Convention Cons

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Yes, I watched Kerry's speech. "Incentives." "Investment." Sure sounds better than regulation and spending, doesn't it?

At least he didn't say anything about "working families." In 2000 the Democrats wouldn't shut up about "working families"; it was some fool consultant's idea of how to reassure the country that they weren't going to put everyone on welfare and give tax breaks for adultery. Every time I heard that phrase, I imagined a whole family slaving together in some sweatshop.

Don't mind me, I'm obviously not the target audience for these things. I keep getting bored and flipping over to the convention reruns on C-Span 2. Last night I saw George Bush '88 promising never to raise our taxes. Tonight I saw Bill Clinton '96 promising to protect our airlines from terrorists.

Kind of puts the week in perspective, no? For now, the only speeches I enjoyed at this convention were Bill Clinton's and Al Sharpton's. The rest will only become entertaining after history adds some layers of irony and dust.

NEXT: "This Land" Update

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  1. I dunno, Jesse, I thought the bit when Kerry promised, before a hasty and largely unheard correction, to “double our special forces to conduct terrorist operations” was an instant classic.

  2. Actually “working families” was “it was some fool consultant’s idea of how to reassure the country that they weren’t going to put everyone on welfare and give tax breaks for adultery”

    It has been the union phrase for union famalies for decades. Unions fight for “working famalies” not union famalies, etc. The reason given is non-union employed househoulds benifit from Union backed measures. The reason is working class americans and even union members don’t neccasarly jump up and say “I’m a union member” but everyone is a “working family”

    It was used a lot the last two elections because Gore and the Dems that followed thought the Union’s ground game would win him the election because the dems had no ground game. This year the Dems have ACT.

    Anyhow.

    If you going to lambast something … know the source … and keep from looking ignorant or ignoring reality.

  3. Yep, Kerry has plans that will harm the economy and our liberty with more regulations and spending. But hey, it’s ok because he’s a real tough guy when it comes to all that war stuff.

    No worries that Kerry’s plans will reduce our liberty as long as he says that he is ready to defend our liberty.

    He says that he’s gonna bring our troops home from Iraq too, just as soon as….well, maybe the specifics for that one are at his web site…

  4. “…the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.”

    That may or may not be true, but, for me, it was the stand out moment in an otherwise classic ?tax and spend liberal? speech.

    “So let me say straight out what I will do as President: I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.”

    I was particularly perplexed by this part of the speech. He’s promising to both give tax cuts to small business and to raise taxes on people who make more than $200,000 a year? Now I’m sure there’s a few S Corps and LLCs out there that make less than $200,000, but very few, and maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but it seems likely to me that either Kerry’s not very familiar with S Corps and LLCs or, even worse, he’s just sold us all down the river.

    When I heard him say that, I thought to myself: if Kerry gets elected, and if he?s allowed to enact such a policy, of all the people who get laid off or just don?t get hired as a result, I wonder how many of them will have voted for Kerry specifically because he said things like that.

  5. “As I recall, when Gore was running for President many mocked Gore’s “psuedo-intellectual pretensions” (indeed, Bush himself mocked Gore after he heard Gore discussing I think the philosopher Baudrillard). Indeed, I disntinctly remember people taking shots at his inability to finish either law school or divinity school, and comparing this Bush’s “performance” at Harvard.”

    As I recall Gore made himself a prime target for such ridicule with his smirky, arrogant manner of speaking – as if he were on some lofty intellectual peak addressing his remarks at a bunch of ignorant simpletons.

  6. Evan,

    At least Kerry immediately corrected “terrorist operations” to “anti-terrorist”. I bet Bush would’ve given his every-three-big-words pause of accomplishment and then gone right on.

    Assuming (big assumption) that one has decided to calm conscience enough to vote for a Republicrat candidate, we saw all we needed to see tonight, unsurprisingly: behind Kerry’s sentences is a brain who understands them and can intelligently discuss them on its own. That’s enough for me. I have infinitesimal tolerance for hearing the mongoloid scion parade his anti-intellectualism, especially since he would probably take that statement to be a compliment.

  7. behind Kerry’s sentences is a brain who understands them and can intelligently discuss them on its own.

    Whatever. Smart people can screw things up just as badly as dumb people.

  8. B School curriculum is considerably tougher than the Law School.
    Beg pardon? I took a good 6-10 MBA level courses at a top 5 B-school. Those were by far the easiest classes I took. I spent more time doing my E&M work than I did on my Corp Finance. I would say a medical degree or an economics science/engineering Masters or Ph.D from a top 50 school is tougher than getting an MBA from a top 10.

