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Convention Dispatches Live: Thursday

Terry Neal
washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent
Thursday, July 29, 2004; 10:00 PM

The 2004 Democratic National Convention came to a close Thursday night, as Sen. John F. Kerry addressed the crowd of party faithful in Boston.

washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent Terry Neal took your questions and comments during Kerry's speech on the latest from the convention.

Terry Neal (post.com)

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The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Terry Neal: Hello all. I'm happy to join you here on the last night of the Democratic National Convention. Tonight is the night we've all been waiting for--the night John Kerry addresses the nation.
So I look forward to taking your questions. Fire away.

Terry

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, Terry--

This is probably the last question you'll want to answer, but I can't help wondering if you'd be willing to continue these late-evening chats at least once a week even after the convention ends?

Your conversations have been very interesting, and there's something especially valuable about learning new things from a thoughtful, well-informed source (please consider that inducement rather than flattery!) at the end of the day instead of hours earlier, when a day's events are either still developing or already nearly 24 hours old.

But then, like so many others, I'm a night owl. Could we persuade you to be one, too -- at least online?

Thanks.

Terry Neal: Haha...Well, how about I make this the first question I answer. While I certainly appreciate your kind words, I don't know how my wife would feel about continuing these chats for another week. You know, believe it or not, I'm not always thinking about politics at 10 p.m. I'll just leave it there.
However, I will continue to do my weekly chat at 1 p.m. on Thursday. And I'll resume doing these nightly chats during the Republican convention in a month.

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Lansdowne, Pa.: Do you think the cable networks will be as negative toward the Republican Convention as they have been towards the Democratic Convention? They have looked for words and activities to criticize all week in addition to negative film clips. I'm going to look for the same attitude towards the Republicans. Fair is fair.

Terry Neal: I sense there is a bit of selective perception on your part. And I'm sure I'll get emails from Republicans next month saying the media have been a big old bunch of meannies
in covering their convention.
Look, it's not the media's job to just serve as an extension of a politician's pr team. I'm certain there will be some critical coverage of the GOP convention as well.

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Guantanamo, USA: I find it troubling that Americans who oppose our war in Iraq -- now numbering in the majority in polls -- cannot get anywhere near either the Democratic OR (as planned) Republican conventions. Don't you?

They are kept in large cages far beyond view or earshot of either fete. Is this democracy?

Terry Neal:
You're in Guantanamo, eh? I see why you're concerned about cages...
Well, look, the reality of it is that with security concerns being what they are in this day an age, we've got to find a balance between protecting first amendment rights and of protecting the security of innocent people.
By the way, my understanding is that a local judge here shot down the decision on the cages. Protestors are still being kept some distance from the convention, as is everyone else who is not credentialed to be here. But what's the alternative just let anyone run in and out of the Fleet Center?

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Wheaton, Md.: Glad to see you're still awake. Has it been getting more interesting? I still haven't heard a real "message" from the party, only a lot of Bush-bashing.

Terry Neal: Well, I disagree with. You may not like the message. You may not agree with it, but certainly there have been real issues discussed on a range of issues, from Iraq, to health care, to education, to tax cuts. Kerry will do even more of that tonight.
And of course there has been Bush bashing. And I can assure you that next month's Republican convention won't be full of happy talk about about Kerry.

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Carpinteria, Calif.: How about that General Wesley Clark! WooHoo! He just rocked the house! What a patriot -- what a man! What a shame he is not going to be our President!

Don't get me wrong -- I like John Kerry and I'm voting for John Kerry -- we won't have a democracy left -- or maybe we won't have a country left - with four more years of Bush. But, I saw Wes Clark very early on -- member of DraftClark -- and I will always lament what could have been.

I am so happy, though, that tonight much of the world got to see what I and many others have always seen -- Wesley K. Clark -- True American Patriot -- a statesman for all time!

Terry Neal: Gen. Clark, is that you?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Neal. What's with them starting the Kerry intro with the veterans BEFORE the networks began coverage tonight? Was that timing intentional, or a huge screw-up by the managers?

Terry Neal: I didn't catch that because I'm watching CNN...where you'll be able to catch me tonight on NewsNight with Aaron Brown soon after Kerry's speech ends.
But anyway, my guess is it was a convention scheduling issue, as the network's coverage begins every night at a set time. I think the other issue is that Kerry's speech was set to run at 55 minutes or so, and he needs to end before 11. So they veterans event probably had to begin a bit early to fit everything in.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I thought the Kerry children did a very effective job in humanizing Kerry and bringing new dimensions to the candidate. What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of their speeches?

Terry Neal: I agree. I think they did what they were supposed to do...

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Boston, Mass.: Terry -- For heaven's sake, tell us what you think of the speech! I'm sure you've had a chance to read it. What are your impressions? Does it deliver what the Kerry campaign has said it needs to? What will the GOP response be? Signed, A Fan

Terry Neal: I think it's been pretty strong and very effective so far. Kerry needed number one to convey the notion that he's a man of principle and that he stands for something, because the GOP's attacks on him as a flip flopper have been so effective.
Secondly, he needed to reassure people that he would keep the nation safe, and that criticism of the president's handling of Iraq is not the same as being weak on defense.
It seems like he's hitting the points he needed to at this point.

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Seattle, Wash.: Oh how I miss the gavel to gavel coverage and the entire roll call. Hate it that the networks have chosen only to broadcast 1 hour primetime. Thank heavens for CNN, MSNBC, and PBS.

Terry Neal: Thanks for your comments. Of course, in the days to gavel to gavel coverage, the alternatives you mentioned didn't exist. Most people have cable and they can watch somewhere if they want to.

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McLean, Va.: How can he say that he will cooperate with our international partners and then say that he won't give the UN a veto over our foreign policy?

Terry Neal: To play devil's advocate, I think he would suggest that you question is simplistic, in that it only offers to possibilities. Cooperate with the UN or completely ignore it. He would suggest that saying he would seek to cooperate with international partners is not the same thing as saying he would give veto power to the UN on keeping America safe.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: What does Kerry consider middle class?

Terry Neal: Himself before he married Teresa...

All right, all right, just joking...Come on, give me a break. It's late. I'm tired.

Really though, I don't know. His plans calls for repealing the tax cuts for families who make more than $200,000. So you can interpret that however you like.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey, Terry, you rock, even when you guys have to wear those funny microphones on NewsNight.

This is something I feel very strongly about. The coverage of the Convention, at least on television, has been nothing short of atrocious. With the exception of CSPAN, most of the convention is interrupted by pundits who state that there is "no news" at the conventions, and much of the information being presented onstage (in an effort to introduce the country to a candidate) is being kept from audiences. Pundits say that people don't want to see this, but in their coverage they are devaluing the importance of the convention to an election -- which came first, the chicken or the egg? Don't you think there is a responsibility in the news media to provide a conduit, rather than a barrier, to public affairs?

Terry Neal: Hey, thanks for the kind words...I'm not a big fan of those microphones, either.

I agree and have been saying that these conventions are important. This nation got introduced to a presidential candidate tonight. To me, that's news.

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Terry Neal: On that note, I've gotta run folks. It's been a real pleasure--and I mean it--chatting with you this week. there's some very smart people out there.
Take care and good night!

Terry

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