Monday

Winner: Bill Clinton

Republicans have Ronald Reagan; Democrats
have Bill Clinton. On Monday, the greatest living hero of the
Democratic Party set Boston’s Fleet Center afire as he
delivered a speech that was simultaneously humorous yet serious. At
the core of his speech was a crucially important task: to draw a
clear line between Democrats and Republicans; to define the
differences between Kerry and Bush. He did this, however, with a
liberal dose of humor. Pointing out how he personally benefited
from the tax cuts, Clinton joked that “I thought I should
send them a thank you note — until I realized they were
sending you the bill.” But Clinton’s speech did more
than just remind America of his tremendous conversational charm, he
was the first to emphasize the Convention’s overriding theme:
unity. Clinton showed that he could effectively contribute to his
party, all while reaffirming his magnetic personality that has made
him so endearing.

Loser: Jimmy Carter

In all honesty, there were no losers on
Monday night. Convention planners intentionally loaded the first
night’s line up with all the biggest stars in an effort to
create momentum. Therefore, when compared to superstars Al Gore,
Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D – N.Y.), the aging and
soft-spoken Jimmy Carter was put at a disadvantage he could do
little about. Surprisingly, his speech was one of the most
strongly-worded of the Convention; he called America’s
current foreign policy a “virtually unbroken series of
mistakes and miscalculations.” He painted the darkest picture
of the Bush Administration, calling the policy of preemption
“confused,” and faulting its actions for costing
America “its reputation as the world’s most admired
champion of freedom and justice.” While this rhetoric would
surely have resonated well with the crowd inside the Fleet Center,
energetic younger speakers overshadowed it. Even though his
criticisms of the Bush Administration were of the most passionate
convictions, he was unable to relay that passion to his audience.
Unfortunately for Carter, his moving words fell by the wayside as
he fell victim to his own age and demeanor.

Tuesday

Winner: Barack Obama

The distinguished debutant from Illinois,
Barack Obama, was the biggest winner of the week. The 34-year old
state senator and U.S. Senate candidate carved a wide niche for
himself by delivering what was arguably the best speech given at
the 2004 Convention. Proving himself a master of rhetoric, his
repeated emphasis on the United States of America drew thunderous
applause and reinforced the Convention’s “one
America” theme. More than any one person, Obama came across
as genuine, a rising star inspired by a unabiding faith in the
American dream. So successful was his speech that by the next day,
Boston and the Fleet Center were buzzing with speculation about a
future White House bid.

Loser: Teresa Heinz Kerry

Dull and duller. While Teresa might have a
feisty side — telling a reporter to “shove it”
earlier in the week — her speech on Tuesday might well have
put the audience to sleep. Even though dedicated delegates heaped
praises on Heinz Kerry, the fact remains: her speech was boring and
pointless. Speaking at an excruciatingly slow pace, John
Kerry’s wife rambled aimlessly about a myriad of issues; it
took her nearly half a speech to even mention John Kerry. Her
recollections of life in apartheid South Africa could have served
as a platform to launch a statement on freedom and liberty;
instead, Heinz Kerry delivered an oddly-worded message about taking
a stand and then quickly moved on to a series of unrelated issues,
including Peace Corps volunteers and space probes. Without
direction or charisma, Heinz Kerry’s appearance can be
described as nothing short of disaster.

Wednesday

Winner: Al Sharpton

When you have little credibility to lose,
you really can say whatever you want. On Wednesday, Al Sharpton
threw Kerry staffers into a panicked frenzy when he went
drastically off-script and launched a 24-minute tirade that riveted
the Fleet Center audience. Drawing on his past experiences as a
preacher, “Reverend Al” used a variety of historical
examples to address the struggle for equal rights and explain
African American loyalty to the Democratic Party. He won the most
applause when he directly responded to President Bush’s
assertion that African American loyalty was misplaced: “Mr.
President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our
vote is not for sale.”

Loser: John Edwards

If everyone knows you as the cute guy with
an even cuter smile, it’s hard to be mean. When Edwards tried
to come off as tough on national security and terrorism, all that
pundits and observers could do was issue a patronizing
“awww.” While Edwards was able to provide hard-hitting
rhetoric, he was unable to effectively reconcile it with his
“nice guy” persona. More unfortunate, however, was that
Edwards’ speech failed to win approval from even the
dedicated Democrats inside Boston’s Fleet Center. To be fair,
Edwards had a high standard to meet. Perhaps, his speech was not
well-received because it failed to measure up to the powerful
oratory in his “Two Americas” speech from the
primaries. Arguably, if John Kerry had delivered a similar speech,
there would not have been collective disappointment; Edwards was a
victim of his own skill.

Thursday

Winner: John Kerry

Surprise, surprise — John Kerry won
and accepted the Democratic nomination. Sarcasm aside, it is
surprising how well Kerry addressed the Convention on Thursday
night; many have stated that his acceptance speech was the best
written, best delivered address of his career. It was expected that
Kerry would captivate the Democratic loyalists inside the Fleet
Center, but few anticipated that undecided voters and television
viewers would be even slightly impressed. However Kerry’s
history as a speaker is less than spectacular, his last major
speech, announcing his vice presidential selection, was
disastrously received. This time, however, many coveted
“swing voters” responded favorably; a group of
reporters from The Washington Post watched the speech with two
dozen undecided voters and determined that “the Democrat
clearly helped himself.”

Loser: John Kerry

Yes, John Kerry is also a loser. While he
delivered a marvelously worded speech (thus, he’s a winner),
he failed to define a vision, set an agenda or say anything he
hasn’t been saying for months (thus, he’s a loser).
Entering into his most important speech of his career, pundits
unanimously agreed that Kerry had to convey a sense of consistency
amid accusations of being a “flip-flopper” and to
better define his platform. While an acceptance speech is not
supposed to be filled with the intricacies of policy, Kerry failed
to offer more than sweeping, generic promises that he might not be
able to keep. He vowed energy independence, even though complete
independence from foreign oil is a mere fantasy. He also said he
would stop the outsourcing of jobs — a virtual impossibility
in a globalized economy where developing nations offer
significantly cheaper labor. Voters were hoping for a chance to
become better acquainted with the candidate’s political views
and instead they received more stories about Kerry’s military
past. Kerry missed a huge opportunity by failing to refute
accusations about his political stability on such a national
stage.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.