A brief note or follow-up on the Kerry speech.
A number of readers have written in to say they were wowed by the speech and ask why I led off saying that it wasn’t a ‘stem-winder’.
To me there’s no contradiction. The term ‘stem-winder’ isn’t simply an evaluation of the quality of a speech, but also — and more so — a description of a certain kind of performance. I thought this speech was very impressive, about at the top of the guy’s form. To say it wasn’t a stem-winder is simply to say that it wasn’t like Barack Obama’s speech a few nights back, or Clinton’s, or even Clark’s or Sharpton’s for that matter.
But I don’t think that’s the kind of public speaker Kerry is. And he was wise not to try to be something he’s not. He didn’t try to be a master of rhetoric or tear into the crowd like those others. This was a well-written, powerfully delivered speech. And what occurred to me as I listened to it was how well the convention planners had used the earlier evenings events and speeches to tee the moment up for him.
I mean that not just in the sense that there’s an effort to build excitement for the main event or talk up the candidate –that’s a given. I thought they did a good job at playing Kerry up as a forceful and decisive leader. And that allowed him to suit his strengths as a speaker to the moment, to slide his speech-making right into that path they’d carved for him when his moment came.
Of course, I still haven’t seen the video of the actual TV-version of the speech. I’m still going on what I saw in the hall, watching the back of his head as he delivered. So perhaps my opinions are still premature.
And a final point, for what it’s worth. I talked to numerous reporters in the minutes and hours after the speech. And I think it would be fair to say that every person I spoke to told me that Kerry had exceeded their expectations.