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The angry old man

I have to disagree with Peter's assessment of Zell Miller's speech.

I confess that I didn't watch every minute of the conventions, but I watched all the major speeches -- McCain's, Rudy's, Arnold's, Miller's, Pataki's, Laura Bush's, Cheney's, and the president's. (I tried to sit through the Bush twins' "speech," but it was so execrable that I turned it off after about two minutes.) And of all those speeches that I listened to, I thought Miller's was the worst. It was bad on substance and it was bad on style.

On substance, there's so much to criticize in Kerry's attitude towards national security -- his attitude towards the UN; his attitude towards Iraq before, during, and after the war; his attitude towards Iraq now; his view about America's place in the world. A criticism that Kerry is weak on national defense may well be valid. A criticism that he can't make up his mind is definitely valid. A criticism that he wants to have it both ways is certainly valid. But the criticism that he voted against all those weapons systems has been debunked a long time ago. But, hey, that's politics. If politicians didn't distort each other's records, then a slew of spinmeisters would go bankrupt.

What bothered me far more was the tone of Miller's speech. I'm certainly not offended by negative campaigns the way reporters profess to be, but there's a time and place for negative, and the convention isn't it. None of the other speakers -- including Cheney, who has an (in my opinion undeserved) reputation for nastiness -- were that negative. More importantly than the fact that it was negative, though, was that it was strident. Some might use the word "angry," but I'll stick with "strident."

And that's bad. I could cite Reagan the optimist, or the ranting and ravings of Pat Buchanan in 1992, for the proposition that tone matters -- but an even more immediate example is at hand: the 2004 Democratic Party. Bush's opponents are enthusiastic -- but it isn't helping Kerry gain traction. Why? In my opinion, it's because Bush's opponents are so vehement in their anger. They're not pulling undecided people towards Kerry; they're pushing them away. When you see someone so upset, and you don't share his anger, it doesn't cause you to change your views; it causes you to question his rationality.

Hell, I questioned Miller's rationality, and I mostly agreed with him. That was a bad speech.

Now, McCain's speech, that was good. Good enough that it made we wish for a moment that he was president -- made me actually forget, for a moment, the horrible McCain-Feingold bill which bears his name. When a speech is good enough to do that, it's a home run.


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Comments (1)

I liked McCain's speech, too, but sue me, I really enjoyed Zell. So did the wife (another Democrat voting for Bush).

Anyway, you've probably seen it already, but he defends himself in today's Opinion Journal:



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