Tuesday, May 25, 2004

No matter what Kerry says to defend his idea of delaying accepting the nomination in order to be able to spend more money, the idea still stinks. Now, he's trying to compare himself to Wilson and Truman who, Kerry claims, didn't accept their nominations at the conventions.
"The truth is that it used to be that the convention, after nomination, traveled to the home or the state of the nominee to inform them they've been nominated. Woodrow Wilson was at his house in Princeton, N.J.; Harry Truman was in Independence," Mo., he said. "They're trying to make an issue out of something that they're surprised by, because . . . they're very upset someone might have a way of neutralizing their advantage."

The nominations of Wilson and Truman occurred in the days before public financing of presidential campaigns and federal election rules about campaign fund-raising.
Wait a minute. I knew I'd seen a video of Truman's acceptance speech at the 1948 convention and read about it. I seemed to remember it as one of those moments in political history that the media pulls out whenever they're trying to fill time while covering a modern convention. Sure enough. Truman was indeed at his convention in 1948 in Philadelphia. David McCullough in his excellent biography describes how that Democratic Convention was regarded as one of the worst ones in history. The civil rights advocates pushed through a liberal civil rights plank in the platform under the leadership of Humbert Humphrey who made a famous speech. It was then that the southern Democrats walked out of the convention. Then the nominating speeches ran on and on and poor Truman in his white linen suit was forced to wait in a crowded room. He wasn't nominated until 12:42 in the morning. As McCullough writes,
"So it was nearly two o'clock in the morning when Truman and Barkley at last made their entrance, striding onto the platform as the band played "Hail to the Chief." (Truman by David McCullough, p. 640-641)

Just in case, Kerry was mistaking the convention that nominated FDR and Truman in 1944, I reread that chapter. That year the convention was in Chicago. Guess what. Truman was there too. Here is McCullough again.
For Truman, in memory, the convention would always be "that miserable time" in Chicago, the most exasperating experience of his life. Marquis Childs, a practiced Truman observer, described him as plainly "scared to death." (McCullough, p. 309)
So, as much as Kerry tries to turn this political and financial maneuver into a lesson in history, he's just grasping at straws that don't exist. He would be breaking with tradition.

In fact, I suspect that the Kerry people have been researching the history of conventions in order to have a set of talking points to defend the idea of his not accepting the nomination at the convention. So, it's even more surprising that he'd come up with a historical blooper like this. It wasn't an off-the-cuff remark, but one he had prepared for reporters.

As always the question remains, what would the press do if Bush made an egregious error about the history of his own party?