Sen. John Kerry's convention speech got mixed marks from media analysts. A major theme in the coverage is the fact that Kerry chose to tout his national security credentials instead of more traditional Democratic issues, and he took a direct shot at his opponent on what may be the campaign's major issue.
The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the speech "seemed the political equivalent of a surprise attack on an enemy's strongest point," signaling Kerry's "determination to fight the fall campaign on terrain that the White House has long assumed would belong to President Bush: strength, integrity, values and the prosecution of the war on terror." The Washington Post reports "Kerry staked his hopes for the White House Thursday night on a gamble that would have seemed almost unimaginable for a Democrat not so long ago, challenging President Bush to a debate on the twin pillars of Republican success." In its coverage, the New York Times notes that the speech "used some variation of the word 'strength' 17 times."
USA Today reports that Kerry "promised to restore 'trust and credibility to the White House.' 'I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a Vice President who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders,' Kerry said. 'And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.'"
The most significant difference in the coverage found in this morning's newspapers was one of focus. Some accounts of the speech emphasized Kerry's more generally positive, optimistic tone, while others concentrated on his criticisms of President Bush and other Administration officials. Among those in the first category, USA Today reports this morning that a "risk" in the convention's positive tone "is whether the restraint designed to appeal to swing voters might fail to energize core Democrats who are fiercely anti-Bush." In another story, USA Today writes that "time and again, Kerry challenged Americans not to settle for the status quo," adding that "in simple, declarative sentences that he hoped would leave no doubt in voters' minds about where he stands." The Boston Globe reports that the senator "offered himself to voters as a battle-tested Democrat who would 'restore trust and credibility to the White House.'" On the other hand, the New York Times says this morning that "more than reinforcing his own credentials as a wartime president, Mr. Kerry used this speech. . ..to offer a blistering critique of Mr. Bush's 40 months in office," while the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the speech "signaled a new stage of the presidential campaign. After four days of feel-good, scripted rhetoric by several hundred speakers, Kerry's address was a startlingly sharp attack on President Bush." The Wall Street Journal points out that "at one point, Mr. Kerry appeared to belittle Mr. Bush's record as commander in chief." And the Miami Herald reports that Kerry "launched a sharp attack on the Bush administration Thursday night as he sought to convince Americans that he's strong and resolute enough to lead a fractured nation again at war."
The length of the speech also attracted some media attention. Thomas Oliphant writes in today's Boston Globe that Kerry "raced through an acceptance speech that was way too long for a time slot he knew about for weeks." Kerry "stepped on his best thoughts and lines and blurred important proposals and distinctions." Nonetheless, George E. Condon writes in the San Diego Tribune today that it was a surprisingly powerful acceptance speech that energized his most ardent supporters and gave undecided voters a better idea of where he would like to take the country."
Dan Balz writes in a Washington Post analysis that Kerry "tried to make himself more human. . .but ultimately he appeared willing to cede the battle over personality and likeability to Bush." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds that Kerry "avoided the kind of social issues that have put the Democrats on the defensive, such as gay rights and gun control. Instead, he sought to convince Americans he is stronger and wiser than President Bush on national defense."