Why won't you let the left-wing true believers speak their minds? journalists essentially asked organizers of the Democratic Party's convention on Monday. NBC's Andrea Mitchell, interviewing Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, mumbled something about the "thought police." Journalists aren't upset that the party disallows pro-life Democrats from speaking. That kind of thought control is okay. What disturbs reporters is that the party isn't letting the Michael Moores speak. How differently reporters approach Republican conventions. At those, they don't ask organizers why they don't let the true believers speak, but rather why they let so many of them speak. The media demand moderation at Republican conventions but grow upset with moderate noises at Democratic ones.
But no sooner had Dee Dee Myers said that the party couldn't afford to let their crazy relatives out of the basement than one popped up -- Al Gore, as painfully unfunny and lunging as ever. The convention's location in Boston led to much blather about the glorious founding of the country from Democrats who normally regard the Founding Fathers as reactionaries. Al Gore might grow misty about the battles of Lexington and Concord but he is still upset with the founders for their electoral college system. In a culture of self-pity, Gore feels entitled to whine at every chance about the unfairness of winning the popular vote but losing the election. But if anything at the Boston convention gives tribute to the genius of the Founding Fathers it is that a dangerous fool like Gore was prevented from assuming the presidency by their electoral college system. Gore's attempt at Reaganesque rhetoric (he asked several are-you-better-off-today style questions) invited one question he didn't ask and Bush couldn't fail: Would Americans feel better with Gore in office?
Before the party's crazy uncle spoke, and before the cameras started rolling (excepting C-Span's gavel-to-gavel coverage), a few crazy aunts spoke. The party of same-sex marriage and abortion gave two activists in those areas a chance to speak. San Francisco politician Roberta Achtenberg, who described herself as a "lawyer, a mother, and a lesbian," spoke against the "federal marriage amendment," which the party opposes on among other claims that it dislikes tinkering with the Constitution. This distaste for constitutional meddling must not extend to the Equal Rights Amendment, since Achtenberg touted ERA as something she is "inexorably committed to." She added that "we believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."
Planned Parenthood's Gloria Feldt, who believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and often (judging by Planned Parenthood's new "I had an abortion" T-shirt the press reported that it rolled out this week), also spoke. She too had to offer up the bona fides of motherhood -- "I am here as a mother and grandmother" -- before advocating the antithesis of it. She compared the war abroad with the "war at home" on "women's choice," but didn't fill out the analogy with any mention of casualty counts at Planned Parenthood clinics.
When the Democrats weren't talking about the importance of abortion "rights," they were talking about "human rights" and "children." Jimmy Carter, ever the old phony, knifing people while grinning, had the gall to insinuate that Bush shirked his military duties, then exited the stage so that draft-dodging Bill Clinton could endorse Kerry. Carter spoke of Iraq as if it were a sustained war crime, then treated Kerry's self-admitted abuses in Vietnam as compelling proof of his fitness to be president. Clinton, who so "loathed" the military once, was also quite admiring of Kerry's rough military prowess.
Measured by standards applied to Bush, the Revolutionary War the Democrats invoke in Boston this week as evidence of America's greatness was "a war of choice" America had no business fighting. George III never sent Anthrax to America. Vietnam would also qualify as a war of choice, but now that Kerry's résumé hangs on it Vietnam is suddenly a war even Carter and Clinton regard as most honorable.
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