Bush's "major" stump speech

By Geraldine Sealey
Published October 18, 2004 6:04PM (EDT)

There he goes again. Right now, George W. Bush is delivering what his aides have billed as a "major speech" on terrorism in New Jersey. But after his last "major speech" in Pennsylvania, we knew better than to expect actual news or substance. As Bush would say, "Fool us once, shame on  shame on you  If fooled, you can't get fooled again." Or something. Unsurprisingly, Bush's speech is anything but "major," unless you were looking for a major campaign event. Instead, it's Bush's typical stump speech fare, complete with the usual stretched and mangled truths, trumped up to sound like something more in the hopes of tricking cable networks into carrying the whole thing live -- and to trick viewers into thinking Bush was actually saying something new and substantial. As they did with his last "major speech," the cable networks carried it live, with Fox News obediently labeling it on-screen "a major speech on war on terror."

Delivered to appropriately-timed boos and cheers from a partisan crowd, Bush's "really important speech," as Nicolle Devenish called it on Fox this morning, included gems like: "Senator Kerry's approach would permit a response only after America is hit. This kind of Sept. 10 attitude is no way to protect our country." And then this distortion: "The senator from Massachusetts has now flip-flopped his way to a dangerous postion. My opponent has settled on a strategy, a strategy of defeat," Bush said. Mischaracterizing Kerry's position, Bush said, "'America's overriding goal in Iraq is to leave, even if the job is not done.'"

The Kerry campaign issued rebuttals to the president's address even before he delivered it, with Joe Lockhart mocking the very idea of it: "What the Bush campaign considers to be a major address provides a telling window into this President and his priorities: He considers a nasty, vitriolic attack line to constitute a significant address. What might have been new and significant would have been the President addressing a health care crisis that has forced New Jersey to hold a lottery to decide who should get flu shots. But no, that would involve being straight with the American public and taking responsibility for his Administration's inaction."

John Edwards also went for the flu-shot dig in his response to the president's speech -- wethinks the Democrats have Floridians of a certain age in mind with their two-pronged flu-shot/Social Security assault on Bush. "George Bush is so out of touch," Edwards said. "And he couldn't even manage this latest flu vaccine crisis. How can we trust him to deal with anthrax? This is not leadership. This is incompetence. He has failed and it is time for a change. And John Kerry will bring that change."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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