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The Nation

Combative Kerry

At a convention where the "No Bush Bashing" memo went out early and remained in circulation through three nights of frequently tepid speechifying, John Kerry ended things with an appropriately aggressive pummeling of the president.

Kerry did not engage in the empty bipartisanship that has too frequently been the dodge of Democratic politicians in the post-September 11th era. He delivered a speech that was as tough and partisan as it needed to be. And he did everything in his power to suggest that his would be a dramatically different administration from that of the White House's current occupant.

At times, Kerry was painfully blunt about the failings of the current and former Presidents Bush, and their corruptions of the public trust. "I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation -- not the Saudi royal family," he said, in pointed reference to the Bush family's dark and continual compromises of American security and values with the dictators of the Middle East.

In a litany of sincere complaint, Kerry contrasted his own candidacy's promise with the broken promises of the Bush presidency. Addressing the administration's trouble with truth, he turned a line from Bush's 2000 campaign on the president, declaring that, "I will restore trust and credibility to the White House."

Then he explained exactly what he meant:

"I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war," Kerry shouted. "I will have a Vice President who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States."

Kerry was, as always, better at condemning Bush's management of the occupation of Iraq than he was at presenting a strategy for exiting the quagmire. But the candidate did have his Michael Moore moment, when he recalled the day of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, saying, "I am proud that after September 11th all our people rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.

"Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities -- and I do -- because the issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so.

"As president, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system -- so policy is guided by facts, and fact are never distorted by politics. And as president, I will bring this nation's time-honored tradition; the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

There is a running joke that says Kerry's campaign might well succeed with a two-word slogan: "Not Bush." And much of the candidate's acceptance speech seemed to adopt that theme.

Of course, the newly-minted Democratic nominee's address offered a good deal more than Bush bashing. Kerry had his elegant moments, especially toward the close of the speech, when he announced that, "It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is here. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come."

But even as he flashed his poetic license, Kerry distinguished himself with Bush: "For four years, we've heard a lot of talk about values. But values spoken without actions taken are just slogans," he declared. "Values are not just words. They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families."

It was on the subject of family values -- or, at least, on the president's warped proposals for protecting them -- that Kerry subtlety referenced a subject that was rarely discussed from the podium of the convention: the president's drive to amend the Constitution to bar same-sex marriages.

"I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's built unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor the nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States."

That was a subtle jab, to be sure -- less Howard Dean than Jimmy Carter. But it was a jab all the same. And, like the other hits Kerry landed on Bush last night, it signaled that the nominee has decided to wage the combative campaign that Dean's run for the nomination taught the party could be run and that Carter's Monday night speech to the convention effectively called upon the party to wage.

Kerry Does His Duty

When John Kerry appeared at the convention for the MOST IMPORTANT SPEECH OF HIS LIFETIME, he showed how the screw can turn. What was his not-so-secret weapon? Vietnam. For decades, conservatives have used Vietnam the Metaphor to whack Democrats, to argue they are not serious about national defense, to claim they cannot be trusted to safeguard the United States, and even to suggest that Democrats (at least the liberal ones) are blame-America-firsters.

No more. Kerry, the war-hero-turned-war-foe, wore his Vietnam service as a bloody shirt. And he wrapped his entire party in it. Before Kerry said a single word, his swift boat crewmates stood together on the stage. Former Senator Max Cleland, a veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam, called Kerry "an authentic American hero." Kerry's daughter, Alexandra, recalled a moment when her father drove her to college ten years ago. While she was brooding away, he remarked that it was a lovely sunny day and said, "I know men your exact age, who thought they had the same future you have. Whose families were never born, who never again walked on American soil. They don't feel this sun. Ali, if there's something you don't like, something that needs to be changed, change it." Jim Rassmann, the Marine lieutenant whose life Kerry saved in Vietnam, told the crowd, "Nobody asked me to join this campaign. I volunteered." It was a reference to Kerry's own decision to volunteer for Vietnam. And in his best speech of the 2004 campaign, retired General Wesley Clark declared, "John Kerry fought a war, and I respect him for that. And he came home to fight a peace, and I respect him for that, too. " Vietnam--it works both ways. Kerry was a courageous leader in the face of danger. And, as Kerry said in a biographical film, he "felt the government had not been truthful with the American public," and he challenged that government.

Vietnam is no longer a test of foreign policy machismo. John Kerry has transformed it into a test of character and credibility. The presence of his former crewmates was a reminder of a personal story of heroism. And the previous night's endorsement of Kerry by a slew of retired generals and admirals--who directly or indirectly accuse the current president of misleading the nation regarding the Iraq war--tied Bush historically to a previous war that was predicated on lies and ended badly. All this puts George W. Bush--the onetime missing-in-nonaction Guardsman who has used falsehoods to steer the United States into a poorly-planned war--on the short end of the stick. What-ifs hardly matter in political warfare. But imagine for a moment that George W. Bush spent a single day in Vietnam (perhaps even suffering a hangnail). Then the last night of the Democratic convention--and much of the previous evenings--would have been impossible.

The setup for Kerry's address was Vietnam, Vietnam and Vietnam. When broadcast network coverage began--the hour in which millions of Americans, as the pundits had proclaimed, would receive their best look at Kerry--there on the TV screen was Max Cleland. And Kerry's fellow crewmates were nearby. These were men he served with, men he had saved, men who had seen him kill the enemy. It was over thirty years ago. But post 9/11, all the Vietnam references mattered. As Rassmann said, "in a tight situation...your whole life depends on the decisions of one man." He was referring to when he had been thrown into a river and Kerry had bravely rescued him. But he was also speaking about the "tight situation" currently faced by the nation.

