May 26, 2004

Kerry's embarrassing history lecture.

The Boston Globe reports John Kerry's response to criticism about his proposal to avoid accepting the nomination at the Democratic convention:
The senator chuckled at the criticism.

"Once again, the Republicans don't know history, and they don't know facts," he said. "The truth is that it used to be that the convention, after nomination, traveled to the home or the state of the nominee to inform them they've been nominated. Woodrow Wilson was at his house in Princeton, N.J.; Harry Truman was in Independence," Mo., he said. "They're trying to make an issue out of something that they're surprised by, because . . . they're very upset someone might have a way of neutralizing their advantage."

Yes, but wouldn't it be funny if Kerry himself got history wrong? It just so happens he did!

Read pages 637-646 of David McCullough's biography "Truman." Listen to the speech here. Truman was quite clearly at the convention in 1948 and gave a big speech, the first televised speech. The band played "Hail to the Chief," and Truman strode out. Here's a description:
[A] dispute occupied so much "prime time" that when the party's candidate, President Truman, came to the podium to speak to America on TV, it was 2:00 a.m. and most sets were turned off. Truman was dressed perfectly for TV, however, in a crisp white linen suit with a black tie for the cameras. And he'd prepared his speech on small notecards so he could face the cameras when he spoke....

One viewer who'd stayed up to watch Truman was TV critic Jack Gould of the New York Times. To him, Truman looked "relaxed and supremely confident, swaying on the balls of his feet." And he claimed that Truman's performance "removed any doubt that television was going to place an increasing premium on personality in politics."

Ah, how I would love to hear a candidate deliver a speech extemporaneously from note cards that he'd written up himself!

(Note: I criticized Republican William Safire for misstating the history of the conventions here.)

UPDATE: Thanks for linking to Instapundit and to the official Bush campaign blog. By the way, in my post title, I meant that Kerry was lecturing us and it was embarrassing for him to take such a pedantic tone and then turn out to be wrong (especially about one of his own party's heroes). I didn't mean to cast myself as a lecturer out to embarrass him, but if you want to see me as the lecturer, okay.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Kerry didn't say Wilson wasn't at the convention, he said he didn't accept the nomination at the convention. He's right on that one. I think you missed the boat.

Anonymous said...

Well, Kerry's home is Boston......how far does the convention have to travel?

Anonymous said...

comment #1 - That's not what Kerry said. Read his quote again. Kerry says that Truman was informed at his home that he had been nominated at the convention.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Kerry already IN his home state? If intent was originally to allow delegates time to travel to the nominee's home and notify him there, then they should all take a cab to Beacon Hill, have Kerry formally receive the convention delegates, and say yes then and there.

Unless Kerry is not sure which of his several homes he would prefer to use. Hmmm. Nantucket, DC, the ski house. So many choices. Waffling even now.

David R.

Ann Althouse said...

On that first comment: I didn't try to correct Kerry about Wilson, only about Truman. In any event, Kerry did say that "the convention" (obviously meaning a delegation from the convention) traveled to Wilson in Princeton, NJ to inform him of the nomination. I'd have to research whether Wilson was also at the convention, but that seems out of line with the notion of traveling to Princeton to inform him. I don't see any boats missed here.

Anonymous said...

You don't take a cab to go see and the Great and Powerful John Kerry. You must crawl. That will take at least a month.

Anonymous said...

Just to correct the firt anonymous poster, not only did Truman give a speech, he was there in person to accept the nomination, contra the junior senator from Massachusetts -- here I'm quoting from a discussion of this issue at http://betsyspage.blogspot.com/:

Sure enough. Truman was indeed at his convention in 1948 in Philadelphia. . . . Then the nominating speeches ran on and on and poor Truman in his white linen suit was forced to wait in a crowded room. He wasn't nominated until 12:42 in the morning. As McCullough writes,

"So it was nearly two o'clock in the morning when Truman and Barkley at last made their entrance, striding onto the platform as the band played "Hail to the Chief." (Truman by David McCullough, p. 640-641)

Case closed.

mattgabe said...

Actually, Kerry's right. What often happened was that presumptive nominees were at conventions and gave "rallying speeches" to cap off the convention. The actual nomination was delivered to the person's home by the collected party officials -- after the floor vote had been tabulated. It was a way of getting 2 big rallies out of the process, instead of just the one.

Ann Althouse said...