    Now maybe Law School is pretty easy too (though I never heard that), but I’ve never heard that the toughness of B-School is due to the difficulty of the work, if anything it’s the volume. Most of the MBAs at my school spent quite a bit of time going to see guest speakers, doing independent work, going to networking social events, etc. They had quite a bit more free time than the undergrads of basically every discipline (of course, the school I was at could be a big part of that).

  9. “…the B School curriculum is considerably tougher than the Law School…”

    Oh please! The MBA is the most bogus grad degree going, and the comparable to a particularly difficult Masters program (don’t think it should be called a Doctorate, though).

    I’d rank MBAs, as an indicator of innate intelligence, south of MFAs.

  10. “…and the JD is comparable to a particularly…”

    Sheesh.

  11. Bush has garnered much support *because of*, not *in spite of* being someone for whom critical thought, emotional and ethical nuance, substantive debate, and real education are foreign. Being dumb is very different from proudly remaining that way and disparaging people who are less dumb. Reagan, one of our few greatest presidents, was perhaps not a huge intellectual himself, but he read real books throughout his life, and both respected greatly and was influenced by currents of sophisticated thought.

  12. R.C. Dean,

    “…the average students at the B School are likely in the top 5% of the American public as far as mental acuity and discipline go.”

    Did you just pull that figure out of your ass, or do you have some means by which to substantiate it?

    “Probably better than I would have, because the B School curriculum is considerably tougher than the Law School.”

    How so? Different knowledge bases of course, but difference in toughness? You’d have to demonstrate that – and that means more than pulling figures out of your ass.

    “Bush has made a career out of getting people to underestimate him (a favorite Texas trick, BTW). Some people never learn.”

    Actually half of his “career” he was a failure and drunk.

  13. Bush has made a career out of getting people to underestimate him (a favorite Texas trick, BTW).

    What the hell does this mean? I have lived in Texas my entire life and I did not realize we were so tricky. We have favorite tricks? We like to make people think we’re stupid? This is news to me.

    I don’t think Bush is tricking anyone, except maybe tricking you into thinking he’s smart but tricky.

  14. Me: “Bush has garnered much support *because of*, not *in spite of* being someone for whom critical thought, emotional and ethical nuance, substantive debate, and real education are foreign.”

    Mandrake Ethos: “This is really an amazing sentence. It combines “Bush is an idiot” with “about half of Americans are idiots” into a single package that manages to sound like insightful analysis.”

    You’re right, it was an assertion rather than an analysis. In a thread centered upon responses to Kerry’s speech, I was putting words to my predominant sentiment. I would not assert that “about half of Americans are idiots”, but I do believe that more than half prefer resolution to nuance on important matters, to the extent that a very low-grade resolved mind is electable.

    John writes that “people conflate articulateness with intelligence”, and I largely agree with him in his disses of Jackson and Gore, although the latter is not very articulate either. And I will admit that, like every other language-using being on the planet, I conflate the two concepts in my perception to a certain extent. But after five years or so, I am very confident that I am not unfairly extrapolating from Bush’s awkward intonation and/or dialect to his ranking on the features in my above quote. Not once have I seen a sign of critical reflection on a complex issue, drawing on a deep store of theory and experience… as I have seen almost every other politician do occasionally. And I am far from a tunnel-vision partisan. Those of you who disagree with me must have some good evidence to show me. How, if not in his speeches, has Bush’s status as a critical thinker and a learned man manifested itself?

  15. Relative difficulty of engineering, law, business, medical, etc. schools depends on the person, of course. However, a friend graduated first in his class at one of the higher ranked biz schools and said he didn’t learn much and hadn’t expected to when he started. He admitted he was just “getting his ticket punched.”

  16. As an ’86 graduate of GWB’s business school alma mater, alow me to make a few observations:

    1. Only about 2% of each HBS class gets booted for academic reasons. Getting booted requires poorer grades than just stupidity and sloth can produce. In my anecdotal experience it usually happened because of personal upheaval [divorce, death in the family] or a serious substance abuse problem. The Business School likes to keep everybody it admits, it makes them feel all the wiser for having admitted them.

    2. There are plenty of stupid people at HBS, but also plenty of really smart ones. Sit in a room with them every day all year and there’s no doubt who is who. I’d be interested in hearing what GWB’s classmates thought of him.

