Monday was Democratic heritage night at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Amid the frequent and shamelessly scripted declarations that John Kerry would make America stronger and respected in the worldthis is the official convention themewe heard from, in this order, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton. All Democratic nominees, past and possibly future, all with political bases, at least originally from the South. The interesting question is what they told us about the Democratic party, and about John Kerryand what bar they gave Kerry to try to exceed Thursday night.
First up was Al Gore. His speech was reviewed by the Kerry people, and was devoid of the denunciations-by-name of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that were the staple of his recent rantswhich have exceeded in bitterness and vitriol the statements of any defeated presidential candidate in American history, or at least of any defeated candidate I can recall. There were certain touches of humor, not too heavy handed. There were intelligent appeals to those who voted for George W. Bush and those who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 to vote Democratic this time: Bush didn't deliver compassionate conservatism and Nader did deliver the election to Bush. There was also a certain amount of demagoguery. Bush had, he suggested, "burned his bridges to our allies" and destroyed "respect for America in the world." As it happened, I was on the floor at one point in the evening with the Ambassador to the United States from Australiaa country which did send soldiers to Iraq, some of whom died in the course of duty. John Kerry, during the primaries when he was trailing Howard Dean, said that the United States went to war in Iraq with a "fraudulent coalition." Dick Cheney recently asked why Kerry wants to show more respect for the allies who opposed us than the allies who supported us. Here Gore was falling into the same trap.