- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2004

John Kerry projected energy, intelligence and competence last Thursday night as he accepted the Democratic nomination for president, and if the math didn’t work, the rhetoric did. If vital details were missing in his national security prescriptions, he still managed to convey strength of purpose. He looked and sounded presidential.

That carefully and convincingly presented image may have been enough for this occasion — a major opportunity to present himself to voters without the filtering of journalists. Precise analysis might bore people to death. Utter candor might scare them. Still, it’s possible to wish any number of things had been included in the speech that were not:

c An adult discussion of economic issues, for instance, would have been preferable to pretending the government can cut taxes, increase spending on major programs, keep hands off Social Security and still reduce deficits and avoid eventual calamity. Voters’ minds might bend to such an array of promises, but reality will not.

c It would have been interesting to learn what Mr. Kerry would do now in Iraq different from what President Bush proposes. He did not tell us. He repeated the charge Mr. Bush misled the country into war without explaining why he himself voted to permit it. After all, he also made public statements about weapons of mass destruction. Aren’t his charges of deception themselves deceptive?

Any number of Mr. Kerry’s statements can and will and should be challenged, but what should also be challenged is any suggestion we Americans scrape the bottoms of barrels to find our presidential candidates. Mr. Kerry is credible and more, as he demonstrated through his poise, some of the issues he raised in the speech (such as nuclear proliferation) and his assurances he will stand firm against terrorism.

The convention as a whole — while choreographed minutely with manipulative intent — was a demonstration the Democratic Party remains a force to be reckoned with. The Republicans are next in line. Will they do as well?

Jay Ambrose is chief editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service.

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