Do the Democrats succeed at acquainting us with Kerry’s and Edwards’s Plan? No, not in any real details. Do they succeed in convincing us that whatever the Plan is exactly, it is different from that of the GOP—at least in values? Yes, I think they do somewhat. Do they succeed at avoiding negatives? Yes, definitely. They manage to lay forth what they see as real problems without unduly pointing fingers and—perhaps more importantly—without seeming unduly pessimistic. The whole evening for me was summed up during a floor interview with a delegate from Massachusetts, who said, “I am proud of my fellow Americans. I want to be as proud of America as I am of Americans.”
Both baltimore-auerole here and Publius want to hear more. Pub feels that there was “one striking omission” at the podium last night:
the speakers barely mentioned the war. Ok, the WARs, if you prefer to regard Iraq as a separate matter from the war against al Qaeda and Islamist extremism. Even in the somber 9/11 tribute at 10:00 PM, no one bothered to mention that these people were murdered or that this was the worst attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.
Is this intentional on Kerry’s part? Click here to read Pub’s full post. So far as sounding a positive tone, Mike_Murray wasn’t taken in. MM writes that “Passive Aggressive isn’t positive.” His theory:
Don’t get me wrong, I think Bush’s record is fair game and a comparison approach valid. It is just not what we were told was going to occur. …

I honestly believe they just can’t help it—the animosity runs too deep. The interesting thing is that by and large the media seem to be buying that this is a positive message. Their definitions must be a little different from mine.
Is it possible for a challenger run an exclusively positive campaign? Respond to MM here. Common Boston: Here, MonsterDog appreciated Timothy Noah’s homage to his father’s Boston. MonsterDog waxes nostalgic:
I grew up in a place where you didn’t order a “venti Colombian half-caf”, you ordered a “lahge coffee.” You didn’t go to Krispy Kreme or a specialty bakery for your breakfast pastry, you went to Dunkin Donuts for a chocolate honey-dipped. You went to the places your father went to, did the things your father did, and took comfort in the continuity of life.
And get this …
it was the Seattle of the 1970s when it came to rock music. Aerosmith, the J. Geils Band, the Cars, and of course Tom Scholz’s band named for the city itself; all left an indelible mark that can still be heard on Boston’s classic rock radio stations.
Fray Editor will dial up Candy-O on the iPod for his midmorning troll through the Fray … KA 9:00 a.m.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Let Sloganeering Be Sloganeering: Republicans may argue that by retaining Bob Shrum to help craft his message, John Kerry already has one Stalinist on the payroll. In response to Timothy Noah, who takes umbrage at Kerry’s selection of Langston Hughes’ Stalinist-tinged poem “Let America be America Again” as his marquee message, JLF reminds us that the Pledge of Allegiance was “a screed hastily written by a socialist who was peddling flags door to door.” JLF continues:

Like most poetry, the words have meaning for the reader quite independently of what the author may or may not have intended. I’m sure no one (lestwise no reasonable person) believes Kerry is attempting a subliminal indoctrination of Stalinist ideology. Tim needs to get a grip.
Is appropriation of text without its underlying message smart politics? You decide here. The Gemini Twins: Was the New YorkTimes out of line in slapping cocktail party chatter on Page One? Here’s gthomson’s take on Cheney gossip run amok:
The Cheney rumour refuses to die completely, perhaps because it is a way of talking around the real issue: Cheney is a terrible VP, but it is impossible for him to be dropped …With a VP like McCain or Powell (the latter possibility is as cracked as any given conspiracy theory), Bush would be adrift in a sea of vague justifications for a presidency that has stumbled from one disaster to another. Like Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, Bush and Cheney may rule alternately from Olympus and Hades, but they will at least rule together.
I suppose this makes Kerry and Edwards Idas and Lynceus? Critic’s Corner: Regular visitors of Poems Fray are familiar with its resident maven, MaryAnn. For those who aren’t, check out MaryAnn’s explanation of “Spring View” by 8th Century Chinese poet, Tu Fu. If that’s not your speed, head over to Movies Fray for the Queer Semiotics of Spiderman courtesy of Ang_Cho. Here’s a sample:
Then there’s the scene where Spiderman is forced to take an elevator to the top of building since his webs aren’t working. He must share the elevator with none other than the actor (Hal Sparks) from Queer as Folk who plays a gay comic book writer, who has a best selling queer comic that is being made into a Hollywood film …

And when he comments on Spiderman’s costume (“It looks uncomfortable”), Spiderman deadpans “I made it myself. It rides up in the crotch a little.”