In case anyone is wondering whether Truman accepted the nomination in his convention speech, here are his opening words, beautifully plainspoken:

"I AM SORRY that the microphones are in the way, but I just leave them the way they are because I have got to be able to see what I am doing--as I am always able to see what I am doing.

"I can't tell you how very much I appreciate the honor which you have just conferred upon me. I shall continue to try to deserve it.

"I accept the nomination."

Anonymous said...

John Fitzgerald Kerry will accept no nomination before it's time...and only if he accepts it first before he accepts it.

Anonymous said...

Does Kerry even allow taxi's onto Beacon Hill?? Half his neighbors are not even allowed there now that the Secret Service has arrived. He had a fire hydrant removed from in front of the manor, I am sure an unsightly taxi would not do at all!!!

Anonymous said...

Even giving Kerry a pass on the accuracy of his knowledge of party history, does he really expect anyone to believe that, then or now, the delegates
would need five weeks to find the candidate and inform him of his nomination?

Anonymous said...

Everyone is missing the boat. If my memory serves me correctly I believe that when Kerry decided to forgo matching funds early this year he said he would go back to matching funds once he had the nomination in the bag. When asked how that would be determined I believe he said the press usually decides and names someone the presumptive nominee. The press has been calling him that for a couple of months.

Anonymous said...

Deacon Blues here.The sole reason he's doing this is to cricumvent the McCain Feingold Act. He can use the extra 5 weeks to raise and spend more "soft money".

Anonymous said...

The real history lesson here is less to do with Truman and Wilson and more to do with the new brand of hard-cash vs. hard-ball politics. This is the first moral/ethical test of McCain-Feingold. Everyone has been looking for loopholes whether they were the strongest proponents (like Kerry was) or whether they were the skeptics (like the RNC was). Kerry is threatening to delay his acceptance in order not to demonstrate he is an "old-fashioned" fireplace, cardigan wearing pol of the bygone days but rather to create a legal hiatus for unlimited soft money spending. What is disengenuous in all this is his pendatic explanation which is a positive false rather than a positive true.

Anonymous said...

For those wishing that Kerry should be compared to Woodrow Wilson; they should look no further than George W. Bush. If memory serves me correctly, I believe that Wilson engaged in a pre-emptive war in Vera Cruz, Mexico, long before the media was complaining that George W. Bush was the first President to angage in pre-emptive war. Oh how quickly we forget!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Deacon Blue, do you even know what "soft money" is?

The only effect McCain-Feingold has on this conversation is that it raised the maximum contribution level from 1K to 2K per election. What Kerry is trying to do is push back his primary date by not accepting the nomination for a few weeks, which would allow him to continue to raise money. That is an important distinction because once the candidate accepts their party's nomination, they must choose to either accept public financing or go it alone. If they accept public financing, they can't accept any future "personal" campaign contribution. Currently the GOP convention is scheduled for a month later, which allows GBII to keep on raising money for an extra month.

Soft money has nothing to do with this and will continue to be raised by 527 orgs. well after the convention.

Jon Cipriani said...

Kerry is also wrong about Wilson, though not as wrong as he is about Truman. Wilson did accept the nomination at his house, but in Sea Girt, NJ, not in Princeton, NJ, as Kerry said.

Anonymous said...

You don't take a taxi or crawl to Kerry's house.

You take a swift boat, and wear black PJs.

Gerry said...

Woodrow Wilson's Speech to the 1916 Convention. And I am not sure if Wilson gave this at the convention, but he did give a speech after being nominated in 1912. Here are some excerpts.

Anonymous said...

Uh... who cares? This killed how many people? (note: less than 913).

Anonymous said...

I think it would be kind of funny if the convention had to chase Kerry, kind of like subpoena servers.

Step 1: A few hours after the vote tally, they show up at his Boston house. Jeeves informs them that "the master" is not at home, would they like to wait?

Step 2: After flying to his Aspen home and finding Kerry also not at home (although some of the lights suspiciously went off immediately after they knocked, no one answered the door, and eventually, the convention left), the convention begins dogging Kerry appearances and fundraisers, but he dashes out a back door each time they show up.

Anonymous said...

Kerry chose the early convention date, Because he thought Bush would have a large advantage inraising campaign cash, and Kerry wanted to get at the federal matching funds available after formal nomination as soon as possible. His campaign fundraising has been going better than expected, and now he thinks Bush will have an advantage in being able to raise more case before the cutoff at nomination, so he want to change the rules in midstream. Once again, we see the modern Dem playbook: change the rules midstream to suit your advantage, and then throw stones at those quaint, ignorant Republicans who want you to play by the rules you already agreed to.

