In retrospect, many Democrats decided that their 2004 Convention was a missed opportunity. At the time, it all seemed so glorious, with Barack Obama blowing the auditorium away, Bill Clinton making the faithful swoon and John Kerry, at the climax, “reporting for duty.” The problem, according to the post-game analysis, was so much of the convention had been devoted to reliving Kerry’s Vietnam War service, mostly making a positive biographical case for the nominee. Attacks on President Bush were largely minimized and sidelined.
A few weeks later, the Swift Boat ads and the spitfire attacks of Rudy Giuliani and Zell Miller at the Republican Convention in New York undid much of the Kerry brand building. By voting day, Kerry’s heroic narrative of military service had been so confused that it was hard to even remember the band of brothers who had testified of Kerry’s character on that convention stage.
Dare the party repeat past mistakes? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is chairwoman of the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, strongly hinted Saturday that the answer would be a resounding “No.” She spelled out a convention that would be sharply critical of McCain. “There isn’t an area of public policy that this administration has not failed in, and the country cannot take four more years of this,” she said Saturday in Denver, at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “We’ll make the point about what the country needs and what we have done and are doing to make that happen. But we cannot have [another four more years of Bush policies.] And that point will be made over and over again. There are two paths to the future, one that is more of the same, one [that is] the change that Barack Obama presents.”
Asked what she thought of the 2004 Democratic Convention, Pelosi offered a clear criticism. “Myself,” she said, “I would have had that be about the Iraq War, not the Vietnam War.” With a Vietnam veteran now running on the Republican ticket, there is little risk of Democrats dwelling too much this time on Vietnam.