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  • PIN THE TAIL/Daniel Rubin

    Observations from the 2004 Democratic National Convention

    Friday, July 30, 2004

    Last call from Logan 

    So after reading the coverage of John Kerry's speech in the Times and the Post and the Globe, I was ready to speak with a tough critic who used to make peanut butter sandwiches for Gene McCarthy.

    "Of course I watched," my mother said. "He was won-da-ful." (Before you go sweeping for bias, my father went for Nixon that year.)

    This was the same John Kerry who has represented my mother's state since Paul Tsongas's day. My mother has never warmed to John Kerry, although the discovery of his paternal grandparents' Austrian-Jewish roots did make mom's eyebrows arch.

    My favorite description of Kerry comes from colleague Dick Polman who says he looks like one of those giant sad tree herders, the Ents , from Lord of the Rings.

    Not last night. He was on his game. They say Kerry's a closer, getting better as the race goes on. He was sharp and commanding, and made his points at a clip that Evelyn Wood would approve of -- as if he was costing the networks precious advertising revenue. Kinda goofy, that "My name is John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty," not what you'd expect from the guy who is the great-times-seven grandson of Massachusetts founder Gov. John Winthrop, who coined the 'City on the Hill' line.

    Kerry was echoing Jimmy Carter's 1976 peanut-farmer amble through the fields on the way to the podium. Carter announced himself with the same "My name is Jimmy Carter, and I am running for president" line he had been using for months, when no one knew who he was. Kerry apparently still faces that problem. After listening to his dark-haired daughter, Alexandra, I was already warming to him a bit. Or to her - she can talk.

    Good speeches were not the order of the day. Wesley Clark, the exception, Kerry followed a series of dreadful procedurals from people who should know better.

    Maybe the networks know what they are doing. Do undecideds watch this stuff? Do Democrats?

    U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi does that gesture of the moment - pointing, but with the thumb over the finger - that 1/2 the speakers were doing, and she delivered "our team, their team" stuff that used to make me wretch in high school.

    Sen. Joe Lieberman - mom thinks he's a scold - seems too conflicted in this race to have any traction. Madeleine Albright has the edge of oatmeal. They didn't exactly generate momentum as the evening headed toward Kerry's acceptance of the Democratic nomination.

    Not exactly the Rev. Al Sharpton on 40 acres and a mule.

    But they didn't provide much competition, either, and so the week ended with the tree man coming to life and grabbing the flag from the field of battle, promising hope and help. "It's a pageant," I keep saying to myself, dog-waggingly.

    "Go balloons."

    Daniel Rubin

    Daniel Rubin is a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be reached at


       •  July 2004

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