The convention finale was a good night for Kerry. He delivered his speech effectively. He smiled as well as he has ever done in public. He came across as firm, smart, and serious. But this was also a historical moment in the political culture. Kerry and his advisers--including Bob Shrum and John Marttila--have Jujitsued the Vietnam metaphor. Vietnam is now a liability for the Bush-Cheney Republicans, for it undermines (or, at least, neutralizes) their claims to personal toughness and symbolizes what happens when wartime commanders-in-chief do not tell the truth.

For much of the 2004 campaign, Kerry's references to his Vietnam service seemed overdone. But as his fellow vets came forward to tell the Kerry tale from their perspective--a long process that happened only as a result of much patient work conducted by a few Kerry aides--and as Bush's war became increasingly regarded as an endeavor predicated on misrepresentations and false assertions, the Kerry campaign's allusions to Vietnam have become more powerful, culminating with his acceptance speech.

Finally, the Vietnam references seemed fully--and authentically--integrated into Kerry's pitch, starting with the opening line: "I am John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty." In his speech, he repeatedly returned to the subject of credibility in government. Some examples:

* "We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals--and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House."

* "I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a Vice President who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States."

* "Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities--and I do-- because some issues just aren't all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so."

Kerry did what is expected for an acceptance speech. He told his life's story. He praised his wife and his running mate. He assailed his opponents for a variety of sins, such as "kicking kids out of after-school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break" and "denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors, so big drug companies can get another windfall." He outlined his various policy proposals: enhancing homeland security measures neglected by the Bush administration, rolling back tax cuts for individuals making $200,000 a year, preserving tax cuts for the middle class, expanding health care coverage, investing in new technologies and alternative energy as part of an energy independence initiative ("I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation--not the Saudi royal family"), supporting stem cell research ("what if we have a president who believes in science?"). He declared his support for abortion rights and noted his passion for the environment. On Iraq, he stated his position simply:

"And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace. I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home. Here is the reality: that won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership--so we don't have to go it alone in the world."

Kerry had presented all these policy ideas--many of which fall on the progressive side of the fence--previously. There were no new proposals, no new plan for dealing with the mess Bush has created in Iraq. But with this speech, Kerry found an appropriate and compelling way to enlist Vietnam in his campaign against Bush. Kerry signaled he is indeed ready for the brutal political combat to come and that he is up to the fight.

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to the official website: www.bushlies.com. And check out Corn's blog on the site.

Iraq, the US and the World

Inside the Fleet Center this week, few speakers have engaged the fierce antiwar views of the vast majority of delegates.

Instead, activists and delegates flocked to panels and forums around Boston in order to debate and discuss the war, the occupation and what is to be done. On Wednesday afternoon, the Campaign for America's Future and The Nation co-sponsored a debate on "Iraq, The US and the World." Agreed: the debacle in Iraq has left America more isolated, more reviled and less safe. Panelists included Dennis Kucinich, who will work hard to elect Kerry, while continuing to speak out in support of the withdrawal of our troops and ending the occupation. Gary Hart, talked about the themes of his new book. He also welcomed a special guest. Robin Cook, the former British Foreign Minister, who courageously resigned on the eve of war to protest Tony Blair's decision, was in Boston for the convention. Referring to Cook's resignation, Hart lamented that in the old days "When people disagreed with policy, they used to resign in protest. What's happened to that tradition," he asked the crowd of some 400 people. ("Run, Robin, Run," people shouted in reply." ) Ambassador Joe Wilson --after listening to Kucinich talk of making nonviolence an organizing principle--asked if it was "okay to harbor just a bit of violence against a certain journalist?" (He was talking about Robert Novak, for those who've been living under a rock these last months.)

Barbara Lee, diminutive in stature, statuesque in her commitment to the Constitution and peace, laid out an alternative progressive foreign policy. She talked of how she had introduced House Resolution 141 to repeal preemptive war doctrine. (It has 40 co-sponsors), and House Resolution 3919, which states that no US tax dollars can be authorized to overthrow a democratically elected government. Look at Haiti, Lee said. "And we need a rational policy toward Cuba. Let us end the embargo against Cuba," she said to rousing applause from the crowd of some 400 people.

Tom Andrews of the Win Without War Coalition and Gayle Smith, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, also participated in the forum.

Like all such panels, time was running out when I stepped up to the podium. What follows below is a longer version of my hastily abbreviated remarks.

July 28, 2004, The Royal Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge, Massachusetts

One reason The Nation (magazine) is thriving is because somuch of the media failed the American people in the run up to war. It failed to ask the tough questions. Robin cook's presence here reminds me of that press conference on the eve of war, when journalists acted more like courtiers at the court of King George than members of a free press. And we welcome Robin Cook to our shores, in these perilous times, and we will conscript him in our fight to oust this President, who on a good day acts like a secular monarch, and on rough days he acts like he's channeling god.

What is the single most important thing that we as Americans can do to advance a more just and secure world? Defeat George W. Bush and send him packing, back to the ranch in crawford. But it's not enough to defeat Bush. That is the first and crucial step.

Everyone in this room knows that after Kerry is elected there is much work ahead to build a compelling and democratic alternative national security policy that affirms the best of our values--including respect for the truth and international law.

This election is a referendum on an Administration that has led usinto the greatest foreign policy failure in us history. It is areferendum on an adminstration that has squandered America'scredibility while pursuing a faithbased foreign policy when it comes to evidence, and a messianic militarist one when it comes to action. Bush and his neocon accomplices have rolled back decades of bispartisan tradition with their preemptive war doctrine. Theirs is not a conservative foreign policy; it is a radical and reckless one. While hijacking our foreign policy, Bush and his people have violated the most essential trust in a democracy and taken Americans into an illegal and unecessary war based on manipulated intelligence, repetitions of baseless claims and the persistent use of fear.

