The 2004 Democratic convention was supposed to be a kinder, gentler convention. Senator John Kerry gave strict orders to accentuate the positive inside the Democratic Party and tone down attacks on President Bush. Convention chairman Governor Bill Richardson said “This is not a bash-Bush convention.”
Even the often-caustic talk show host Jerry Springer, a Democratic delegate from Ohio said -- “It’s not necessary to be critical of Bush, as 95 percent of Americans have made up their minds.”
Well, apparently the primetime lineup of four speakers, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton couldn’t resist, bashing President Bush 47 times. Now, these weren’t exactly Ann Richards’ type bashes, they were a bit more toned down. (At the 1988 Democratic convention, she said George W’s father, President George Bush was “born with a silver foot in his mouth.”) Most of the 2004 Bush bashes were about policy, not about President Bush personally.
The evening’s last speaker, former President Clinton was primary basher, criticizing President Bush 22 times. He assailed Mr. Bush on everything from pushing America too far to the right, walking away from our allies and attacking Iraq before the weapons inspectors finished their jobs. He criticized Mr. Bush for withdrawing U.S. support for the Climate Change Treaty, the International Court for war criminals, the ABM treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
On the homefront, Mr. Clinton bashed Mr. Bush over tax cuts, the deficit, withholding funding for the Leave No Child Behind Act and cutting job training for unemployed workers, child care assistance and after school programs. But there was more bashing to be done, taking on Mr. Bush over the environment, cutting off federal funding for police and letting the assault weapons ban expire.
At one point, Mr. Clinton bashed himself along with President Bush— “During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current President, the Vice President and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn’t.” And in perhaps Mr. Clinton’s biggest Bush bash of the night, without referring to the president by name, Mr. Clinton said -- “Strength and wisdom are not opposing values, they go hand in hand.”
The other former president speaking on the convention’s first night, Jimmy Carter, got in 12 Bush bashes. The normally mild mannered former President, let loose on Mr. Bush while never actually mentioning him by name. Accusing Mr. Bush of extremism, misleading the country, generating public panic and mishandling lost opportunities: “After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world. But in just 34 months, we have watched with deep concern as all this goodwill has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculation.”
The man who was just a few chads short of becoming president four years ago, former Vice President Al Gore, reportedly had to re-write his speech at the last minute to tone it down. Even with that, he got in nine Bush bashes. Asking those who supported Mr. Bush four years ago, “Did you really get what you expected?” He also hit the president up on taxes, the erosion of civil liberties, the environment, alienating our allies and lost jobs, joking that he “was the first one laid off.” In calling for a change in the country’s direction, Mr. Gore had one final Bush bash -- “When our policies are clearly not working, we can change them. If our leaders make mistakes, we can hold them accountable, even if they never admit their mistakes.”
Senator Hillary Clinton spoke for the shortest amount of time, but she still managed to get in four Bush bashes, taking on the president for alienating the world, raising the deficit, losing good jobs and ignoring the health care crisis.
Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes we’ll keep track of the Kerry criticisms at the 2004 Republican National Convention too.
Definition of Bush Bash – any criticism about President Bush, whether about him personally, or his policies.