Boston - The Democratic National Convention, designed for television with so many flat-screen TVs in use that it looks like Circuit City on steroids, is trying to steal Ronald Reagan's optimism. Behind the party's smiling masks, though, is the traditional Democratic cynicism that says people can't do much for themselves without the help of government.
The "no Bush bashing" and the ban on talk about "gay marriage" messages went out early and are being (almost) enforced. There are references to President Bush's "dishonesty" and laments about the federal deficit, which never seemed to bother big-spending Democrats when they controlled the checkbook.
But these are not your "San Francisco Democrats" now served up for the TV audience from this East Coast liberal city. These are family-values/pro-military/responsible taxing-and-spending Democrats who exist only in the minds of consultants, pollsters and others for whom true convictions are to be hidden until the day after the election.
Former President Bill Clinton, who wowed the delegates and caused most of the big media to swoon, was at his best (worst?) as he spun his new rich-guy image and non-military service.
Clinton wants to sell the idea that draft dodging and enlisting are morally equivalent. No journalist dared to mention that Clinton could have voluntarily given his tax cut to the federal government, or that John Kerry could have taken advantage of a Massachusetts law that permits residents to pay at their old, higher rate. This is typical of those who think the Bush tax cuts are unfair. They want the political point, but they still keep the money.
Speaker after speaker criticized the war with Iraq, or the way it has been fought, but Clinton and Kerry have repeatedly pointed to what they believed to be Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction and said that he must be removed from power.
Republicans will have no problem recalling such Clinton masterpieces as: "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." (Feb. 4, 1998). He also said: "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." (Feb. 17, 1998)
Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said: "(Saddam) will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983." (Feb. 18, 1998).