But what is hopeful, as we meet this afternoon, is that a majority of Americans now believe that the war was a mistake. A majority ofAmericans have turned against the war. And they have done so withprecious little leadership from our politicians.

A majority of Americans understand that the war has made America less safe, not more secure. That it has made us more isolated, reviled and hated than at any time in our history. That is a view shared by awide range of establishment sources--from the british inst forstrategic studies, which concluded in a recent study that the warhas led to accelerated recruitment in Al Qaeda; to anonymous, theCIA counterterrorist analyst, who put it plainly, " the war has beena christmas gift to Osama bin Laden." Then there are theestablishment dissenters. The leading diplomats and militaryofficials who worked in reagan and Bush one Administration whorecently issued a powerful statement indicting this admin fordamaging our national security.

A majority of Americans believe the war was a mistake because:

--20,000 US troops have had their tours of duty extended.Redeployment has been met with widespread anger among militaryfamilies and active-duty personnel.

--A majority of US troops report low morale. The military isstretched thin, seriously thin. There is talk of reviving the draft.

**Consider the mounting costs in blood and money.

* More than 900 US troops have died since Bush declared "the end ofmajor combat" in his infamous "mission accomplished' speech in may2003. Another ugly landmark was passed early this week--the 10,000wounded mark. Imagine--over 10,000 wounded Americans in a war ourmilitary and political leadership now say may last years. The coststo the Iraqi people have also been tragic. Over 11,000 Iraqicivilians have died in conflict so far--many of them children.

* The United States has already spent some $126 billion on the war,costing every American family about $3400 each. As the camp for am'sfuture has pointed out, this admin has socked it to hardworkingfamilies on two fronts--Bush passed his massive tax cuts that gave ahuge break to the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and thenwhen he went to war, Bush asked the same working and middle classfamilies who bore the brunt of the tax cuts to pay for the conflict.Meanwhile contract cronies masquerading as companies like halliburtonare making a killing in Iraq after receiving no bid contracts fromthe federal government.

*For the $152 billion Congress has allocated for the war, the UnitedStates could have provided healthcare for 27 million Americans--or we could have spent the $151 million on food for half the hungrypeople in the world for two years; plus a comprehensive global aidsprogram plus clean water for all in the developing world; pluschildhood immunizations for every child in the developing world; orwe could have committed to helping the middle east create the 100million jobs it will need over next 15 years just to keep up with theyouthful populations--thus addressing the root causes of instabilityin this turbulent world. America could once again become a source ofhope and use its power in constructive, intelligent ways.

The work of building a clear, credible and compelling alternative tothe messianic militaristic policies of the Bush Administration.Is the tough and critical job of those who opposed this senselesswar, those citizens' groups and movements and media who have foughtfor years for a more democratic and enlightened foreign policy ...Itis those people, groups who gave Kerry and the party the energy andbackbone in the months before we arrived here in boston. And when weelect Kerry President we're not going away.

For us, peace is not off message. It is the message.

We will work for a Kerry victory because it will mean a necessaryrepudiation of those who have hijacked our security and foreignpolicy. But we have no illusions about a Kerry presidency. As we havelearned from hard trial and error, progressives must gear up to holda democratic Administration accountable and be perpared to fightpitched battles to forward progressive reforms whether in economicpolicy or security policy. But Kerry in the white house will enableprogressives to go from defense to offense. And though Kerry waswrong to vote to give Bush the authority to make war in Iraq, and hehas failed to call for an end to the us occupation, he challengesBush's preemptive war doctrine and promises a foreign policy thatwill be tempered by alliances, international cooperation and the ruleof law. He offers Americans an Administration that will be able torevive America's influence as a source of hope not fear andresentment and enlist its allies, and more willing to address thebroader threats to us security--from catastrophic climate change tothe trade in loose nukes.

But the central issue of our political and historical moment is anend to the occupation of Iraq. If it isn't ended, it will bleed bothour forces, as well as the Iraqi people--and our country ofresources for our own domestic reconstruction.

The Bush Administration bears heavy responsibility for the fact thatthe options in Iraq today are bad, worse and much worse. We cannoteasily rebuild what the Bush Administration has broken, but a fundamentalcourse correction is urgently needed. Slogans about "staying thecourse" are a prescription for inflaming the region while polarizingthe us and undermining us global leadership. America needs a roadmapout of Iraq, one that as senator byrd has said, "is orderly andastute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow thefate of tennyson's doomed light brigade." It is time to change course--not stay the course.

The costs of continuing the occupation outweigh the risks of aphased and responsible withdrawal.

The occupation, like other occupations throughout history, hasgenerated instability and violence and a growing popular resistancethat cannot be defeated militarily. The longer the us militarypresence lasts, the more likely it is that the Iraqi resistance willintensify. Even leading us generals admit this cannot be wonmilitarily.

Occupation and its abuses are creating new recruiting tools forterrorists in the region; while we neglect hotbeds of terroristactivity along the pakistan-afghan border. It will trap the us andthe un in a spiral of unending violence, as the standoffs in Fallujahand Najaf have demonstrated.

*Yes, arguably withdrawal may leave Iraq a failed state or lead tosome form of civil war. But an extended American occupation may onlyresult in an intensified guerrilla war and attract everydisillusioned muslim fanatic to Iraq to fight the American infidel,which would produce the same or even worse result. A well-coordinatedwithdrawal is more likely to deprive these extremists of a pretextand a context for future attacks. Egyptian President Mubarak warnedthat a us invasion would create "a hundred bin Ladens" and the longerwe stay , the more such extremism will be fostered. It is our respectfor the will of the Iraqi people that will deprive islamic radicalsof their greatest rallying cry. On balance, staying the course willonly doom more Americans and Iraqis to die for a dubious cause atcosts we can ill afford.

