However, I turned on the television tonight to watch John Kerry's speech. It's the only speech I watched during the whole convention - possibly the only speech I could watch, since I gather that most or possibly all of the others were shown only on cable channels rather than on any of the few channels my television receives. I hadn't actually planned on watching it; I normally prefer to read all my news online, and to read politicians' speeches written down instead of hearing them. But reading speech transcripts is only useful what you want to know is what the candidate actually said; you have to hear the speech delivered if what you want to know is what effect the speech had on the audience. And anyway, there's only so many LiveJournal entries I can read about how eagerly you people are all awaiting the speech before I eventually develop an unexpected whim that causes me to turn the television on and try to find a channel carrying the speech.
And I found one, too. I found it on channel 13, and I managed to tape the channel knob in the awkward position of 12 and 3/4 that caused channel 13 to actually come in relatively non-staticky. This was important, because I was busy making sweet-potato bread in my breadmaker and had no intention of sitting in front of the TV holding the channel knob in place if the TV refused to cooperate. (And my TV will now remain taped at channel 12 and 3/4 for the next two months.)
Superficial impressions first: Kerry is extremely good-looking. If the election were a beauty contest he'd unquestionably have my vote. (And that's despite the fact that unlike so many other people, I consider Bush pretty good-looking too.) Kerry has a much happier-looking, less creepy-looking and less stupid-looking smile than Bush's. Kerry also has much more effeminate hair (which won't necessarily work in his favor with most voters, but it does with me - he always looks like he spent hours carefully choosing the exact degree of curl and wave in every hair on his head).
I think his voice is slightly less than ideal though - it's a little flat, a little nasal, a little thin. It doesn't boom commandingly, nor vary its tone a lot to seem more interesting. Not booming commandingly is okay if you're trying to present more of a friendly cuddly image of yourself, but not varying one's tone is pretty much always bad. Still, it wasn't a major handicap - I only really noticed it at the beginning of his speech, when he hadn't yet found his rhythm.
Now for the content. First of all, I was very bored by the meaningless blabber at the beginning about where he was born and how much he loves his mommy and daddy and how he once got grounded just like everybody in the audience so you're supposed to relate to him and want to vote for him because anybody who once got grounded just like you did surely has a lot in common with you. I was somewhat tempted to just turn the TV off right then because the beginning of his speech was so ridiculously cliche and meaningless. If there are other people who did turn off their TVs right then, that would be a bad thing.
Then he moved on to how much he loves his wife and his kids, which was nearly as meaningless except that since so many people seem to be attacking and insulting his wife I decided I was glad he didn't just decide to placate them by pretending she doesn't exist.
After that he definitely got better. Overall, it couldn't have been too bad a speech since I managed to spend more of it not hating him than I spent hating him. And I think his best line - although it didn't appeal to me personally - was the line, "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." I think that's the kind of line that most Americans, unlike me, really go for and can be seriously persuaded by. That and the parts about how Americans came together on 9/11 and Bush blew it were truly brilliant speechwriting work.
But the lines where I hated him most were these:
"Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military. We will add 40,000 active duty troops, not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure."What does that mean, to "never give any international institution a veto over our national security"? I'll tell you what that means: it means that he supports disregarding the United Nations and attacking countries unilaterally. (He also said way back in March, though not referring specifically to Iraq, "People will know I'm tough and I'm prepared to do what is necessary to defend the United States of America, and that includes the unilateral deployment of troops if necessary.") So I guess Kerry doesn't even actually stand for preventing thousands of Iraqis being killed and maimed without the simple comfort of knowing that their suffering and murder was legally approved by the United Nations. What the hell does he stand for then? Health care reform? I do grant you that if health care reform were the primary issue of concern to me - which if I were motivated by purely selfish reasons it would be, since being laid off means that I now have to either buy m own health insurance or go without any (I'm probably going to be buying a limited, catastrophic-only coverage plan within the next couple of days) - then my vote would be solidly with Kerry. But frankly, people being blown up in Iraq are a bigger issue to me than lack of domestic health care, because usually if American citizens are actually on the verge of death and have no money at all left to pay for it, there are special health care services for very poor people that will take over their care. Lack of health care is more of a problem for more middle-class people who actually do have some money and would therefore be forced to spend their entire savings on health care before any of the services for very poor people would ever kick in. So to me, U.S. military policy is by far the primary issue of concern in this election - and just what the hell is John Kerry going to do about it? Just ask him - he says himself that he's going to continue disregarding the U.N. and declaring war unilaterally, and he's going to add 40,000 active duty troops to the military. Just where the hell is he going to get 40,000 new active duty troops to add to the military? If there were 40,000 reserve troops just lying around easily available to be called up, don't you think Bush would have already called them up? The only way I can see that Kerry could possibly come up with 40,000 new active duty troops who aren't themselves already "overstretched, overextended, and under pressure" and would therefore be of any use in making the military any less "overstretched, overextended, and under pressure" than it already is would be a draft.
I would like to be offered a choice in this election - a choice on the issue of American foreign policy. The Democrats appear to be asking me to believe that Kerry represents a real choice for no other reason than that he actually fought in a war himself and therefore I'm supposed to just trust that this will prevent him from ever sending anyone else to war without "good" reason. But everything John Kerry keeps saying about what he considers to be "good" reason leaves me distinctly unconfident.