Wednesday, July 28, 2004


How's that for a one word review of John Edwards' speech on Wednesday night?

Listen, I've been in John Edwards corner and watching him for quite awhile. He was the recipient of some of my money long before Kerry. It was not his best speech. Or even his second or third best.

I suppose we could blame it on the scripted nature of the convention, or maybe even the cold he's picked up in the past week. Edwards is at his best when he's moving around the stage with his tie loose and sleeves rolled up like a tent revival preacher. He couldn't do that yesterday evening. By necessity, he was chained to the podium.

But the essence of his message was true to his nature. This is a man who has lived on both ends of the economic spectrum. I think it's axiomatic that to have empathy, one has to be true to the word "empathetic" - in other words, having walked a mile in those shoes. John Edwards earned that t-shirt a long time ago.

Anyone who watched Edwards' speech would have a difficult time making the argument that he is light on foreign policy issues or the challenges that confront us as a country in dealing honestly (not code chartreuse alerts) with the threat of terrorism. But that being said, something was missing from his speech tonight. Or maybe I just didn't hear it because he was, uncharacteristically, trying to macho-ize the Democratic Party ticket.

Here's what was missing: committing a Kerry administration to examine why the evil doers are bent on destroying America in the first place.

There are a lot of approaches to solving this rubik's cube of foreign policy; certainly many more than I could begin to address here on a backwater internet blog. But the bottom line is that we won't be secure as a nation until we can honestly begin to formulate a national response to the above question.

Domestically, Edwards' "two Americas" approach is correct, because there are two Americas. I've had the good personal fortune to bounce back and forth between the two during my life. That's what drew me to JRE in the first place.

But, with Edwards speech on Wednesday, and surely John Kerry's acceptance speech on Thursday, I'm increasingly squeamish about the direction they're going to be taking the campaign. I admit, it may be necessary for the Democratic Party ticket to play the tough guy on the block. What I don't want to see is Kerry / Edwards trying to out-tough Bush / Cheney. The "Marlboro Man" image is what got us into the international fix that we're in to begin with.

This country needs a totally different direction. Again, maybe I just didn't hear it in Edwards's convention speech, and maybe he was simply subjugating himself to the DNC party line, but I didn't hear a significantly different direction on foreign policy. I didn't hear that Kerry / Edwards were going to strive to repair the diplomatic bridges that the Bush administration has so casually blown up around the world. I didn't hear that Kerry / Edwards were going to make mea culpas for the atrocities such as Abu Ghraib brought on by the Bush administration in the name of the American people.

Maybe I'm just expecting too much from a political convention designed to appeal to the broadest base possible. And in the end, that's what these things are all about.

We live in a dangerous world. John Edwards was trying to assuage Mom and Pop Trailerpark that he and John Kerry would not let up on the war on terra. And they shouldn't. It was a message that needed to be communicated.

What he failed to express is how a Kerry administration would address the true root causes of the problem, and how they would work to ensure that we, and our children's children, would never be put in this place again.

Perhaps I was just expecting too much after listening to the skinny kid with the funny name on Tuesday night.

(Update, 12:50PM, 7/29/04: Text of John Edwards' speech here.)