    3. Completely agree with the earlier poster about students not caring who each others parents were. If anybody ever tried to pull some “Well, my father is…” crap with us, they’d be laughed out of the place. However, I’m not so sure the *admissions* office couldn’t be swayed by the application some fame, favor and cash.

    Cheers,

  17. !The Friday gratuitous New Wave link. !

    It’s Oingo Boingo!

    http://tinyurl.com/5cpdp

    Perhaps this one isn’t really so gratuitous. Maybe if Kerry listened to some of Boingo’s libertarian songs, he wouldn’t be such a complete…well, I can dream can’t I?

    The Oingo Boingo libertarian connection:

    http://members.aol.com/thegneech/elflib.htm

  18. Ken Shulz.
    As a CPA I can answer your question about Kerry’s tax comments.
    First, if Kerry has his way, he will lower corporate tax rates for small businesses and increase them for the successful self-employed,and for S Corporate and LLC owners.
    Then lawyers and CPAs will make a lot of money converting pass-through entities to regular corporations.
    Then, at the next Democratic convention, you will hear about how the tax code needs to be changed because certain businesses are using the corporate tax laws (loopholes) to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, thus unfairly burdening the working man and woman.
    Then . . . etc.

  19. RonAA,
    Agreed. Nothing else raises campaign funds like proposing changes to the tax code – not to mention giving those proposing the changes an opportunity to feign righteous indignation.

  20. J. Goard wrote: “Bush has garnered much support *because of*, not *in spite of* being someone for whom critical thought, emotional and ethical nuance, substantive debate, and real education are foreign.”

    This is really an amazing sentence. It combines “Bush is an idiot” with “about half of Americans are idiots” into a single package that manages to sound like insightful analysis.

    It’s not, though–No more than “Kerry looks like Lurch” is insightful analysis. Using the term “mongoloid scion” doesn’t make the view any more erudite. It just implies you can be intellectually shallow and study for your SATs at the same time.

  21. Hmmm.

    I wonder how many of the people accusing President Bush of being dumb have earned a degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard?

    well?

  22. FWIW, Unca’ Cecil has investigated the subject of Bush’s intelligence in the following link.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/010622.html

  23. He didn’t earn them, the Saudi family bought them for him. See my next movie.

  24. I wonder how many people on this board can get into Yale and Harvard despite mediocre grades. People point to it and say see, he must be smart because he got into two of the top academic institutions. He got in because of his families legacy, period. On his own, he wouldnt have even made it into University of Texas.

  25. Last night Kerry was painting himself to be a republican, but you can tell how pre-briefed and scripted the whole thing was – even the crowd. I listened to last night’s BBC coverage which was entirely fawning. When they had random “guy on the street” type chats with various attendees in the convention hall, they really sounded like they were reading off of cue cards.

    This morning’s beeb presented some analysis which went a little further than flattery, but it was interspersed with soundbites replayed from his speech which were unusually long – 30- 45 seconds which is a really long time for TV and radio.

    Make no mistake about it. This morning Kerry is not a republican, even though he looked like one last night.

  26. ed,
    I’m no W supporter, but I did find it odd that in the last election most of those calling W dumb were supporting a guy who was either so unmotivated or so dumb that he finished neither law nor divinity school at Vandy.

  27. “On his own, he wouldnt have even made it into University of Texas.”

    In fact, he was rejected by UT’s law school before being accepted to Harvard Business School. Gives me more respect for Texas, and less for Harvard.

    Jesse, “incentives” aren’t regulations, they’re tax breaks.

  28. Not one of Cecil’s better efforts.

  29. The protectionist segments were downright disturbing. My guess is that Edwards had something to do with it. Unlike tax hikes, you can’t trust a GOP-controlled Congress to take a firm stand against protectionism. Bush’s record on free trade hasn’t been too good, and it’s certainly been worse than Clinton’s, but he hasn’t been a complete disaster on this front either. A Kerry/Edwards administration just might be, and not only would that do serious economic damage, it could very well neutralize any positive effects on international attitudes towards the US stemming from foreign policy changes.

  30. Ah, the old ‘moron’ meme.

    So, Bush’s degrees were purchased for him because he’s rich and connected, yes? Does that mean we should then automatically discount the degrees of all rich connected people? That would render a huge swathe of the liberal intelligentsia as degreeless as you consider Bush to be.

    But not all of them, thank the gods. Not an insubstantial number of them are already without degrees. College drop-outs, high school drop outs and all manner of intellectual detritus number themselves among the brains that generate leftist thought.

