July 29, 2004
I was expecting something great, something inspiring, from this lawyer fabled for his rhetorical skills.
Instead, what John Edwards delivered was a lukewarm version of his "Two Americas" speech, plus some macho rhetoric, a bunch of gimmicks, a cupboard full of cliches, and the clunky refrain that "hope is on the way."
Seems like the Kerry conductors offered all the speakers $20 for every time they said the word "hope," and if that's the case, Edwards just got a little richer.
But how many times can you hear "tomorrow will always be better than today" without yawning?
On substance, the Two Americas speech does contain a powerful message about economic and racial justice, but I've heard him give it better a dozen times.
And when it came to unveiling the specifics, Edwards had only crumbs to offer: a tax break here on health care, a tax credit there on child care and college. But they don't come close to lifting the burden off the shoulders of working Americans.
Edwards said the Democrats would "lower your premiums up to $1,000," but that won't come close to guaranteeing free, quality health care to all Americans.
Edwards said the Democrats would provide "a tax credit of up to $1,000" for child care, but child care can easily cost $5,000 a year.
Edwards said that the Democrats would provide "a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition," but tuition at some colleges costs many times that.
Edwards also talked about the need to "finish the job on welfare reform," but the vagueness of that phrase left open the possibility that a Kerry-Edwards Administration would continue the punitive policies that Bill Clinton began.
On foreign policy, Edwards was even more disappointing.
He managed to mention "a safe and secure Israel," but Palestine fell off his map.
Edwards even did a Bush imitation, telling "Al Qaeda and the rest of these terrorists: You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you."
He showed none of the subtlety or sophistication of Bill Clinton, who on Monday night grasped that the United States must get to the root of terrorism. Said Clinton, "we cannot possibly kill, jail, or occupy all of our potential adversaries."
But Edwards really bottomed out on Iraq. He actually said, "We will win this war."
How's that going to happen? And how many more U.S. soldiers are going to die as a result?
Edwards plucked at the heartstrings of America by invoking images of wounded soldiers who now "need their mother to tie their shoe. Their husband to brush their hair. And their wife's arm to help them across the room." But his vow to win this war, which has already taken more than 900 American lives and wounded thousands more, will only compound these human tragedies.
Edwards did not manage to paper over the differences within the party on this most crucial issue.
He exposed them for all to see.