We went to the Kerry rally on Sunday. We arrived about the time the seating was supposed to open, that is about an hour and quarter before Kerry was to speak. The line was already enormous, and it doubled at least while we were waiting. Everyone had to pass through metal detectors before being admitted to the outdoor seating/standing area, which took a very very long time and which made me sad and nostalgic for the days when politics was less paranoid.
We were among the last admitted to the roped-off area, and had a very obstructed view. Standing on a small stone wall, I could just see Kerry from the neck up.
Kerry spoke surprisingly well — especially given what I had heard about him as a lackluster stump speaker. He was by no means the best I ever heard, but he was good.
Kerry began by noting that after 9/11 Bush had an opportunity to unify the nation; instead he divided it. The speech had a little more pandering than I would ideally like — especially the trade stuff about his plan to stop subsidizing the export of jobs, and the lengthy list of promises to make college more affordable (which, if I heard it right, actually doesn't amount to that much per person unless the student spends two years in a domestic peace corps-like job either before or after college). It did have more detail and Senatorial reference to programs and such than you would find in the most classic stemwinder, but it never had so much detail that it got boring
The top applause lines were
- a number of lines about how Bush misled the nation and sent US soldiers off to die without revealing his real motives; [Update: I left out maybe the biggest applause line of this sort: “In America, we fight wars because we have to, not because we choose to.”]
- the pledge to increase energy independence via a push for alternative fuel sources so that foreign policy is no longer driven by Middle East oil [although even raising this to the 20% of consumption promised would only lessen not eliminate the US's imports];
- the promise to stop the lies and level with the public;
- a promise to provide some form of healthcare for the uninsured (here Kerry was almost disingenuous, making it sound like everyone would get the kind of care Senators get; but while saying that is what should happen, I think it's not what he actually promised);
- the promise to get an Attorney General who is nothing like John Ashcroft;
- “Within weeks of being inaugurated I will return to the U.N. and I will rejoin the community of nations.”
All these got a lot more applause than the trade stuff or even the college-costs stuff.
The crowd loved him. I left feeling more cheerful about the Democratic nominee then when I arrived, and the whole family clanked a little due to the several nice Kerry buttons we acquired.