Republicans Turn Up The Heat On Kerry On Eve Of Bush's Convention Speech
On the third night of the GOP convention, Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller launched heated attacks on Sen. John Kerry, questioning his suitability to lead the country through the war on terror. As CBS News Radio reports this morning, it was "a night for Republicans to serve up some political red meat. . . . All of the tough talk sets the stage for President Bush's acceptance speech on the final convention night." NPR, meanwhile, notes the theme of the third night of the convention "was 'A Land Of Opportunity,' but it will be remembered more for the blistering attacks" on Kerry. According to the Los Angeles Times, Republicans turned "from compassion to aggression" last night as they "launched a withering assault" on Kerry, "using the third night of their national convention to attack his character, credibility and nearly 20 years in Congress." The Washington Times says last night's "speeches were clearly aimed at the Democratic National Convention's effort to strengthen the national-security credentials of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, with polls showing the ongoing war on terror as voters' top concern," while the Washington Post sees "the theme of fear of the prospect of terrorism, and of the Kerry's alleged inability to fight it" as "the dominant note from the podium."
Last night's attacks on Kerry, says the Washington Post in a separate story, "fit clearly within what Bush campaign operatives have described as the president's strategy of overcoming what polls register as disaffection with the economy and Iraq by arguing that Kerry is an unacceptable alternative. Democrats, taken aback by the ferocity of the night's rhetoric, acknowledged that this would work if the public believes the string of indictments against them issued from the podium." The Democratic "hope was that the vitriol. . .will strike voters as excessive and not credible."
That is why the Kerry campaign immediately went to work to further that impression. ABC News Radio is reporting that Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards "issued a statement saying there was a lot of hate on the podium" while "he and John Kerry offer hope." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that Democratic National Committee spokesman Jano Cabrera "responded to Miller's speech by describing him as attacking Kerry like an 'angry, rabid elephant.'"
USA Today compares the level of criticism of Kerry in the GOP convention to anti-Bush comments at the Democratic gathering in Boston last month, concluding that on that occasion speakers "were asked to limit how many times they said" Bush's name." Speakers at the Republican convention "got no such memo. Kerry's name was invoked often on the first three nights of this convention. Miller said it 16 times, Cheney 14."
After Cheney's remarks, on ABC, news analyst George Stephanopoulos said the night's speeches were not a play for undecided voters, but rather "a mobilization. . .for the Republican base. Go after those voters who want to be excited about going to the polls. Karl Rove believes that there are four million conservative Christian Evangelical voters who stayed home in 2000. This was aimed directly at them." On NBC, Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press Tim Russert said "thus far, Senator Kerry has allowed the Republicans to define him. He has to go back and start suggesting the flip-flops with the Republicans and their record, in terms of Iraq. Otherwise, they will continue steadfast in this campaign."