Anonymous said...

It really doesn't matter what happened in the days of Truman or Wilson, because then there were no federal matching funds or campaign finance laws to govern their distribution.

Kerry toyed with this stupid idea as a way of circumventing campaign finance reform (CFR). He then tries to justify breaking the rules by noting that Wilson and Truman broke those same rules. Whether accurate or not, it misses this point: the rules were not in place at the time of Truman or Wilson.

So Kerry's point is totally irrelevant. It would be like someone catching me speeding at 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, and me saying, well, 50 years ago so and so was timed going at 50 mph and bragged about it and he didn't get a ticket. Then someone points out that 50 years ago there was no speed limit on this road.

Anonymous said...

Back in the days when the convention delegates actually decided on the nomination in the convention, it was also regarded as unseemly for the eventual nominee to be standing around in person. The candidate was to wait above-it-al at home until the representative of the party came to him to invite him to be the nominee. We're a long ways from the social context of publicly disengaged political candidates that made post-convention acceptances appropriate. Not a particularly applicable precedent for the present.

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about killing people here? Oh that's right, Kerry said he killed people. Kerry did kill people. Kerry admitted killing people while committing war crimes.
Sorry, for a second there I thought that it was an anti-Bush person who wrote about no one getting killed. I'm wrong, it was an anti-Kerry person, who was obviously trying to get people to remember that the only candidate who has admitted to taking part in war crimes against innocent civilians, is Kerry.

Anonymous said...

You're giving ME an embarrassing lecture on history? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM ?!?!?!

"Uh... who cares? This killed how many people? (note: less than 913)." - Not the retort I'd expect from a supporter of a free-fire zone war criminal.

Anonymous said...

I hear the sound of a lot of people whining about the fact that people in Washington are polishing their resumes for the transition to private life coming in November. And not a moment too soon.

Jon Cipriani said...

Yeah, me too: Bob Graham, John Edward, Fritz Hollings, John Breaux..

Anonymous said...

"Neutralize the advantage"? Who's gonna neutralize the advantage Kerry has over Nader?

Anonymous said...

"Even giving Kerry a pass on the accuracy of his knowledge of party history, does he really expect anyone to believe that, then or now, the delegates would need five weeks to find the candidate and inform him of his nomination?"I believe that - at least now. I've been trying for a year to figure out where Kerry stands without any luck... I'd have great admiration for somebody who could do it in only five weeks ;o)

Anonymous said...

This guy's candidacy is so doomed.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else notice how the more liberal of the comments to this issue are either flat out wrong or ad-hominem attacks on Bush, while the more conservative responses tend to address historical facts and insightful political commentary? And assuming you all have noticed that, isn't it fitting that this liberal political immaturity carries over to a few actual liberal politicians (for example, Nancy Pelosi and Kerry himself in recent comments)?

You simply cannot deny the fact that Kerry was wrong, and on top of that, was arrogantly wrong. Making a mistake is one thing, but lecturing people with a mistake is entirely different - and this is something both sides have trouble with.

Anonymous said...

...which is why I said Kerry's candidacy is doomed. He is now being subjected to the same image and character defining and redefining and analysis that sunk Gore.

Anonymous said...

The 913 number was probably referring to Wilson's war. In fact, 90 Americans and 300 Mexicans died.

http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1073.html

As for Kerry, the candidates get to spend $75 million in public funds between the convention and the election. They can spend primary funds prior to the convention. Since Kerry passed on matching funds, he can raise and spend money right up until he becomes the candidate. At that point he is bound to the $75 million.

That gives Bush an advantage in spending.

This advantage is negated by the fact that most of the money spent to elect Kerry will be spent by shadow campaigns.

As others have pointed out, the idea of the candidate not being present goes back to the days when the convention actually chose the candidate. This is now done by the primaries with the convention being nothing but a free campaign ad for the party. Even now the candidate is supposed to be off-site waiting for the vote. The high point is supposed to be candidate accepting the nomination.

Unless Kerry proposed to boycott the convention and give up free air time, he would have had to stand before the convention and tell the world, "Thank you for this nomination. I will think about it."

The dumb thing is that no one forced the Dems to hold their convention so early. They knew all about campaign finance law.

Kerry admitted that he will accept the nomination at the convention so the whole thing did nothing but leave a bad taste in people's mouths.

On the other hand, considering how he sinks in the poles whenever he gets coverage, he might be better off boycotting the convention.

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