Kenneth Baer

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

Recent Articles

The Speech

There are few times when the public awaits a speech. The State of the Union address, the presidential inauguration, and the acceptance of a party's presidential nomination are the only regular fixtures on the political speechmaking calendar, and they are relatively rare. But because these addresses are so anticipated -- and, in the past, have made so much history -- more memos are written and more drafts are discarded surrounding these speeches than perhaps any others. These are opportunities for presidents and presidents-to-be to set the agenda, change the debate, and perhaps even alter the course of history. Next week, for the first time in his life, John Kerry will be given one of these opportunities: one hour on stage at the Democratic national convention and on prime-time television. It's the most important speech of his career, and the most important speech of this election year. Now, in some alternative universe, it is Al Gore who is accepting the renomination of his party, and...

Kerry's Non-Southern Strategy

To hear Democratic strategists and political commentators tell it, the selection of John Edwards as John Kerry's running mate heralds the dawn of a new Democratic day in the South, with the Carolinas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Virginia suddenly in play this November. After all, as the Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne, Jr. points out , since 1960 the three Democratic tickets that didn't feature at least one southerner all lost, while the five that included a son of the South all won. By that logic, Edwards is the perfect pick: he was born in South Carolina, lives in North Carolina, and has a drawl as thick as molasses. Yet Edwards won't help Kerry win one southern state -- although he will help Kerry win the presidency. The brilliance of the Edwards selection is not that he will enable Kerry to win states in the South (short of a landslide, they are still completely out of reach), but that he will help Kerry remain competitive in “southern” areas of non-southern states. While huge...

The Last Hurdle

In Washington, the only question on anyone's mind is: WWJD -- What Will John Do? Everyone has a theory about whom John Kerry will pick (or should pick) as his running mate, and journalists are scrambling for any angle on the story that they can find. Last Friday, The Washington Post ran one of the most interesting accounts of where Kerry's thinking may or may not be. While the article was filled with rampant speculation by a panoply of unnamed sources, one observation stuck out. According to the Post : "Friends say Kerry believes he has passed a national security threshold with voters that has freed him to tap a vice presidential candidate who complements him in other ways." If these "friends" of Kerry were really his friends, they would inform him that, sadly, this is not the case. In fact, the only thing keeping George W. Bush in this race is that John Kerry has not yet met this "national security threshold" with the electorate. Voters still give the President a commanding lead on...

Here Comes the Moon

In 1951 the political observer Samuel Lubell, surveying the almost two decades of Democratic rule and the dominance of New Deal liberalism, noted that in the American “political solar system,” the Democratic Party was the sun (the majority party) and the Republican Party was the moon (the minority party). In such a universe, Lubell wrote, “it is within the majority party that the issues of any particular period are fought out; while the minority party shines in reflected radiance of the heat thus generated.” More than half a century later, Lubell's famous formulation still holds true -- except that the parties now occupy opposite places in the political solar system. The Democratic Party is now the moon, and the Republican Party is now the sun. And the man who made that transformation happen was Ronald Reagan. Democrats and progressives may complain about the Reagan record and this week's near deification of him, but they must recognize that Reagan did more than just win two elections...

Boston Strangler

John Kerry decided yesterday that he would accept his party's nomination at the regularly scheduled time -- on July 29, the last day of the Democratic convention in Boston. Had Kerry not publicly toyed with postponing his acceptance to maximize his fund raising, this would not have been an issue. But because he's made it one, it's a good time to reassess the role of nominating conventions and how they can be modernized. When the Kerry campaign floated this trial balloon last Friday, Boston city officials were understandably miffed: To the Bostonians, the idea of hosting a convention without a nomination is akin to celebrating St. Patrick's Day without beer. But the broadcast media were no less thrilled about the prospect of a nomination-less convention. CBS' Bob Schieffer wondered, "Are these people nuts?" As Tom Brokaw told Larry King, "There's no good reason for NBC the network to be in Boston covering the convention; it will be just one large political rally and party." This...

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