Jewish World Review August 9, 2004 / 22 Menachem-Av, 5764
Tight scripts and loose cannons
If you thought the Democratic National Convention was boring and uneventful, you're not alone.
It was so un-newsworthy, Time and Newsweek resorted to using photo spreads to capture the excitement. Unless Teresa Heinz Kerry crashes the stage at the equally over-scripted Republican convention, they'll probably ignore it completely.
Speaking of our exotic local ketchup baroness, there's a pretty good psycho-political profile of her in the July-August Mother Jones.
"Transforming Teresa," by Gail Sheehy, is a friendly but not fawning look at "the unpredictable, super-rich, charming, prickly, high-powered and very conflicted" woman who, if she disappears on a vacation to her native Mozambique for the rest of the presidential campaign, just might become the next first lady.
Sheehy obviously approves of Heinz Kerry's untamed style and strongly held liberal beliefs. But her piece is not afraid to point out the contradictions between what Heinz Kerry says she and her foundations are nonpartisan and what she does she and her foundations are both very partisan.
Sheehy's pre-"shove it" piece is prescient and a good read. Although it addresses the Democrats' fears that Heinz Kerry is a loose cannon who might prove to be "too uncontrollable" for her husband's own good, Sheehy concludes she was a plus during the primaries.
About all we have left to look forward to are this fall's three televised presidential debates. You might think you already know how they'll turn out, but don't be so sure.
In Atlantic Monthly's July-August issue, James Fallows, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter, thoroughly handicaps the strengths and weaknesses of the two contestants, both of whom can claim to have never lost a debate.
Bush's syntax-challenged smirk and black-white worldview versus Kerry's pompous but skilled speaking style and endlessly nuanced explications would appear to indicate an easy win for the challenger.
But remember Al Gore. And, Fallows warns in his excellent and interesting piece, remember what happened to Ann Richards, the silver-tongued sitting governor of Texas whom the underestimated G.W. Bush made mincemeat of in a TV debate in 1994.
Reviewing the tapes of that encounter shocked Fallows. The Bush he saw was "eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences," he didn't mangle his words, and he was impressive in staying on message.
No one thought the likable future president was dumb or lacking in gravitas in those days, everyone tells Fallows, who concludes that Bush's speaking skills eroded only when he sought the White House and became more partisan, more cautious and more formal.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Bill Steigerwald