Thursday, July 29, 2004

# Posted 10:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE SPEECH (a live blog): Cleland introduces. Kerry makes his first appearance at the convention. Something bluish descends from the sky - perhaps a blue state. A staffer first comes out hesitantly, with water and a speech, and to place papers on the central podium, which hasn’t been used yet. Enter Kerry stage left. Touches heart. Hugs Cleland. Shakes hand of first of former shipmates, hugs rest. Fist in air. 10:08. Goes stage right, waves. Shrugging gesture that he does several times. Odd. Wags finger. Makes namaste gesture –influential Indian vote in some swing states, no doubt. Extraordinary cheering. Left teleprompter gets so excited it’s shaking – he has to steady it. Another shrug, another namaste – must have spotted a French cousin and an Indian in different corners. 10:10. Still another shrug.

I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty. (Surprise! He’s a veteran! The crowd likes it, though. Also, it's a change from the released version that we got - his people thought it was such a good line they wanted to keep it a surprise.)

Sets key theme at beginning - making America stronger at home and respected in the world.

He admits to being a State department child – is this the first mention ever of the always politically popular State Department in an acceptance speech?

10:19 it's a strong speech, and sets out well his case. You wonder whether the other speeches this convention have been so bad just in order to make this one stand out.

Ashcroft must poll particularly badly - he gets singled out for a particular cut.

The author of Burnt Orange next to me points out that there's a gift to journalists in his inversion of Bush four years ago. Thus Bush: 'As President, I will restore honor and credibility to the White House. Kerry: 'As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.'

These are the ritual 'As President, I will' sentences, by invocation of which someone in our tribe establishes him or herself as an aspirant for the position of chief.

10:20 Outsourcing gets a boo. (Damned foreigners. Except sometimes we like them and need their votes. Wait.)

Acceptance of the nomination is at 10:22. The place actually shakes - hopefully there's not a fault line in Boston. Sentence is meant to establish an optimistic tone for his candidacy, but is a bit unwieldly: q.v., So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation - here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom - on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot - for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return - for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us - for all of you - with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.

Particular cut for Dick Cheney at 10:23 - but we know he doesn't poll well. Interesting trick, trying to cut on particularly unpopular members of the administration while setting an optimistic tone. He seems to pull it off decently, since he chooses his targets.

10:27 He has some very good lines. Also, they connect well to the case he needs to make. Look, for instance, at the skillful segue from 9/11 to squandered unity - 'It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us. I am proud that after September 11th all our people rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.' It could serve as the theme of his candidacy, and would be a strong one.

10:31 'I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president.' Finally, a decent statement of the Kerry-as-veteran theme that's been hovering all over the convention. Were they just saving up all the good lines for tonight?

10:34 The meat of the speech is his foreign policy case. Mercifully, he comes at the president from a hawkish, idealistic direction:
We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives - and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way.

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.

10:36 shmaltz alert. 'You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good. That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people. ' (The crowd plays along: 'U-S-A' chants, though they're short-lived as people realise the Fleet Center is actually not being used as a sporting venue tonight.)

10:38 New Dem effort to arrogate family values: 'Values are not just words. They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.' He softens the blow to the left with a pledge not to privatise Social Security, spiced with some Enron and an odd commitment to honour his father and his mother.

10:40 someone behind me gets yelled out for having his cell phone ring.

10:42 Fleet Center briefly becomes a 12-step program: 'Help is on the way,' everyone is shouting. Actually, balloons are on the way, at least in the shorter term.

10:43 'Here is our economic plan' - this is a speech of rhetorical confidence and certitudes. I'm impressed. On the other hand, most of his economic speech has to do with outsourcing jobs. There's also a promise to roll back the tax cut on Bill Clinton. Clinton isn't onstage, so we don't know his reaction.

10:46 people getting a bit tired - to my left, 'there's still 15 minutes left'. to my right, Command Post co-editor: 'he's got the applause lines in the wrong places. No one's listening to his important policy sentences, because they've just clapped through them.'

10:48 big applause line by declaring health care a right. A wonderfully amorphous sentence - you can have rights to all sorts of things, without government having an obligation to provide it.

10:49 'And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future -- so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.'. Low blow: however misguided its actions may have been, the administration was drawn to the Middle East not by SUVs but by 9/11.

10:50 weak attempt to sex up the fact his staff told him to plug his website: 'So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to johnkerry.com.' Umm, that's because they have different names....

10:52 well, they're not all good lines: 'Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America - red, white, and blue.'

10:53 this, on the other hand, is a well-crafted statement of humility, and the invocation of Lincoln in this regard is skillful: 'I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side'

10:54 'what if' litany is an attempt to harness the ghost of RFK to this JFK. stem cell research is a big applause line. Also, 'a young generation of entrepreneurs asked, what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail'. Answer: then so-called 'bloggers' could come to a convention and write about it!

10:55 I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with young Americans wh came from swing states like Florida.

10:56 Speech is over. Blue state rises into the air. Kerry goes stage right, waves. Points to swing states, or perhaps a Frenchman he sighted. More namaste. Does he realise that it's Indians who are getting most of those outsourced jobs?

10:57 Edwards appears. Another hug, those sweet little lovemuffins. A visit to stage left.

10:58 when do we get balloons? I want a balloon. Sadly, they're unlikely to hit blogger row.

10:59 okay, it's true. they do have very good hair.

10:59 out come the cookie-makers (q.v. the extraordinary sexism of Family Circle's contest)

11:00 out comes Alexandra and sisters. An advantage of Democratic victory will definitely be better first daughters. And balloons. They're falling slowly. Confetti's blown up from behind the podium. Some very big balloons, too. Okay, I'm going to stop writing and watch - this is something to take in.

11:02 some convention organisers opposite the podium are cheering loudly, and I don't think it's particularly much for Kerry.

11:04 confetti starts. When you're at home, you don't realise that the balloons pop like crazy. It sounds like popcorn. Still, it's as lovely a sight as you could imagine.
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