THE KING OF VOX POP. For all of Bill Clinton's prancing and preening last night about his own eight years in the White House, what really made his speech extraordinary were the touches of self-deprecation. Listening to him talk of his new-found wealth, he sounded for all the world like Bruce Springsteen singing about being "a rich man in a poor man's shirt." And he used it to great effect in criticizing the disastrous economic policies of George W. Bush:
For the first time when America was in a war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top one percent of us.
Now, I'm in that group for the first time in my life.
And you might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me.
But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. It was amazing. I never thought I'd be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress.
I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it.
But that was just a warm-up for the main event: Clinton's praise of John Kerry's military service, framed in the context of his own - and Bush's and Dick Cheney's - well-known desire not to fight in the Vietnam War:
During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice-president and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background. He could have avoided going too, but instead, he said: Send me.
When they sent those swiftboats up the river in Vietnam and they told them their job was to draw hostile fire, to wave the American flag and bate the enemy to come out and fight, John Kerry said: Send me.
And then, on my watch, when it was time to heal the wounds of war and normalize relations with Vietnam and to demand an accounting of the POWs and MIAs we lost there, John Kerry said: Send me.
Then when we needed someone to push the cause of inner-city children struggling to avoid a life of crime or to bring the benefits of high technology to ordinary Americans or to clean the environment in a way that created new jobs, or to give small businesses a better chance to make it, John Kerry said: Send me.
So tonight, my friends, I ask you to join me for the next 100 days in telling John Kerry's story and promoting his ideas. Let every person in this hall and like-minded people all across our land say to him what he has always said to America: Send me.
The "send me" refrain became kind of a call-and-response exchange with the audience. It was remarkably effective, and the Kerry campaign couldn't have asked for a better introduction to its candidate on network television in prime time. Hillary Clinton's introduction was good, and she is obviously a much less wooden speaker than she was during her 2000 Senate campaign. Al Gore was warm, funny, and human. But Clinton - as he has been in Democratic circles since 1992 - was the undisputed star of the night.
One touch of irony: despite the self-deprecation, despite the strong words of praise for Kerry, Clinton still showed him up by demonstrating that he is the best communicator in politics, and the one towering figure within the Democratic Party. Maybe he can't help it - he's just too good. But Clinton didn't make it any easier for Kerry to get out from under the Clinton shadow.
I sat next to Slate's Will Saletan last night, surrounded by other Slate-sters and New Republic staffers. Anyway, here is Saletan's take on the proceedings.
SCAIFE'S LONG REACH. Here is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's coverage of Teresa Heinz Kerry's "shove it" blast at the paper's right-wing editorial-page editor, Colin McNickle. McNickle is writing a blog from Boston, but has not yet weighed in on his exchange with Heinz Kerry.
While everyone is a-twitter over Heinz Kerry's outburst, what's almost forgotten is that the Tribune-Review's owner, billionaire right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife, once called a female reporter a "fucking communist cunt."
Granted, a would-be first lady needs to watch her language more than Scaife does. (Not that "shove it" qualifies as being much worse than "I'm not going to answer your question.") But Media Log thought you'd like a reminder as to whom she was telling off.