If you're raised Catholic (as I was) and forced (as I was) to attend Mass on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, you develop all sorts of ways to pass the time during interminable church services and, especially, during the potentially endless homilies delivered by priests whose oratorical skills fall short of the standard set by drunken Little League banquet speakers.
You count rafters, use telekinesis to untie your shoelaces, do an entire covert isometric workout program, meditate on which saint statues are taller, and, most of all, dream up weird scenarios that (I learned later) were shockingly akin to drug trips: You pretend you're The Prisoner, being psychologically tortured or, more desperately, you devise an interesting back story for the speaker, so that his excrutiatingly boring utterances develop a subtext that suddenly makes them interesting.
Somewhere during Teresa Heinz Kerry's long, meandering speech that only drew plaudits from party loyalists, I became convinced that she is, in fact, a Republican operative in deep, deep, deep cover. In this scenario, she never broke with her first husband's party, but in fact secretly pledged to help it through subterfuge.
It was the only way I could make it through her talk, which was the sort of rambling, disconnected spiel that multimillionaire philanthropists routinely give in their living rooms during charity events (where the audience is every bit as captive as schoolkids during a weekday Mass). She came across as slightly odd–the space age Madame Mao suit didn't help–self-indulgent, and goofily disengaged from mere mortals.
Despite being ostensibly personal, there were no meaningful, intentional revelations and the fact that she speaks five languages–ballyhooed by her supporters as an enduring sign of God's grace–is largely irrelevant to post-Jackie Kennedy politics. After all, we've got a president who can barely speak one language but still manages to show up for work at least a couple of times a week. "Above all," rhapsodizes Salon, which has become less and less interesting over the years as it has become more openly a subsidiary of the Democratic Party,
Heinz Kerry came to tell the American people why her husband should be president of the United States. Earlier this week, she was misunderstood when she remarked that no mortal is qualified to be president, although her husband "was pretty close to it." But now she spoke without qualifications.
Only a true believer could swallow that and even true believers have probably already forgotten anything specific in her speech. It's more accurate to say that Heinz Kerry came to tell the American people why she should be First Lady, and I don't think anyone has a better sense of that than before she spoke (though they might be dreading the possibility slightly more than before).
And it wasn't that she spoke "without qualification"–she spoke without editing, structure, a sense of purpose, an appreciation for the audience. "Qualification" doesn't quite get at how shapeless and formless her talk was. Though, to be fair, it did come across that she thought her husband should be the next president of the United States. That surprise endorsement did come through.
If the Heinz Kerry speech served one useful function for the Dems, it's that it lowered the bar for the last two days of the convention, which so far has been a pretty dreary, uninteresting, and unmoving spectacle. That's no small contribution on her part, but it seems very different from the one people expected.