Kenneth Baer

Kenneth S. Baer, former senior speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, runs Baer Communications, a Democratic consulting firm.

Recent Articles

Hypocrites' Oath

The closing “God bless America, and good night” of George W. Bush's State of the Union address this week will signal not just the official ending of his speech but also the end of the debate surrounding Bush's last major pronouncement, his second inaugural address. Before we consign the inaugural address to the anthologies and history books, look back for a moment not at the address itself but at the debate it sparked. Two things become clear: When it comes to foreign policy, the right is divided, and the left is directionless. There is vigorous debate about the very essence of what America's role in the world should be post-September 11 on one side of the ideological divide, while the other contents itself with sniping at the margins. If Democrats ever hope to succeed in their long trek out of the wilderness and back to power, they must get off the sidelines and engage on this issue. Bush's second inaugural address is now known as the “freedom speech.” In ringing pronouncements, Bush...

The 11-2 Commission

Democrats are ready to put 2004 behind them -- and who could blame them? After raising more money than ever before and building a turnout operation for the ages, Democrats this week will join the world in watching George W. Bush take the oath of office once again. While this image will be a bitter reminder of this past fall, Democrats are resolutely looking toward the future. There is new leadership in the Senate; a heated race for a new party chair is well underway; and any number of thinkers and wonks are shopping their prescriptions for the party's resurgence. As the party's elder statesman, Senator Ted Kennedy, told CNN last week, when asked about the 2004 election: “You can learn from history, but we are looking towards the future.” Not so fast. After every battle, the military insists on an “after-action report” to determine what happened and to learn from it. If a major corporation had a $1 billion product launch that failed miserably, it would not just walk away; it would...

The Lost Campaign

For those Democrats unable to escape to Barbados or Tuscany, the past week has been one of intermittent moping punctuated with long bouts of commiserating and a general inability to get out of bed. In between the finger-pointing and self-flagellation, most Democrats in Washington have been maniacally surfing the web, scouring the papers, and watching cable chat shows to figure out what went wrong. Unfortunately, most of the current analysis misses the mark. There are two distinct misconceptions -- one micro and one macro -- that pundits are making when looking at this election. And when set right, the outlook is not as bleak as Democrats think, and it points to the work that needs to be done over the next four years. First, too much credit is being given to President George W. Bush, and not enough blame is being placed at the foot of John Kerry. The time for biting our tongues is over, so let's just say it: Kerry was a bad candidate. He was dealt an amazing hand -- a president who was...

Finish the Mission

One deeply ingrained political superstition is to never talk about what will happen after the election until your candidate has won. These days, for instance, no matter what the polls say, every speechwriter pens both a victory and a concession speech (and now a third speech in case of a tie). But at the risk of tempting fate, allow me to pose a question: What will George W. Bush do if he loses the presidency? On January 20, 2005, Bush will be only 58 years old, and in good health. Unlike Gerald Ford, he is too young to hit the celebrity golf tournament circuit. Unlike Richard Nixon, he has shown none of the intellectual curiosity or aptitude to write tomes about foreign policy. Unlike Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, he has shown little interest in becoming a world statesman, having alienated many of our allies and traveled little as president. And unlike a vice president, it would be unseemly for him to jump on corporate boards. If George W. Bush loses this election, he will face a...

He's the Boss

In 1960, the bosses who delivered the election to John F. Kennedy were Richard Daley of Chicago, John Bailey of Connecticut, and courthouse rings throughout the South. In 2004, the boss who may deliver the election to John F. Kerry is The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. As far as I know, Springsteen has never delivered even his New Jersey precinct on Election Day. But if you catch him on the Vote for Change tour (as I did in Philadelphia this past Friday), you'll see that Springsteen understands this election, especially his swing-voter fan base and what message moves them. At the Democratic convention in Boston this summer, Kerry entered the hall to Springsteen's “No Surrender;” if he follows the Boss's lead this fall, he'll be entering rooms for the next four years to “Hail to the Chief.” Full disclosure: I was raised in New Jersey, schooled in Philly, and believe that the E Street Band is the best rock-and-roll band in the world today. But I am neither a Springsteen groupie nor the type...

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