Thursday, July 29, 2004

Technical Difficulties and Technical Achievements

A Multimedia Post

[Edited and reposted] The audiopost below isn't the one it should've been. The real one - the funny one with 3 interviews and fun background noise lost its way between my phone and my blog. Its memes are lost. I mourn it. Okay, now we'll move on.

The audiopost that is there is a rundown of some of Kerry's speech highlights. It didn't need to be an audiopost - but hey, if you have the technology . . . . sure impressed the people I interviewed with it at the Marriott. (Uh, too bad about it not working in the end.)

San Francisco Democrats who couldn’t make it to Boston managed to mock up their own convention-like event. Comedy Central’s Daily Show convention episodes have opened this week by saying they were coming to you live from Boston, featuring: “black people; trial lawyers; abortions for everybody; organized labor; godless sodomites; and a parking lot full of egg shaped hybrid cars.” I suppose the same promo would work for a San Francisco event . . . .

The first Marriott post caught some of the noise and flavor of the event. As it turns out, if you want to attract curious on-lookers - carry a pad of paper with you and scribble notes. One woman came over to me and just stared at what I was writing until I looked up at her questioningly. She asked for whom I was writing. I shrugged and said, “myself.” When I told her I was a blogger, she gave me a truly pitying look, hugged me, and left.

The next guy asked the same question. I told him I was a blogger. He said, "What's a blogger?" I asked him if he was joking. He wasn't. This means I met the only person in the country that doesn't know what blogging is by now. Or maybe it isn't the year of the blog after all. What? No one's called it "the year of the blog" yet? Huh. Interesting.

At any rate, Don, one of my interviewees, said this was the first Kerry speech he's listened to. He's new to politics, prompted to join the melee by Matt Gonzalez’s campaign last year. Fittingly, he used to be a Kucinich supporter. He seemed enthused, though not wholly won over, by what Kerry had to say. Fellow Emerge alumna Sheila Chung was glad to hear Kerry take back some of the "Republican" words and ideas that she feels have been unfairly co-opted over the past few years: values, religion, god, the flag, you know, everything the right has accused the left of ignoring, blaspheming, and burning.

For the first time, tonight, Kerry seemed human to me. He was funny at times, speaking of being grounded by his parents, being literally in the same boat with his band of brothers. He missed some of the key self-deprecation opportunities Clinton would've done well with, such as his status as part of the top 2% to be taxed. Overall, he was strong, persuasive, and on-message (though parts of that message still trouble me).

Policy-wise, my main complaints lie in his tax plans and, of course, his hawkish talk. The DLC -certified read-my-lips moment in which he again allowed the middle class to dream big dreams and absolved them of thinking about paying for them made me miss Howard Dean. At least Dean was honest - you want programs A, B, and C, that's great me too. Who's going to pay for them? It’s not that I dislike the middle class – I am middle class, though of course, am aiming higher per requisite American dreaming. This JFK, surely at the behest of the DLC, differs from the last JFK because he seems to encourage Americans to ask what their country can do for them and validate their tightfisted doing-nothing for the country.

Kerry’s meta-theme, of course, was the war. He started well, “reporting for duty” (a line not appearing in the official version, but capitalizing well on the Veteran laden lead in). He touched early on equality for all women in America – but left out any mention of reproductive rights or equality for ALL Americans. The lack of the former was refreshing – this was the least NOW/NARAL-heavy Democrat event I’ve ever seen. I love full control over my uterus, but I think bigger, more pressing concerns such as the war got the attention they deserved this week. The lack of the latter is disappointing, however, in terms of racial/ethnic equality – Barack Obama and John Edwards covered those themes. The gay marriage issue didn’t get any primetime coverage as far as I saw. Frankly, if the choices were leaving the issue completely out of Kerry’s speech or having him try to convince us that “civil unions” – which are not “marriage” – count for equality, I’m glad it was ditched entirely.

Besides those two large gorillas, labor, unions, and agriculture all took a backseat last night, as guest blogger Jim Pinkerton points out.