And, tragically, if Kerry stays the course, it may well destroy anyof the hopes he has of revitalizing our nation domestically.

To call for a coherent exit strategy is not to abandon Iraq or itspeople. There are still many things that the us can do. Continuedeconomic assistance is one. Another is to help the un andinternational organizations assist in the transition to a newpolitical order. But all combat operations should cease and then, ona fixed and announced timetable, us forces should withdraw in asorderly, responsible way as is possible from the country. In short,the us working with others, should give Iraqis their best chance tosucceed in their own efforts to create their own future. No permanentus bases, no meddling with their legal codes to put fix in for usmultinationals, no shameless war profiteering by halliburton.

I believe that each additional day that American troops continue tofight in Iraq can only compound the eventual price of the originalmistake--costing more lives, pulverizing the society, contributing tothe spiral of violence and animus toward the us, and reducing, notfostering, any chances for a better future for the country.

There are important lessons for an alternative security policy in thetragedy of the reckless strategic crusade in Iraq:

1/ we have seen the limits of American military power to achieve anyreasonable political goals, certainly not at an acceptable cost. AsNation columnist jonathan schell has masterfully demonstrated in hislatest book, the war system has reached a point that using war asprimary goal to resolve differences does as much harm to those thatemploy force as it does to those on the receiving end. It is justcommon sense to acknowledge that most of today's internationalsecurity threats are not susceptible to military solution or willprovoke local resistance that is far more potent than are Americancapabilities. We desperately need a new definition of security in avulnerable and interconected world. Overwhelming military power isill suited to dealing with the central challenges we face: statelessterrorists with global reach, the worst pandemic in human history,the spread of WMD. Insecure and decrepit nuclear arsenals in theformer Soviet Union, genocidal conflict and hunger afflicting africa, thedegradation of our common environment, transnational crime, and aglobal economy that is generating greater instability and inequality.

As we work to end the occupation, let us also fight for a moreconstructive and intelligent use of American power.Let us unshackleour imaginations.

In this context, imagine an Administration which would use America's power to:

*lead a global campaign to meet the un's milennium goal of halvingworld poverty, cutting child mortality by two-thirds and guaranteeingevery child primary education by 2015.

*Strengthen multilateral and verifiable arms control treaties thatcurb WMDs, while at same time promoting nuclear disarmament and internationaldemilitarization.

*End dependence on foreign oil and invest in the development ofalternative energy sources--and commit to the campaign for America's"Apollo Project" on energy indpependence.

*Build up the capacities of the united nations to prevent and contain conflict.

*Ratify the scores of treaties the us has subverted these last twoyears--from Kyoto to the international criminal court, to theanti-ballistic missile treaty.

Or consider these positive steps an enlightened adminsitration might take:

1/ Declare that it will hold Israel accountable to international lawand to un security council resolutuions, and that it will movequickly to a UN quartet-sponsored summit to bring about a finalsettlement with the taba maps as the starting point of finalnegotiations.

2/ Establish, with the European Union and major Asian developednations, a job creation and development fund aimed at creating 100million jobs in the greater Middle East by the year 2020. Thedevelopment fund woulf finance a combination of public investmentprojects, smaller regional funds for small business and homedevelopment, and public education. Arab oil-producing countrieswould be asked to match Americans, european and japanesecontributions.

3/ Move quickly to a non-conditional detente policy with Iran andannounce that it will support un talks aimed at creating anon-nuclear weapons zone in the Middle East.

4/ Announce that it will support with money and expertise a new UNdepartment of state-building for overseeing failed states and forassuming responsibility for afghanistan and Iraq.

None of us here today wish to complicate--or oppose--the campaignof senator John Kerry. We must defeat Bush. But those of us, themillions who rallied to oppose this war, must stand for what webelieve and become an independent factor/force that will fight inthese coming months for an end to an occupation that is the result ofa mistaken war.

Edwards Flattens His 'Two Americas'

Is there one America or two Americas? One and a half Americas?

Hours before lawyer-turned-senator John Edwards was to appear before the convention and deliver the most important summation of his life, I ran into Tad Devine, a senior Kerry campaign strategist, in the bowels of the Fleet Center. I asked if Edwards would reprise the "Two Americas" speech that won rave reviews (at least from me) during the primary campaign. In that speech, Edwards had combined a populist critique of America as a society divided between the privileged (who benefit most from the rules) and the rest (who could use some help) with an upbeat call for various reforms and initiatives to improve the lot of hardworking families.

"Two Americas? I think he'll be talking about one America," Devine said. But wasn't the message of his presidential campaign "Two Americas"? I inquired. "His message will be the Kerry-Edwards message of an America stronger at home and more respected abroad."

"Yeah," I said. "I've heard about that message." In case you have missed it, Stronger at home and more respected abroad has been the mantra of the campaign. Devine didn't smile, and he raced off.

As it turned out, Edwards did do a version of his "Two Americas" speech--just not a very powerful one. After praising John Kerry as decisive, strong and optimistic, after recounting his own rags-to-riches-to-politics story, after telling the delegates (and the audience at home) that he had fought against big HMOs and big insurance companies as a trial attorney and had battled "Washington lobbyists" as a senator, Edwards said,

"I stand here tonight ready to work with you and John to make America strong again. And we have so much work to do. Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet. It doesn't have to be that way. We can build one America."

