Like many Americans, I spent less time watching the convention this year than I have in the past years. Probably because I was just busy with other things.
Anyway, I did have a few thoughts. For one, I enjoyed Clinton’s line Monday night: Wisdom and strength are not opposing values. Well put, and it would do many Americans well to remember that. Killing people and invading countries are not the only ways to be strong in the face of adversity.
Clinton is a better orator (aside: why do people say “speechmaker” instead of “orator”?) than I had remembered. He gave a passionate, moving speech. His main idea was to highlight problems we face and respond with “Send John Kerry!”
Yesterday was Kerry’s night. While not as impressive as Clinton’s, Kerry’s speech still seemed very good, and worked well with the audience he had. I thought he did a good job of responding to some Republican attacks. For instance, Republicans have called him an economic pessimist, and Bush has insisted that “the economy is good”. Kerry said “The most pessimistic thing I’ve heard is that we can’t be any better than we already are.” Zing.
He also said, in a reference to Ron Reagan, “I do not wear my religion on my sleeve.” And, “In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘I do not say that God is on my side. Instead, I humbly pray that I am on God’s side.'” Highly effective rebuttal to Bush’s strategy, I think.
Kerry spent a lot of time talking about being a veteran. Personally, that doesn’t make a great deal of difference. I can see it might move some.
He also spent time talking about terrorism. He proposed enlarging our military by 30,000 troops — but not in Iraq. He also advocated a, to paraphrase, less stupid approach to dealing with terrorism, but simultaneously stressed that he would not hesistate to retaliate for attacks.
So much for the less stupid approach. The USA already has by far the world’s largest, most powerful, and best organized armed forces. Yet terrorists have succeeded in attacking our forces in Saudi Arabia, Africa, Iraq, and even the military’s headquarters in Washington, DC. I’m sure the extra 30,000 troops among millions of people already in the military is going to have them quivering in their shoes.
Both Kerry and Bush are demonstrating a fundamental flaw: failure to understand the enemy’s motivations. Many of the radicals in the area see themselves as fighting for freedom against repressive dictatorships propped up by the United States. Perhaps an easier, less bloody, quicker, and less costly way to avoid future attacks on us would be to stop supporting all the regional dictatorships in the middle east? Perhaps to even be a force for democracy? (And Iraq does not count — how many dictators did we have to befriend to make that whole thing work?)
Off the soapbox, Kerry’s central theme was optimism. He wants people to believe that America’s best years are yet ahead, to let go of fear, etc. I think that is a good message, and does a lot to undercut the fearmongering of the Bushies.