Kerry hit hard on themes of truth, war, and improvement. He occasionally indicted Bush, naturally, but set aside blaming in favor of saying we can do better, and that we can only do better armed with truth, preparedness (and, apparently, 40,000 more servicemen and women):

But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected. Tonight, we're setting out again. And together, we're going to write the next great chapter of America's story.

We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals – and that starts by telling the truth to the American people.
“There’s nothing more pessimistic,” he said, “than saying America can’t do better.” That thought drew some of the loudest applause from the crowd with which I watched his speech.

At one point, he thanked those supporting his primary opponents for coming together now. This drew less applause in the Marriott, as I, and probably many, enjoyed their last, wistful moments of Deanophilia.

Kerry emphasized his firsthand knowledge of combat, saying “I know what kids go through,” pledging further that he will “wage this war with the lessons [he] learned in war.” It will be fun to see what rhetorical antics the Reeps develop to answer those across-the-bow shots at their candidate.

John Kerry, famed for his haughty, complicated manner, delivered a “pedestrian” speech, according to one Phoblog friend. His diction may have been toned down, but his higher-calling rhetoric pulled at the idealism of the San Francisco crowd last night. There was a nearly palpable need to believe in what he was saying – at its most powerful, perhaps, during this section:

And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge
to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.
The success of Kerry’s speech, I suppose, lay less in his ability to deliver a message than it did in our – the Party’s – need to hear something to believe in. I still have questions about Kerry on the war and his vote for it – but since he’s the nominee, I needed something moving last night. In that respects, in key ways and phrases, such as above, he delivered.

It was a call to action (except on paying taxes) and a promise of action. He built on Obama’s blue-state/red-state rhetoric – talking of family values and faith. Taking a note from wife Teresa, he too quoted the other party’s patron president to attack the president’s divine-right nonsense directly: “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.”

He never achieved audience-participation on the “where was George” level. “American can do better. Help is on the way,” were the best efforts to telegraph today’s headlines to news editors across the country. Building on the idea that we’ve only just begun, the phrase “what if” led a segment on science the possibilities ahead.

Towards the end, you have to figure he had a box of fortune cookie style upbeat-o-grams that were cut from other segments of the speech. Not to worry, he dumped them all in at the end:

That is the kind of America I will lead as President – an America where we are all in the same boat.

Never has there been a more urgent moment for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But, my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine.

It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.

Sun? Check. Dream? Check. Best Days? Check check.

Kerry is always technically proficient. If he were an ice skater, he'd get 6.0s on technical achievement. Where he's needed to improve is on artistic impression scores. I think he definitely scored better tonight than I've seen yet. What this means in terms of bounce is anyone’s guess (though not for long, since I’m sure phones across America are already buzzing with pollsters). The better question, however, in American politics is how last night’s speech effects the expectations game. Kerry needed to give the speech of his life – and by some accounts – he did just that. I’m eager to see the Bush response in August as well as what international events happen (or “happen”) between now and August to throw wrenches in various party(s’) machinery.

I suppose now I should catch up on the punditry on last night’s performance.

this is an audio post - click to play

"Boston" Photo Gallery, Vol. II

Okay - so maybe it's not Boston. It was hot, crowded, and full of Democrats - does that count?

Look! Delegations! Just like Boston! Sadly, my neighborhood appears underrepresented. Posted by Hello

Look! John Kerry! Just like Boston! Except closer than the real California delegation would be. Posted by Hello

Our interviewees, Don (if I messed up your name, I hope you visit the site and correct me) and Sheila. Trust us, they were brilliant and insightful in their analysis of Kerry's speech. I hope the visit and comment . . . . Posted by Hello

What? Who put Fox News on? For the record, this was the TV on the right-side of the bar. The left-hand TV played CNN. Posted by Hello

Look! That ice sculpture says "DNC2004" - in 50 years, I won't remember that this wasn't Boston! It doesn't say San Francisco, does it? Could be Boston - you don't know! And hey - who's that? Why, it's your own Phoblographer - the trench coat helped the "please, I'm covering this story" image. That and a pad of paper and presto - instant journalist. Posted by Hello

Get it? Posted by Hello

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