With few exceptions, John Edwards' speech last night to the Democratic delegates received overwhelmingly positive news coverage. Television analysts, press accounts and local TV newscasts praised the North Carolina Senator's address both in terms of his delivery and the substance of his remarks. Typical of the coverage was USA Today's assertion that the speech "demonstrated both his infectious optimism and his courtroom lawyer's instinct for the well-aimed verbal thrust," and the Miami Herald's description of it as touching "on the campaign's big themes of strength and service, equality and fraternity" and "painting a youthful, optimistic vision of America." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer adds that Edwards' "appearance prompted the most boisterous demonstration of the convention so far."
Before the speech, the Kerry-Edwards' campaign had announced Edwards would not play the role of an "attack dog," in an implied contrast with Vice President Cheney. This contrast was made explicit most forcefully by CBS's Dan Rather, who described the Vice President as "a kind of hit man" for the Republicans during his commentary following Edwards' speech. Along the same lines, ABC's Mark Halperin characterized Edwards "as almost constitutionally unable to be in attack mode."
Edwards' praise for Kerry's military record and his message to Al Qaeda, "You cannot run. You cannot hide.We will destroy you," also received much attention, with several reports, such as the Boston Herald's, pointing out that with his address, Edwards staked out "aggressive new ground on war and defense" for the Democrats. NBC's Tim Russert noted the Democratic ticket was now "almost running to the right of George W. Bush" on defense policy.
The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Edwards "used the talents honed as one of North Carolina's most successful litigators with a jab of his finger here, a sweep of his arms there to make his case to a nationwide jury of millions." Adds the Times, "Critics have portrayed him as an ambulance-chasing symbol of litigation run amok. But the senator cast himself as a champion of the proverbial little guy."The AP adds that Edwards "promised cheering Democratic National Convention delegates that" the Democratic "ticket will 'build one America' no longer divided by income or race."
The New York Times reports Edwards summoned "all his skills as a trial lawyer and a populist" as he "made an impassioned case for Senator John Kerry on Wednesday. The heart of Mr. Edwards's speech was the theme he sounded throughout his primary campaign, that 'we still live in a country where there are two different Americas,'" but he also "tried to make a simple but politically crucial point:that Mr. Kerry, criticized by Republicans as too risky and untested to be a wartime president, is made of sterner stuff, with strong values that he demonstrated even as a young Swift boat commander in Vietnam."
The Washington Post reports Edwards "produced a thunderous ovation when he said the nation must confront the effects of racism and that Democrats should never shrink from discussing the issue." The Washington Times adds that Edwards also "detailed some of the campaign's domestic priorities, including a $4,000-a-year tax credit for college tuition, a $1,000 tax credit for child care, tax penalties for American companies that move jobs overseas and increased spending for education."
Television critic Tom Shales, however, was not impressed, writing in today's Washington Post reports that "the bland and platitudinous nature of the speech only served to support the widely held view that political conventions have become anachronisms."