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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Great moments in Republican <$NoAd$>outreach ...

This from the running Thursday night commentary on National Review Online from Barbara Comstock, former spokesman for John Ashcroft at the Justice Department, former lead investigator for Dan Burton back in the glory days, and now power lobbyist ...

However, there are some things that did strike me about this odd man.

John Kerry once administered CPR to a hamster. This was one of the poignant vignettes we learned tonight from one of his daughters. Is there some gerbil-loving swing demographic out there we are trying to connect with? His daughter told this story as if we could all relate to this "human" moment of mouth-to-mouth contact with a rodent. I think I can speak for most parents, that while we might lay down our lives for our children; we see no need to swap spit with vermin.

...

John Kerry may have been able to breath life into a hamster; and he may have been able to breath some hope (or is it help?) into the gerbil-loving delegates; but he's still a strange, Herman Munster-like figure to me.


No mention of the inveterate Bush hatred among the gerbil-lovers. But presumably that's for another column.

I just read this article in the Times, billed as Cheney's counterattack against the Democratic ticket, figuring it would be filled with various distortions and untruths I could pick apart.

Really, though, there's not much there to pick apart, because there's simply not much there. Some boiler plate about raising taxes, the troop funding vote run-around and some stuff about John Edwards hair -- that's about it.

If the Times author is reasonably conveying Cheney's message, it's awfully weak stuff.

Now this is rich.

President Bush's new line of attack is that John Kerry is a man of few achievements.

"My opponent has good intentions," the president said today. "But intentions don't always translate into results. After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements."

This might be a plausible line of attack coming from another opponent. Unlike, say, Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy, there's no prominent piece of legislation with Kerry's name on it, though admirers of Kerry point to his critical role in a series of high-profile Senate investigations.

But coming from George W. Bush? A guy whose handlers had to get some of the more gullible run of journalists to refer to his life before he turned forty as his 'lost years'?

I mean, even if you grant that Bush's presidency has been a tenure of transcendent achievement (and it has undoubtedly been eventful), it's a bit hard to get around the fact that even by his own account he spent his first five decades kicking back, living off family connections and playing solitaire.

It's certainly true that Mr. Kerry said certain things in his war protestor days that can now be used against him with some audiences. But until he was well into middle-age President Bush's most noteworthy public utterances seem to have been limited to various invocations and inflections of 'par-TAY' and reciting the alphabet under legal compulsion.

(I'd be surprised if the Kerry camp didn't use this as another opening to highlight the difference between how these two men spent their twenties.)

It's also another case of the Bush campaign's internally contradictory lines of attack.

John Kerry: highly ambitious and grasping ne'er-do-well.

George W. Bush: man of action, sword of steel.

In the Boston Globe this morning, Tom Oliphant, no foe of Mr. Kerry, says the nominee "essentially blew an opportunity he may not get again until the debates with Bush this fall" and "muffed an opportunity to hone great material into a powerful address."

I know what he's referring to: Kerry's sometimes rushed delivery. But this seems like a needlessly harsh appraisal and a distorted impression of the speech itself.

From the start of Kerry's speech I could tell that he kept talking into rising applause -- something like the rhetorical equivalent of spitting into the wind. He would nail a good applause line and then rush into the next verse of the speech.

In many cases I wondered or worried that some of those lines couldn't be heard over the din, though I suspected that television microphones would do a better job keeping Kerry's voice audible over the crowd.

At the time this struck me as a function of Kerry's lack of expertise as a public speaker. A master like a Clinton or an Obama can make magic of those moments, half-heartedly trying to talk over the crowd, only to let them again and again beat him back with their cheers. Kerry mowed right through them, though perhaps it was simply that Kerry had a speech he could only get through if he took few or no breaks for sustained applause.

In any case, I really didn't think it was nearly so big a deal as Oliphant did. But I'd be curious to hear others' opinions.

The reference to CNN last night was to their running live on-air the panicked reactions of the convention director as the balloons failed to drop precisely on schedule. Originally it may have been a glitch. But they seemed to keep it running long after they could have rectified the problem.

Another good take on the speech is Will Saletan's in Slate. I remember looking out into the audience at various of those moments of thunderous, almost defeaning response that Will mentions and thinking, they sowed the wind.

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.

Great work CNN! (You'll understand soon enough ...)

Not a stem-winder -- and Kerry would have been foolish to try. But a solid speech. And I thought he hit all the right points -- with the right emotional tenor. In a way, sitting in the hall and watching the back of Kerry's head most of the time is no way to judge how it appeared on TV. But that's my snap judgment.

"I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation - not the Saudi royal family."

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