"We can build one America where we no longer have two health care systems. One for people who get the best health care money can buy and then one for everybody else, rationed out by insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs--millions of Americans who don't have any health insurance at all. It doesn't have to be that way. We have a plan that will offer everyone the same health care your Senator has. We can give tax breaks to help pay for your health care. And we will sign into law a real Patients' Bill of Rights so you can make your own health care decisions."

"We shouldn't have two public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else. None of us believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community. It doesn't have to be that way. We can build one public school system that works for all our children. Our plan will reform our schools and raise our standards. We can give our schools the resources they need. We can provide incentives to put quality teachers in the places and the subjects where we need them the most. And we can ensure that three million kids with a safe place to go after school. This is what we can do together."

Even though the night before Illinois state senator Barack Obama, the keynote speaker of the convention, had declared the nation one America in a rousing speech, Edwards stuck to his "Two Americas" script. Actually, it's not hard to reconcile the different approaches. Obama spoke of a United States of America, tied together by shared aspirations and needs. Edwards addressed the reality of a nation that has yet to meet its social and economic obligations. The problem was that Edwards' speech fell flat. His "Two Americas" routine had been the best speech of the primary season--the best written, the best delivered. With it, Edwards had campaigned as the cheery populist. But on this big night--in front of the largest jury he has ever attempted to persuade--Edwards delivered his "Two Americas" sermon with less pizzazz. The spark was missing.

It's difficult to point to specific sentences or moments to support this review. But among journalists in the hall, the consensus was that Edwards' acceptance speech lacked oomph. Perhaps it played better on television, some said. Perhaps he was told to tone it down so he would not outshine Kerry, a few others suggested. (I doubt that.) He looked great (as he usually does), he received an enthusiastic response from the delegates, but he did not nail it.

Edwards tried to inspire. As he did during the primaries, he called for addressing the problems of the working poor and for confronting the racial divisions of the nation. (Regarding the former, he urged boosting the minimum wage; on the latter, he merely suggested "we should talk about race, equality, and civil rights....Everywhere.") But he did not soar, as Obama had. And the climatic rhetorical device of the speech--in which Edwards told delegates they can tell their overworked and stressed-out relatives and neighbors that "hope is on the way"--didn't click. Are Americans who worry about job insecurity, weak wages, health care costs, and the affordability of education praying for hope, or for action? At the 2000 convention, Dick Cheney, during his acceptance speech, declared, "help is on the way." Help is better than hope.

Edwards speech was fine, but it was not the best closer of his career. And the Kerry campaign missed another opportunity by failing to air in primetime a well-made film in which former senior officials of the military and the national security community endorsed Kerry. Instead, the film played several minutes before the network broadcasts began. "This should have been in primetime," a senior Kerry adviser told me right before Edwards came on. "But we have a lot of good stuff." Edwards' good stuff, though, was not as good as it had been. And the third night of the Democrats' infomercial had less punch then the first two. After the Edwards speech, I encountered another top Kerrynik. Well, I quipped, Kerry finally has the chance to do a better speech than Edwards. "We're working on it," he said.

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At the end of my first blog of this convention, I noted, with some indignation, that a Congressional Black Caucus reception honoring civil rights champions from the 1960s was underwritten by Lockheed Martin and Verizon. Of course, many events at the convention--especially parties and receptions--have been paid for by corporations and trade associations. By financing these free-booze-and-food get-togethers, corporations earn good will with the Dems, and their lobbyists and executives get the chance to mingle with members of Congress and congressional staffers. It's the usual institutional sleaziness that few seem to fret about. Edwards can proudly cite his battles with Washington lobbyists, even as Washington lobbyists help subsidize the convention.

But I've now decided corporate underwriting of the convention is fine by me. Why? Three nights ago, I was invited to a reception for the Hispanic Caucus of the House of Representatives. It was held at a small club. And on stage was Los Lobos, one of the best bands in America. I ended up literally standing next to band member David Hidalgo, as the group powered its way through a set of songs in English and Spanish, including, inevitably, its take on "La Bamba." (A friend of mine had tried to convince the Democratic convention planners to give Los Lobos a good slot at the convention. This Latino group from East Los Angeles could have played its marvelous rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." How about that for coalition building? But no, the DNC took a pass.) And as I was enjoying myself immensely--imbibing free drinks and jiggling to the music--I thought, "Thank you, American Gas Association, proud sponsor of the reception for the Hispanic Caucus honoring Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico." Next time the AGA calls me and wants a favor, they've got it.

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to the official website: www.bushlies.com. And check out Corn's blog on the site.

The Convention's Agitator-in-Chief

BOSTON--Michael Moore was set to leave this Democratic National Convention city today on his way to Los Angeles, where the maker of the hit film "Fahrenheit 9-11" will appear on "The Tonight Show."

That's a good thing for John Kerry because, even in the town that is preparing to nominate the Massachusetts senator for president this evening, the film maker's star might well have eclipsed the candidate's.

There is not much doubt that Michael Moore was one of the hottest, perhaps the hottest, commodity in Boston during the first several days of the convention. Everywhere he went, the man who may now be the best-known film maker in the nation was mobbed -- by crowds, and by reporters.

When Moore walked the floor of the convention hall on Monday morning, veteran journalists rushed past U.S. senators and party leaders to get within earshot of the man in the black t-shirt. The same was true over the next several days, as the Michigan native who made Bush bashing – or is it truth telling? -- an art form appeared at events sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Campaign for America' Future, Veterans for Peace and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the public employee union that sponsored a private screening of Moore' documentary for its members on Tuesday.

Every group that had the film maker on its bill suddenly found that their gathering was, at least for the time that Moore was present, the hottest ticket in a town of hot tickets.

When Moore returned to the convention hall Wednesday night, he was mobbed, drawing crowds that included not just reporters and delegates but members of the U.S. House and Senate.

