Thursday, July 29, 2004

Mental Checklist for Tonight

Keep this William Safire column in mind tonight when you listen to Kerry. Will he waffle or will he express firm opinions on issues? Safire wonders about Kerry's positions on the death penalty (Kerry says he's against it, but for it in the case of terrorists), abortion (Kerry says he's for it, but also thinks that life begins at conception), and gay marriage (Kerry says he's against it, but also against a Constitutional amendment to ban it). Add to these items, the foreign policy questions that William Kristol raises (Will Kerry use force? Would Saddam still be in power if Kerry had been president? Will Kerry cut and run from Iraq?), and you have a good checklist of items to listen for tonight.

Notice the difference in tone between two libertarians on the convention: Safire, the grizzled veteran, is unimpressed with the proceedings and instructs us to listen hard for certain issues tomorrow night. Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, is caught up in the pageantry and provides us with no instruction about tomorrow night. (It is true that Obama gave a great speech -- "Reaganesque," as one of our intelligent readers wrote me -- but are there others in the Democratic party with those opinions?) The focus should be on the substance of Kerry's remarks tonight. Regardless of how well orchestrated one thinks this convention has been, this is a make or break speech for Kerry. Everything up until now will have been a waste if he can't deliver. Kerry will either offer firm opinions, thereby risking alienating certain factions but also coming across as more honest and dependable, or he will continue his double-talk.

One last remark about Kerry's waffling or "straddling," as Safire calls it. The attempt to make him seem more intellectual for his supposed ability to see many sides to an issue than the more sure-footed Bush is an exercise in hypocrisy on the part of the press and Kerry's handlers. Kerry isn't more mature and thoughtful than Bush; he's only more cynically calculating and afraid to offend. But he offends or insults with his desire not to, and he will lose big if he continues on this path.


Post a Comment

<< Home