I am not suggesting that Spiderman two is “a gay film.” I mean, there is nothing gay about swinging through the city in a lycra bodysuit by shooting sticky webs, is there? There is nothing gay about refusing the affections of a beautiful woman because you have another identity. There is nothing gay about being who you are destined to be, regardless of whatever the tabloids have to say about your behavior.

Well, on second thought, Spiderman2 is NOT a gay film. But there is definitely something queer going on.
For a more traditional explication of “standard Marvel Comic plot devices” in Spider-Man 2, check out Demosthenes2’s post here. And Splendid_IREny explores the DVD market this weekend with her unearthing of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three hereKA8:30 a.m.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Political Football: The summer prior to an election, everything in your diario from section A through section G is political grist for the mill—profanity on the Senate floor, mutations of the word “bush,” even the New York Yankees. In War Stories Fray, JackD wonders:  

Can Kerry campaign on the report? Up to a point but, in the final analysis, he needs to go beyond it to convince the voters that his administration will focus on the objective enemy, al Quaida, regardless of whether or not that implicates mistakes of both prior administrations. If he won’t go that far, out of concern for offending members of his own party, then he’ll have to rely on rejection of the Bush administration for its failures in the hope that firing the failed leader is a sufficient incentive to the electorate as opposed to convincing the electorate that he really can do better and will act in the interest of the country and not simply that of his party.
Publius has long been a critic of Slate’s Fred Kaplan, (“Show Me the Money: The 9/11 commission’s report is superb, but will it change anything?“) and spares nothing in his withering post from this morning, in which he assails Kaplan for having “only one point to make in all his columns: dump Bush.” Though he’s no big fan of the president, Pub writes:
as Harry Truman said in an insightful observation that should always be paired with his “buck stops here” approach, the President can easily presume that when he says, do this or do that, it will be done. But alas, more often than not, he finds out a month later that it has not been done. Federal bureaucracies—not least of which are the intelligence, military, foreign affairs and homeland security bureaucracies—pretty much run on auto-pilot. However much attention or “wisdom” the President may give to an issue, carrying out the overall policies he sets is a matter for tens of thousands or other people and how they are recruited, organized, managed, paid and held accountable matters a great deal. As a supposed expert on “war,” Kaplan should at least know that the President, whoever he or she may be, can decide, “Let’s invade Northwest Europe at the earliest possible date,” or “Let’s invade Afghanistan quickly” and then becomes as much a prisoner of the military’s actual capabilities as the rest of us. Even if President Kerry spends all his waking hours in the situation room managing counter-terror efforts personally, he and his wisdom will remain captive to IV, Pentagon and other capabilities (and he won’t get anything else done in the process).
Does Pub have point?  In an executive branch that has become increasingly decentralized, is it fair to lay the blame for systemic failures and inefficiency at the president’s feet?  For part two of Pub’s exegesis, click here.Federalism 101: There’s some really good stuff over in Jurisprudence Fray in response to Steve Chapman’s piece. The_Bell asks, “Who Are You Gonna Trust?“—the feds or the states. He finds Chapman’s view unnecessarily reductive, and fleshes out the discussion this way:
Paradoxical as it may seem, the intention of federalism is not for the national government to overrun the states. Rather it advocates multiple layers of government controlling the same land and citizens. Not only states but also city, county, and other local forms of government come into play. The idea is that the smaller political units surrender some of their political power to the larger ones— ultimately culminating at the national level—and relying on them to act for the common good. That is why the word “federal” comes from the Latin fidere, meaning “to trust.”
If you have time to read a well-written, 2,700-word history on American federalism courtesy of The_Bell, click here. If you share GaryWModerate’s fear that our federal government will be reduced to “only two branches of government,” click here. And if you like posts with Alexander Hamilton bookend quotations, check out Demosthenes2’s work here. … KA2:50 p.m.