Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2004 / 17 Elul, 5764
Sometimes a strategist just has to sit back and gasp
UNTIL President Bush began his speech on the final night of the Republican National Convention, the goal of the United States' anti-terror policy was perceived by a largely supportive public as a bid to assure safety. With a rhetorical flourish worthy of the great speeches of all time, George W. Bush has transformed the war into a battle for liberty.
In a speech that was at once eloquent and substantive, sensitive and dynamic, profound and familiar, Bush has risen to a level few presidents have ever reached.
Sometimes a strategist just has to sit back and gasp. Occasionally, a seasoned political observer needs to realize that he has seen something extraordinary. Tonight, Bush made me feel like that.
The speech satisfied every single political need. He contrasted with Kerry without appearing negative. He demonstrated emotion without pandering. He rose to a level of substantive specificity without becoming wonkish.
The Bush speech was akin to a State of the Union speech, surveying the landscape of American issues and articulating a proactive agenda for the next four years. But, like his stirring address to Congress in the aftermath of 9/11, he issued a ringing declaration for freedom, injecting the historic concept of freedom into the center stage in the 2004 election.
In recent times, Al Gore's 2000 convention speech holds the record for the largest vote swing as a result of an acceptance speech. But Bush left the Gore rhetoric in the dust. Summoning a poetry unusual in American politicians and unique among those who now run for office, Bush reached into each of our souls and brought forth an emotional response that only a glorious speech could summon.
He combined dignity and simplicity. His style reminded one of FDR's Fireside Chats, explaining policies in a philosophical context. He pulled his litany of programs together, labeling them an "ownership society." He explained his education agenda with a wisdom and insight that experts in the field and parents alike must find compelling. And he explained to each of us what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are about.
He elaborated the domestic Republican agenda and explained its relevance to men and women trying to raise children and workers seeking better jobs, secure retirements and access to health care. In a party largely devoid of issues ever since Clinton passed welfare reform and balanced the budget, and since crime dropped and Reagan defeated communism, Bush outlined an agenda for the future which, at last, competes with the Democratic promises and spending.
I voted for Gore in 2000, as a true child of the Clinton era. But I decided to vote for Bush on Sept. 12, 2001 when I saw how he handled the threat we face. I used to back Bush because he offered safety; now I support him because he summons us all to an ideal. Before he spoke, supporting Bush was a duty one owed to the fallen. Now, it is an honor.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, most recently, "Rewriting History", a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History. (ClickHERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Dick Morris