: There is no word that damns with faint praise more than “competent.”

John Kerry gave a competent speech tonight. It was a primary speech, the sort of message you give when you’re running against and not running for. There were scant mentions of George Bush but this was most a speech against Bush rather than for a Kerry vision.

What bothers me about the speech — besides the John-John moment with the silly salute — is its American defensiveness. He leads with making America “respected in the world.” As far as I am concerned, this should not be a primary goal of an administration; at most, it is a fringe benefit. We should do what we need to do and if the world respects that, fine; if France doesn’t, I still don’t give a damn.

And as one of the pundits said tonight, Kerry echoes Bush post-Clinton when he says:

We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we’re true to our ideals – and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.

It was, oddly, a military speech aimed at not using the military. That is a hard line to dance and he danced it: I can use armed forces better than Bush but I will use them less than Bush.

I enjoyed the ovation against Ashcroft. The crowd enjoyed cheering against Cheney.

I wish I heard more about health insurance, more specifics of the plan. Is this just a shift of tax dollars to create credits for premiums or is this reform and universal protection?

There was nothing to hate in the speech, nothing to love. It was competent.

: Robert George of the NY Post, on CNN as a conservative voice, says we just heard the speech of the winner. Nervous Republican.