At times, Moore marveled at the response. "I stood on the Oscar Stage and I was booed five days after the war began," he said, recalling the night in March, 2003, when he condemned the war in Iraq while accepting an Oscar for his documentary, "Bowling for Columbine." "That was when 70 percent of America supported the war. Even Democrats were for the war. I guess America came around."

At every appearance and in every interview during the convention, Moore delivered a steady stream of hard hits on the usual targets: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, middle-of-the-road Democrats, multinational corporations and mainstream media.

Turning the slogan of the Fox News Channel on itself, Moore said, "There has been no fairness and no balance from any of the news networks on this war." On the convention floor Monday, Moore confronted a CNN reporter. Later, he ran into Bill O'Reilly, the Fox commentator who has frequently questioned the patriotism of the Academy Award-winning documentary maker.

Moore agreed to appear Tuesday night on "The O'Reilly Factor. When O'Reilly went after Moore for opposing the war in Iraq, the film maker asked whether the host was willing to say, "I, Bill O'Reilly, would sacrifice my child to secure Fallujah." O'Reilly refused.

Moore's fight with the media is likely to heat up this fall. "In the coming months," he promised this week, "I'm going to present some things to show the American people how the news was being manipulated -- how the news media served as cheerleaders for this war."

"I've already put a movie out that's outed our media, that shows what a miserable job they did before the war," he said, referring to "Fahrenheit 9/11. "I intend to bring out some material that will provide more evidence of the manipulation."

Moore also hopes to put out a book of letters he has received from members of the military who share his anger with the Bush administration's approach to the war. "People are going to ask: Why didn't we hear from them? How did the embedded reporters miss this story? Where was our mainstream media?"

Moore's got another project coming up, as well. This fall, he'll be visiting battleground states where the race between Kerry and Bush is considered close. "I'll be all over the battleground states from now until the election," says Moore. "I've got a few more things I want to say about George Bush."

Democrats from the contested states say they will welcome Moore with open arms. "He's a troublemaker and this party needs more of those," says Michael Lowery, a Howard Dean delegate from Wisconsin. "Michael Moore challenges this party. We need that kind of gadfly. He keeps us honest."

Be that the case, there were no plans to get Moore together with the other man of the hour: John Kerry.

"If they would give me 15 minutes with him, I'd love to talk to him," Moore said. "I'd tell him how to win this election."

And what should Democrats do to win?

"Kerry's job is to get the base out," explained Moore, who has a long history of involvement with electoral politics, going back at least to when he was elected to the Flint, Mich., school board when he was 18. "This election is not about trying to convince the small percentage of the American people in the center to come over to the Democratic side. It's about energizing the base."

Moore mentioned a predominantly African-American precinct in Cleveland that was overwhelmingly Democratic, but where only 13 percent of the eligible voters turned out for the last election. "That's where Kerry should be working," said Moore. "He should be working to get the people out in that Cleveland neighborhood.

He's got some other political advice. For instance, he says he hopes that progressive Democrats campaign at screenings of his movie. Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., did just that, as part of a comeback campaign that last week secured her the Democratic primary nomination in an Atlanta-area district.

"I'm glad Cynthia McKinney's coming back to Congress, and I'm glad if my movie helped make that happen," declared Moore.

McKinney hailed ""Fahrenheit 9-11," as have most Democrats. But not every political figure is of the same opinion.

Even as he was at the convention Wednesday night, "Fahrenheit 9-11" was debuting in a new town: Crawford, Tex., where President Bush's ranch in located. "We're setting up a big screen," Moore explained. "I hope Mr. Bush comes to see it. He's on vacation in Crawford, you know, so he might want to take in a movie."

Then again, he might not.

Democratic Futures

Political conventions are about the future. I don't mean that in the way scores of podium speakers have been saying, This election will decide the future of our great nation. Conventions are where party leaders try to determine (and boost) their own futures within the party. Even when a decisive election is only three months away, there still is time and opportunity for politicians (and their handicappers in the media) to gaze further down the road. Throughout the 2004 campaign, the post-2004 gameplan of Hillary Clinton, assuming she has one, has been on the minds of political junkies. Should John Kerry fail to oust George W. Bush, might she become the leading (and perhaps inevitable) Democrat in the 2008 sweepstakes? And when John Kerry chose John Edwards as his running mate, this first-term senator/whippersnapper became a presumed rival to Hillary Clinton and another potential heir to the nomination.

But other politicians are angling for a piece of the party's pie. Both Howard Dean, the governor-turned-insurgent, and Barack Obama, the Democrats' impressive candidate for Senate in Illinois, have laid claims to the future of the party. With a brilliant and well-received keynote speech on Tuesday night, Obama signaled he is a hot property. Dean still has some work to do, but he does seem willing to do the heavy lifting.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dean attended a rally/conference organized by Campaign for America's Future, which was also headlined by filmmaker Michael Moore. Nearly a thousand people were in the hotel ballroom, and thousands of disappointed rally-seekers had been turned away. It was unclear how many were Deaniacs and how many were Moore-iacs, though there is much overlap between the two constituencies. Dean received a hero's welcome from the assembled. In front of this group--which did not appear to include many (if any) delegates from the actual convention--Dean called for those who were inspired by his campaign to stay with him and "rebuild the Democratic Party." Voting for John Kerry would not be good enough, he said. He urged them to run for office--for local posts like school board and library trustee. "If you want democracy to work," he said, "...build your own campaign organization." He reported that his new outfit, Democracy for America, was working with 800 progressive candidates across the country. Noting that "95 percent" of Americans want the same four things--a job that pays more than the last one they had; health care for them and their kids; public education that works; and effective national security policies "consistent with American morality"--he voted to take the progressive message to spots considered unfriendly for lefties: Mississippi, Idaho, Alabama. Eventually, he said, people in these states "will get tired of voting on guns, god, and gays....Whatever it takes, we will win America back."

