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JOHN GLENN (D-OH), FMR. SENATOR: Ohio takes great pride tonight in being the state of putting this voting over the top in making John Kerry candidate official, as we cast 159 votes for the next president of the United States, John Kerry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Senator Glenn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: That was the scene last night on the convention floor, when John Kerry officially won the nomination of his party. No secret it was coming, there it was.
No newspaper has been as searching in his coverage of John Kerry as his hometown "Boston Globe," and two of the paper's columnists in particular have kept a close eye on the Massachusetts senator.
I'm speaking about Joan Vennochi and Jeff Jacoby, who have been good enough to join me here.
Joan, we're going to see and hear more about John Kerry's war record tonight. He'll be introduced by Max Cleland, the former veteran. Of course, we've seen military officers out on this platform. He came into town followed by some of his fellow swift boat veterans from Vietnam. In your view, is that sufficient to portray the senator as a man who can be commander in chief?
JOAN VENNOCHI, COLUMNIST, "BOSTON GLOBE": Well, that's the Kerry campaign's hope. Let's, you know, put it this way, the Vietnam War represents, to Kerry, his moment of great physical courage that Jeff has written about, you know, today and before as well.
And also, I mean I think the importance and the reason he's surrounded himself with the band of brothers it's this moment where he had an actual connection with real live human beings who weren't rich and privileged. And I think that it -- for that reason, it's a very humanizing thing for him and it's carried through. And he's trying to make that connection here tonight and using that as the mechanism.
HUME: But it is enough?
VENNOCHI: Is it enough to make him the next president?
HUME: Well, is it enough in your view to do the -- convince voters that he's the man for this job?
VENNOCHI: I'm not sure that it is. It doesn't seem to me that the story line alone, John Kerry, Vietnam War veteran is enough to convince people that, that makes him next commander in chief.
HUME: So what in your view does he need to do?
VENNOCHI: He's got to show leadership, he's got to convince people that he -- that they can trust him, that he has credibility. And that he's not anyone but George Bush, he's John F. Kerry, the man they want to be the next president of the United States.
HUME: Well, of course, we're engaged in this conflict in Iraq, which he voted for. And then, I suppose you can argue, in effect voted to de- fund. What in your view does he need to do about that?
VENNOCHI: Well, I think he -- you know, I personally think he has something of a problem about that. There are a lot of people on the left in the Howard Dean contingent who really want Kerry to say that his vote was a mistake. The war was wrong minded and spell out how is he going to get out of Iraq. He doesn't seem likely at this point to be doing that.
HUME: No, that's clearly not going happen. It's not in the platform.
VENNOCHI: And they're talking about strength, they're talking about. It sounds like sending more troops, not less. So, you know, I don't know. It will be interesting to see -- they'll come along in the campaign in the debates ahead when he and Bush go head-to-head, and they have to spell out how they differ or the same on Iraq.
HUME: Jeff Jacoby, the -- what is your view on why Kerry has seemed to be so indistinct, not only on this issue to people but on a lot of other issues?
JEFF JACOBY, COLUMNIST, "BOSTON GLOBE": I've been watching it for 20 years and the conclusion that I've come to about this guy is that he finds comfort and security in fuzziness, in ambivalence. The more ambiguous, the better. And it's a pattern throughout his political career. He always tries to leave himself an out.
The fact that we've had all this talk for all these months about the flip-flops, doesn't convey the extent to which he really can be found on virtually every side of virtually every issue. [I think] it really represents a lack of courage, a lack of a willingness to stick his neck out
HUME: We know that there's real evidence of physical courage.
JACOBY: That's the thing, and -- there's a leap of logic that the Kerry campaign and the Democrats are trying to convince the American people of. Namely, physical courage as a 25 year old translates to presidential leadership as a 60-year-old. It seems to me there's a real disconnect there.
VENNOCHI: This time around, people may not be looking for a man of great courage. They may be looking for something less, confidence. I don't know, you remember 1988? Remember that line from Dukakis, "It's not about confidence."
HUME: "It's not ideology, it's about confidence."
VENNOCHI: It's about -- right. And he was wrong then. This time it may be about competence, not passion or courage.
HUME: Is it your sense though, he needs, perhaps not in this speech, but sooner or later to be quite specific about how what he will do will be different from what President Bush will do. I mean the rhetoric we heard from John Edwards on al Qaeda last night, sounds very much like things President Bush could have said.
JACOBY: You know, I've been struck throughout this convention and reading the speeches by Kerry and Edwards leading up to it. Here we are, the first post-9/11 convention. Boston has turned itself inside out with security because of the way 9/11 changed everything. I have yet to hear from John Kerry any kind of worked out, thoughtful, reasoned discussion of just what it is that 9/11 means for foreign policy.
He had this great sound bite all the way through the primaries about how Bush was promoting the most reckless, ideological, inept foreign policy in the modern era. But it never went beyond that. It never seemed to segue into a coherent view of, This is the way policy ought to be run, other than the detail about how we're going let the United Nations have a lot more sway than it does now.
HUME: What is your sense, Joan, about the speech? First of all, what do you think he needs to do with it? And what, in your judgment, having watched him all this time, do you think he will do with it?
VENNOCHI: Well, I don't think he's going to give a John Edwards speech. You know, I don't think he has that...
HUME: He doesn't have that personality for it.
VENNOCHI: He doesn't have that kind of fervor and enthusiasm for it. Again, I mean I think he has to just show that he is not, you know, some sub alternate -- not anyone but Bush. But who is John Kerry? You know? Why should people follow him and you know, drop Bush to follow hi?
HUME: Can you think of a moment in his political career that you witnessed where he sort of dropped this sense of formality that always has attended him and sort of been his unvarnished self?
VENNOCHI: Well, I think the best example that everyone talks about are the debates for Bill Weld, when they both ran for Senate. And that was, you know, sort of a classic series of debate where he, you know, sort of took off the gloves and just, you know, tookel (ph) -- you know, tookel (ph) -- you know, took down the rhetoric and spoke -- and spoke directly. And if he's able to do that tonight, I think he'll accomplish something.
I still don't see this as this defining moment that will make or break his campaign. I think it's going to be more about those head-to-head debates and people weigh one against the other.
JACOBY: You know, all these polls showing that huge numbers of Americans still really don't have any clear sense of who John Kerry is or what it is that he stands for. It seems to me, tonight is going to be his best chance between now and the debates to try to answer that question, to fill in some of these -- some of the fuzzy outlines. I'm not sure that he can do it.
If he hasn't been able to do it in 20 years in the U.S. Senate, if he hasn't been able to do it on the campaign trail up until now, I'd be really skeptical that he's going be able to get up on that podium down there tonight and deliver a speech that's going to suddenly make people stop asking that question that we all ask: What is John Kerry really all about?
HUME: Jeff Jacoby, Joan Vennochi, I think we have to leave it right there. But thank you very much for coming.