    There is an old saying, ‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’. Given your penchant for mistaking ad hominem attack for reasoned insight, J. Goard, I’d think you’d take that one more to heart.

  31. Joe: “Incentives” in politician-speak are all sorts of sticks and carrots, including but not limited to tax breaks. The purpose is to guide the economy, so they’re regulatory in intent … but in the cold light of morning I think it probably would have been better if I’d said “industrial policy” instead of “regulation.” Oh, well.

    Kevin: Next time you drop by, feel free to bring along your sense of humor.

  32. At least you _can_ flip over to CSPAN2 for convention reruns. Here in Atlanta, Comcast decided that what we need is _more_ convention coverage, so they’ve pre-empted CSPAN2 with their own attempt at convention coverage. As if the other fifty channels showing the convention weren’t enough. (Comcast claims that their customers “demanded” the coverage)

  33. He may have gotten into Yale and Harvard Business School as a legacy (although I doubt the latter), but I very seriously doubt that his grades or graduation were influenced by his family background, especially at the B School.

    I attended Harvard Law, and knew plenty of B Schoolers. Nobody at Harvard gives a rat’s ass who your parents are – they’re all too wrapped up in their own ego trip, and that definitely includes the professors.

    No, we have here a man whose academic accomplishments place him somewhere in the top 5% of the country, at a minimum, being called an idiot. Projection, anyone?

  34. R.C. Dean,

    Bush was a legacy student at Yale; I don’t see how this puts him in the top 5%. He was a mediocre student at Harvard Business School – I don’t see how this puts him the top 5% either. This doesn’t mean he’s particularly dumb – it might mean that he was a lazy or otherwise disinterested in what he was doing.

  35. I have no idea whether Bush is dumb, smart, or right smack in the middle. His big problem is that he’s a lousy public speaker. Why rhetoric is so raved over as a skill is beyond me–I’d rather have a mumbling, stumbling president who did his job correctly than Captain Toastmaster. Though, of course, campaigning is generally more successful if you can speak well. If I ever become president (ha!), I’m going to have James Earl Jones deliver all of my speeches. Though my presidency would be shortlived–I’d be impeached somewhere between refusing to collect the income tax and opening up government records. Buh-bye.

    It seems to me that the bar for rhetoric has gone down quite a bit. Clinton, for instance, is a good speaker, but I think the raves over his abilities are a little over the top. I always come away from his speeches remembering nothing–no ideas, no catchphrases, nada. That’s not good for a political speech. On the other hand, I guess he is better than most of the competition these days. The truly great political speakers surely predate TV, because they had to rely on their oratory skills much more (and had to stretch a speech out a lot longer).

  36. Wait, I maligned Mr. Clinton. I do remember one of his catchphrases: “The era of big government is over”. Guess Reason, Cato, and the LP can shut down now–your work is done.

  37. …thus unfairly burdening the working man and woman.

    No, no, no! It’s working families! Stick to the script!

    They must have focused grouped this one to death, as they’ve been using it for years. Once upon a time a politician was “for the working man.” As women started approaching parity in paid workforce participation being “for the working man and woman” became popular. In “working families” there are many people – stay-at-home-spouses (usually wives), students, retirees – who would be left out by a reference to “working men and women.” In the olden days, some speakers would solve that catch-all problem by referring to “the working class”, but, no matter how much a John Sweeney would be comfortable with that, it would be, in today’s US context, the rhetorical equivalent of the candidate donning a hammer and sickle T-shirt.

    Everytime I hear “working families” I have a mental image of Bud and Princess being sent off to the coal mine every morning before sunrise, in violation of the child labor laws.

    Kevin
    (mowed lawns and delivered newspapers in my “working family”)

  38. Actually, Bush’s standardized test scores were higher than either John Kerry’s or Bill Clinton’s. (Gasp). It must be because those tests are racist. Oh wait, they’re all white Yalies.

    Hmm…there has got to be some other explanation that can make Bush look dumberER…or maybe getting the NYT to agree with you or using circular sentence structures isn’t a sign of intelligence and chiasmus. Maybe it is just dumb.

  39. What’s the problem, Jesse, you didn’t like Obama’s speech? Granted, Clinton’s was certainly more entertaining, but Obama’s was the highlight of the week.

    Now if only he can avoid the “curse of the keynote speaker” and go on to national prominence.

