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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It’s Time for The Speech - Like JFK, Nixon and Obama, the moment is now for a big, campaign-saving speech.

Daniel Henninger writes in The Wall Street Journal on 3-3-2016:

It’s time for The Speech.

Readers who have spent a lifetime absorbing the melodramas of America’s presidential election politics, such as this one, will recognize instantly what I am proposing here. It is time for Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz to deliver The Speech—or lose. Lose the campaign, the party, the Supreme Court and an already diminished country’s next four years.
“The Speech” is the title history has conferred on Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech called “A Time for Choosing.”

Reagan delivered the speech in October 1964 on behalf of the foundering presidential campaign of the Republican Party’s nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater suffered a historic loss to President Lyndon Johnson, but the televised, roughly 30-minute speech, launched Reagan’s political career. It was an electrifying—and accessible—definition of conservatism in America’s politics then.

An understanding of when the moment has arrived to give The Speech requires naming three other masterpieces of the art: Sen. John F. Kennedy’s address in 1960 about his Catholicism to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association two months before the election; Sen. Richard Nixon’s 1952 Checkers speech, also less than two months before the election; and Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race, “A More Perfect Union,” in March 2008.

Their purpose: to rescue a campaign on the brink of dying for reasons seemingly beyond the candidate’s ability to control. All these speeches accomplished what no one thought possible. They overcame an enormous political obstacle, reversed the candidate’s fortunes and reopened a path to victory.

The political obstacle now is Donald Trump and a roiling base of support for Mr. Trump—revealed again in Super Tuesday’s results as about 35% of those voting.

The Trump candidacy is thought to be a political colossus, virtually unstoppable. The problems faced by Kennedy, Nixon and Obama were also said to be campaign killers.

Nixon’s Checkers speech, derided by some today, was in fact an astonishing feat of political reversal. Accused of financial improprieties, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate was regarded as beyond saving. The televised speech, which Nixon paid for, was watched by 60 million people and produced an overnight outpouring of support for the beleaguered candidate.

Point: The concrete never sets in American politics. Opinions can change, or be changed.

In Kennedy’s case, a well-organized, public opposition of Protestants alleged that the first Catholic president would be a tool of the pope. It threatened to kill Kennedy’s chances in a tightly fought election. JFK’s reply, in the Houston speech before the ministers, was so powerful that it eliminated the issue from American politics.

Sen. Obama’s “More Perfect Union” was of course his Rev. Wright speech. The “fiery preacher” stories had brought the Obama campaign to a standstill. Essentially, Mr. Obama used the speech to elevate race in America to such sublime heights that it subsumed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Speech righted the campaign.

Critics of these speeches to this day carp about the details. Their side lost.

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