Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Kerry & Edwards observed

My son, Sam, is a senior in high school. At 18, he has a political awareness and sophistication I didn't achieve until, umm, well, sometime after I was 18. This past Saturday, he saw Kerry speak in the morning and Edwards speak in the evening. I asked him to write up his thoughts, and here's what he has to say:

Kerry's event was much more of an event than Edwards', first of all. Kerry blocked us off into a small area of the ballroom, so that while many weren't able to actually see the event, those who could were packed together and were very much a sea of bodies. Thus, the photos from Kerry's event look like they're in the middle of a huge political event instead of the mid-sized early morning rally it was.

That's the main impression I took away from Kerry - he's a politician, and a damn good one. He played to the crowd, he went left-center-right and back again on the stage (literally, not politically (for the most part)), and he showed knowledge of those who introduced him and where he was. People yelled "give 'em hell, Kerry" and he instantly responded, "well, what Truman said to that is 'I tell them the truth and they think it's hell.'" Cue applause.

Kerry did have an impressive set of people to introduce him (although Barnes was the first to take the stage, to snickers), and they really led up to his speech well. They talked a little about the issues and a lot about electability. They did talk about the war, which was Kerry's undoubtable strength, and one that will likely only do him more good as time goes by. He really did work the war well - his basic statement, that he supported the war in theory and as a possibility, but that Bush's drive for war was what is responsible for the problems, and that war should only be used when fully justified, etc, etc. In summation, about the war, he:

1. Made it Bush's fault
2. Came across strong on terror
3. Didn't leave any room open for unamerican attacks.

Which was good. He really did that well. His domestic programs didn't impress me as much as Edwards did, but that could have been because they were so consciously realistic - "20% alternative energy by 2020", for one. He knows not to promise the ridiculous, and he also knew that this crowd was excited just to hear things like "alternative energy" and "health care" from a politician. It'll be interesting if he's the candidate whether the new Gallup results bode well or not. It seems like he should be able to convince people of his stands on the issues when he gets the chance - but... Who knows.

One last thing - if the "too smart" thing is what one of Kerry's big problems is, this appearance didn't do much to worry me. He's smart, but he's too good of a politician to come off wrong.

Edwards, on the other hand - in a bad venue, with much less "name" support (although a crowd that might have been bigger), and with several obvious problems with his speech... Just was more enjoyable. He didn't do anything astounding, just did a stump speech. The biggest things I really had to say about him right afterwards were (of course) the negative things - how could he not mention the war?

I guess that's the real question of the Edwards campaign - will the positivity / "two Americas" / "this is what WE're gonna do" (something he said often) really work? Is electability key? And how exactly did he come out of nowhere in Iowa?

For me, I think a lot of it was explained by seeing him. After four years of Bush, this is the President we want - a President who's unapologetically enthusiastic, who is not only a firm believer in American primacy but someone who realizes America's issues and the problems we face. His ideas aren't particularly new or surprising, and definitely along the same areas as Kerry's.

Here's what I thought above all after seeing both - Either one could make a great President or Vice President, and either one could defeat Bush.


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