Dean praised Kerry, but he repeated his primary season complaint about the Democratic Party (that it failed to stand up to George W. Bush) and spoke more about the need to beef up the party with progressive themes and candidates. He seemed to be positioning himself as the chief progressive champion in the party, and he was asking his troops to stick with him for an arduous organizing effort akin to what Newt Gingrich pulled off with his GOPAC group in the 1980s and 1990s.

The crowd responded enthusiastically. But what did that mean? Does it matter that hundreds of liberals in Boston applauded Dean's call to action? Were they more interested in Michael Moore? Would they heed Dean's advice, return to their homes, and run for local offices? After Moore spoke, the conference featured a talk by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, but the Deaniacs and Moore-iacs quickly cleared the room, showing little interest in hearing from the head of the key organization in the progressive coalition.

Later that day, Dean addressed the Democratic convention. In a short speech, he said nothing about his effort to organize a progressive, grassroots-oriented movement. He perfunctorily hailed Kerry and Edwards, thanked his supporters, and urged them to assist Kerry. He did utter one line that hinted at his desire to remake the party: "Never again will we be ashamed to call ourselves Democrats. Never. Never. Never." But this was an odd sentiment to share with this particular crowd. The delegates are proud Democrats. They don't feel shame for calling themselves Democrats. Dean was, in a way, insulting the delegates, not inspiring them. It was an indication that he has not yet mastered the inside-the-hall/outside-the-hall challenges of being an insurgent who wants to lead a progressive revival and force within the party.

Barack Obama, however, faced no troubles in establishing himself as the potential go-to liberal in the Democratic Party. His speech was the most effective convention declaration of the liberal dream since Mario Cuomo's address at the 1984 convention. He talked in personal terms--of his father, a Kenyan who grew up in a small village herding goats before coming to the United States on a scholarship, and of his mother, the Kansas-born daughter of an oil rig worker--as he described the best of America:

"I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me...."

"This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college."

Obama, a 42-year-old state senator, is a classic liberal straight down the line. He opposed the war in Iraq, is against capital punishment, supports abortion rights, and calls for economic fairness and social justice. But he knows how to talk about these matters in modern terms:

"Don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach our kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things. People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice."

Note how he pulled a Bill Cosby without expressing anger. And with passion and grace, Obama articulated the best ideals of the Democratic Party:

"For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are all connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as one American family. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one."

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

This keynote speech cemented Obama's standing as the fastest-rising leader of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards must have noticed. Karl Rove would have been negligent in his duties if, after watching the speech, he did not say to an aide, "get me something on this guy and let's try to stop him early." Obama's speech suggested that should he be elected to the Senate--and he is close to a sure thing at this point--he will quickly become the progressive voice of that body, the successor to Paul Wellstone. And it is not hard to imagine Obama going further. If the United States is not a minority-majority country in, say, 2012, it will be close by then, and perhaps the electorate will be open to a candidate with a blended racial heritage. (After Ron Reagan delivered his own powerful speech at the Democratic convention blasting Republicans for not supporting funding of stem cell research, I wondered if an Obama-Reagan ticket might be possible eight years from now. )

Predicting the future in politics is perilous. But now it looks as if Obama is trending in a strong direction and Dean has yet to establish firmly his relationship with his party. But place no bets yet for 2008, or 2012--especially when it may not be wise even to wager on the election scheduled for November 2.

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to the official website: www.bushlies.com. And check out Corn's blog on the site.

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Networks Missed a Historic Speech

BOSTON -- When Barack Obama was delivering the finest keynote address heard at a Democratic National Convention since Mario Cuomo's 1984 speech in San Francisco, the nation's broadcast television networks were airing their usual mix of police dramas, a program about a Disney cruise and a show that asked the question: "Who says pageant girls don't eat?'

ABC, NBC and CBS chose not to air any of Tuesday night's convention proceedings. For the first time since the development of broadcast television, Americans could not tune into one of their local commercial television stations and watch nation's oldest political party reinventing itself for the newest campaign.

To be sure, the cable networks offered a reasonable mix of live convention coverage -- ranging from the incessant play-by-play chatter of CNN to the potshots from Fox and the uninterrupted feed of CSpan -- but the broadcast networks chose not to be carry the convention. As such, they sent a powerful signal regarding the extent to which they take seriously their responsibility to provide citizens with the information that is the lifeblood of democracy.

It is true that much of what is said from the convention podium these days adds up to little more than a partisan informercial. But there are still meaningful moments, and Obama's address was one of them. In fact, the Illinois state senator's speech was an exceptionally significant expression of the ever-evolving story of American citizenship and political engagement. Obama's often poetic message -- with its "E pluribus unum. Out of many one" theme -- was the talk of the convention.

It was not, however, the talk of the nation because, of course, the networks chose not give it the same time and attention they devoted to that program about the eating habits of their "pageant girls."

The failure to broadcast the speech by a man many believe could be the country's first African-American president struck even some media veterans as troubling. On ABC's "The View," co-host Meredith Vieira spoke of how, "After (Obama) got done speaking, I had chills" and complained about the decision of the networks to neglect the keynote address. "He is a man that America needed to see," she said.

By any measure, Vieira is right.

But don't expect broadcast television to get the message. The networks have replaced the civil and democratic values that once a played a role in decisions about what to cover with commercial and entertainment values that dictate a denial of seriousness or perspective when it comes to political stories.

