Many Large-Newspaper Editorials Praise Kerry Speech

By: Charles Geraci

An informal E&P survey of some of the nation’s top newspaper editorial pages found broad praise for Sen. John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night.

One paper that found fault, The Washington Post (Click for QuikCap), called the speech a “missed opportunity,” noting that he had “elided the charged question of whether, as president, he would have gone to war in Iraq.” And the Chicago Tribune opened with: “Well, not bad.”

But other larger papers found much to admire. The Dallas Morning News, in President Bush’s home state, said, “All in all, it was an impressive performance and one that should serve Kerry well in his quest for the White House.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said Kerry did a “solid job” linking domestic proposals to “family values,” borrowing one of Bush’s themes. “Overall, Kerry did a commendable, though not dazzling, job of giving voters insight into what makes him tick, and how he would lead,” the paper said.

Though some pundits feel Kerry overemphasized his service in Vietnam, the Los Angeles Times is not tired of hearing about it. The paper said, “It’s only malcontents who won’t want to steer in the direction that he’s mapped out. Kerry’s skill at seamlessly drawing upon Vietnam produced a portrait of master and commander.”

The San Francisco Chronicle admitted that while Kerry is not the most charismatic speaker, “he was clear and forceful in accentuating his differences with Bush. He succeeded in the mission of the night: He made the case that there is going to be a real choice in November.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provided one classic line: “If it’s the national security, stupid, John Kerry demonstrated Thursday night that he isn’t stupid.”

The New York Times said, “Mr. Kerry has been criticized for a lack of specifics, but he did a good job of explaining how he’d fight the war on terror: by adopting a more aggressive homeland-security policy, reforming the intelligence system and refocusing diplomatic efforts on ending nuclear proliferation.” While the paper cast the Democratic convention in a positive light, saying it “did its job” introducing the candidates, it criticized Kerry for not admitting his vote to support the Iraq invasion was a mistake. “It’s clear now that Mr. Kerry isn’t going to go there, and it’s a shame,” said the Times, which itself decided to “go there” earlier this month.

The Seattle Times said Kerry offered better “oratory” than his norm, adding that he seems “capable of becoming a strong commander in chief.”

But the Washington Post found the speech lacking. “Mr. Kerry was right to chide Mr. Bush for alienating allies unnecessarily. But what is ‘the job’ in Iraq? He didn’t say,” the Post added. Admitting the speech may have been politically effective, the paper said Kerry “fell short of demonstrating the kind of leadership the nation needs.”

The Chicago Tribune, while neutral, pointed out that there were moments in the speech “when you had to remind yourself that this was the Democratic nominee for president who was speaking — such as when Kerry promised a larger military force, tax cuts, public school accountability, and a focus on family values.”

USA Today said the Democrats’ main goal this week was to “ease any qualms voters might feel about John Kerry’s ability to lead the nation in these times of war and high anxiety. … Trouble is, Kerry leaves Boston still not having formed in voters’ minds an image of where he’d take the nation on its most urgent issues: the war on terrorism and resolving the mess that is the U.S. situation in Iraq. So far, his policies sound a lot like those of President Bush.”

The New York Post was extremely critical. The paper said, “There is no greater concern that Americans have today than the War on Terror. Kerry showed last night that he doesn’t understand this. In that limited respect, he stood tall in Boston and did the nation a real service.”

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