Watching John Kerry the other night reminded me why he, and not any of the others, ended up with the nomination. All of them might have used the exact same words in their acceptance speech; none could have carried it off. Certainly not with any credibility or so comprehensively. Being an unrepentant Liberal and Dove, I could have done with a little less General-speak. However, it seems to me that having a proclaimed tough guy candidate who will probably be more of a talker/negotiator than a haphazard shooter is far more attractive than having a proclaimed man of compassion who turns out to be the world's most notorious bully.
Pundits suggest that the Democratic Convention, which most see as having been a success, was playing to the undecided rather than to the faithful. That is probably true, though given scant coverage I really wonder how these generally uninterested folks could possibly have gotten the message. Surely, they can't have divined it. In fact, I don't fully buy this analysis believing instead that the message was as much directed inward as outward. One of the problems with Liberals, Progressives or however you may want to describe them, is that we have generally ceded patriotism, military readiness and moral values to the Right. It isn't that Conservatives have taken hold; it's that we've handed them the reigns. What this convention did, in the most aggressive and overt fashion was to reclaim ownership. Unlike Republicans who often seem to think of themselves as the sole proprietors of flag and country, Democrats made it clear in the past week that they, like all citizens regardless of ideology, were equal stakeholders. John Kerry and company also proclaimed that we were prepared to defend both that ownership and whatever it might bring.
John Kerry did what Howard Dean could never have done. As his wife said, "he earned his medals in the old fashioned way." I know Dean understands what made Kerry potentially electable and what would, at this time and place, have put him and the Party at a disadvantage. The day will come when Democrats will have to remind the world that Chaney, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, DeLay, Santorum, and cheerleaders like Ralph Reed, Bill Kristol, and Bill O'Reilly are all ready to send young men and women into battle but never served themselves. Unlike John Kerry, they didn't say "send me" and none of them have any real idea of what it's like, especially what it's like in an ill begotten and poorly prepared conflict. Yes Max Cleeland, left with only a single limb after Viet Nam, was shamelessly smeared out of office in Georgia for being "soft" on defense, but that kind of mud simply won't stick nationwide, especially with the Homeland still vulnerable and Iraq still a mess, both on the accuser's watch.
God Bless You ended every speech. It's become the "have a nice day" of political talks, and frankly I find it most distasteful, a kind of knee jerk disingenuous piety. That said, John Kerry can talk about moral and family values in a way that Bill Clinton, no matter how much I may think of his enormous intellect and talent, never could. The Kerry and Edwards picture-perfect families with the obvious deep internal connection in each of them suggest these people know something about the substance of relationships. They don't have to say anything on this subject, which I truly wish they would not have to do; one simply has to look at them.
Is John Kerry perfect? Of course he's not. It's a besides the point question. None of us are perfect; especially those who profess to have all the answers and find being asked about their mistakes a trick question. The thing about John Kerry is that he seems to be someone who knows how, and wants to, win. You can't govern unless you can win. If we haven't learned that lesson, we haven't learned anything. He gave a powerful convention and a compelling speech. I'm excited about what he might do in the months ahead and about the prospect of what may follow if we see to it that he is elected.