That's one of the reasons why so many Americans objected last year to Federal Communications Commission proposals that would have lifted the cap on the number of local TV stations a corporation could own -- and the amount of the viewing audience network-owned stations could reach.

Despite the intensity of the FCC rule fight, the campaign for media reform in America is only beginning to have a serious impact on the political process. But it is growing. And, while the neglect by the networks of the Obama speech is troubling sign, there is an encouraging sign coming out of this convention.

On Tuesday night, delegates approved a platform that recognizes the burgeoning media reform movement in the United States. The language that was added to the platform, under pressure from unions such as the Communication Workers of America that have become increasing active in the fight for media reform, was not radical. But it was on message. "Because our democracy thrives on public access to diverse sources of information from multiple sources, we support measures to ensure diversity, competition, and localism in media ownership," argues the new platform language.

There's a lot more that Democrats should stand for with regard to media reform. And, hopefully, anger over the decision of the networks to skip coverage of Tuesday night's proceedings will cause party activists to recognize that complaining about the conservative bias of Fox is not enough. When the major networks choose pageant girls over political history, they themselves are making the case that democratic renewal cannot be achieved without radically altering the style and structure of our media system.

And the Platform Says What?

Did you know that, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, nine out of ten delegates gathered in Boston think the US should not have gone to war in Iraq and say the gains from the war were not worth the loss of American lives...Only seven percent say "the US did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq," while eighty-six percent say the US should "have stayed out."

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Blog Triumphalism

This is the first presidential convention that has an official "Blogger Boulevard." And there's lots of excitement about the blogging phenomenon. After all, today there are at least two million people who have started one of these online journals. According to Technorati, a website that tracks what blogs are talking about, the number of new blogs is increasing at a rate of 12,000 a day. Yes, it's true that about one third of these sites don't last--people get bored with their own musings--but the other two thirds are still going at a steady pace. And according to surveys, something like one to fifteen million people say they spend some of their time on the internet reading other people's blogs. If I'm not mistaken, that gives the blogosphere at least as much impact as the cumulative subscription base of all the alternative newsweeklies in America.

How will bloggers affect the coverage of this convention? No one knows. But one of the most popular bloggers sounds a cautionary note. Arriving in Boston, Joshua Micah Marshall blogged in Talkingpointsmemo: "I've never been much for the blog triumphalism that seems always to be so much a part of the blog universe. Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem--mainly not producers but primarily or usually secondary consumers--like small field mice, ferrets, or bats...I've always thought of this as just a vehicle for writing--a mix of reporting and opinion journalism, done in a format that allows a maximum degree of flexibility, not bound by limitations of space--the need to write long or short--or any of the confining genre requirements that define conventional journalism. The whole thing is mystifying to me."

Blog Note:Don't miss numerous Nation weblogs this week from Boston. Click here to read them all.

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Howard Dean on the Convention Floor

Howard Dean on the convention floor, looking subdued when pressed about Nader: "The base will not forgive Ralph...after getting on the ballot in Oregon with help of anti-gay rightwing forces, Ralph appears to be not just like another politician but worse than some he's attacking."

Michael Moore Hits Cambridge

To strains of "You're Still The One," Senator Edward Kennedy exited stage left, surrounded by family--heading to a tribute at Boston Symphony Hall. "The only thing we have to fear," he told the cheering crowd, "is four more years of George Bush....We will retire Cheney to an undisclosed location."

Across the river, earlier in this afternoon, Michael Moore nearly caused a riot when some 3,000 people descended on the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge for a confab with America's hottest film-maker. Earlier that day, some Bush spokesman had called Moore "the leader of the hate and vitriol celebrity." Two thousand people were turned away by the organizers--the Campaign for America's Future--but they soon gathered on a side street outside the hotel, awaiting Moore's arrival later that afternoon.

Inside the hall, Moore enthralled the crowd with tales of Dale Earnhardt Jr, tirades against the corporate media, jabs at Disney and its honcho Michael Eisner, advice for John Kerry and a warning to Ralph Nader.

Check out these riffs:

* "The true patriots are those who think it's important to ask tough questions. The villain of my film is George W. but the unstated villains are the national media. My film outs them as shills for the Bush Administration, as people who were cheerleaders for the Bush Administration, as journalists who fell asleep on the job. We the people need you in the media to ask the tough questions. Don't be afraid of being called un-American. It'spro-American to ask the tough questions."

* "Whether they use labels or not, most Americans in their heart are either liberal or progressive. It's only a minority who hate. The people running this country are not patriots, they're hatriots."

* "I predict that we'll see the largest percentage of people voting in our lifetime. It's cool now to talk about politics."

* "Dale Earnhardt Jr took his crew to see Fahrenheit 9-11 to prepare for a big race and then he said all of America should see this movie. Hope Bush wasn't eating pretzels watching that race."

* "Here's my plea to John Kerry and the Democrats. You will not win this election by being wimpy, weak, by failing to stand up for your convictions. Only way this is going to happen is if you stand up for what you believe, stand for a liberal/progressive agenda. If you move to the right you'll encourage millions to stay home."

* A word about Ralph (hisses in the hall)..."Yes, Republicans do love Ralph. Just came from Michigan and Ralph gathered fifty thousand signatures--forty-three of those gathered by Michigan Republicans...Ralph, you already did your job. The Democratic party of 2004 is not the Democratic Party of 2000. They got it. Howard Dean carried on and so did Dennis Kucinich...they helped push Dems to liberal/progressive side. Even the Al Gore of 2004 is not the Al Gore of 2000. My appeal to the Nader voters and Green voters...you have a different job to do this year. What you are doing is so misguided, so uncool. I wouldn't have Dems spend any time attacking Nader. They should be giving those people reasons to vote for Kerry."