    Bush isn’t “dumb.” At least I don’t think he was born dumb (some Republicans disagree. insert comment about the long term effects of alcohol abuse here). Dumb is something you can’t do anything about. Bush is ignorant. By choice. That’s a bona-fide character flaw.

  40. People conflate articulateness with intelligence. Jesse Jackson is one of dumbest men in America. I have never heard him give a speech or say anything that was intellectually above a second or third grade level. That said, he is tremendously articulate and charming and knows how to give a great speach so no one calls him stupid. Gary Gunnels, its interesting how people tag Bush as a stupid legacy and never taked Gore as the same. Gore never even graduated from graduate school and certainly would have had a hard time getting into community college had his father not been the senior senator from Tennessee. He dropped out of law school. Couldn’t even complete a semester. Yet, Bush who actually earned a Harvard MBA, is the dumb one. Talk about projection.

  41. Having watched all four nights of the DemCon on CSPAN, I grudgingly give them an A grade on presentation. Their policies are wrong and self-contradictory, but the spin and challenge to the Republicans were excellent.

    I despair that there is now absolutely no hope of controlling Fed spending. The Dems, despite lip service to “balanced budgets” and professed longing for past surpluses, have stayed true to form by promising Everything to Everyone. Meanwhile, the recent track record of the Republican executive and legislature shows that they too have no interest in restraining spending.

    Aaaargh!

  42. John,

    As I recall, when Gore was running for President many mocked Gore’s “psuedo-intellectual pretensions” (indeed, Bush himself mocked Gore after he heard Gore discussing I think the philosopher Baudrillard). Indeed, I disntinctly remember people taking shots at his inability to finish either law school or divinity school, and comparing this Bush’s “performance” at Harvard.

    Of course an important consideration to take into account today is that Gore is no longer running for office, so obsessing about his marks in school would seem a bit strange. Better to attack Kerry’s marks if your into that sort of thing.

  43. Gary – the average students at the B School are likely in the top 5% of the American public as far as mental acuity and discipline go.

    My point was that how he got in is not nearly as important as how he did while he was there. And he did OK. Probably better than I would have, because the B School curriculum is considerably tougher than the Law School.

    Bush has made a career out of getting people to underestimate him (a favorite Texas trick, BTW). Some people never learn.

  44. Regarding “working families” – I think all y’all are analyzing it way too much. I would bet solid money that at some point, some pollster realized that “family” is a word with great positive associations. So politicians try and work it in as much as possible. (Probably ditto for “love” and “child” – although maybe not in the same phrase – and “work”, for that matter.) Makes their speeches sound more friendly and uplifting, and unassailable at the same time – who’s going to be against families? The intellectual content is zero.

    Which – to do my own bit of overanalyzing – is probably always the case when you run across a concept which doesn’t have a meaningful opposite. “working families” – as opposed to what, families where nobody works? Would those be welfare families, or Vanderbilts who sit around and just watch the money roll in? Contrary to what many liberals seem to think, I suspect the number of families in America who just sit around wearing top hats, chomping cigars, drinking champagne, and going “Haw-haw! I think I shall lay off another ten thousand workers today! More champagne, boy!” is rather small. (See the New Yorker for cartoons illustrating this concept, despite the fact that New Yorker readers are probably very well-to-do on average – but then, it seems to be a vessel for self-hatred.)

  45. …as opposed to what, families where nobody works? Would those be welfare families, or Vanderbilts who sit around and just watch the money roll in?

    Both! The working families gambit was designed to appeal to middle-class voters who had been lured into the Republican camp even though they were part of demographic groups – labor union members, Catholics, low church protestants – who traditionally voted with the Dems. At the same time, it was meant to avoid alienating voters who worked for a living who don’t feel like they are part of the middle class. The Reps had success with Reagan and Bush I by holding their traditional base, and grabbing a bunch of voters the Dems counted on. The Dems had success with Clinton by convincing enough of the middle class that it was again safe to put the donkeys in charge, even if they have yet to put together a popular vote majority.

    Standard caveats about how almost nobody in America thinks they are anything but middle class apply, of course.

    Kevin

  46. Here’s Your “Saturday Night Live” Skit….

    Everytime Kerry goes somewhere, within seconds the entire democratic leadership comes out and swamps him in a balloon-crazed love-fest.

    Cut to a McDonald’s. Kerry goes in to order a burger on his own. Edwards jumps over the counter, followed by Teddy and Jesse and the rest.

    Cut to a men’s room. Kerry sidles up to a urinal…and ..well..you know. Might be funny.

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