"Unity" is the regnant cliché about this convention and this party. The Democrats are "united" as rarely before. But in fact, there is dramatic division here—between the delegates and the candidate.
According to a Boston Globe poll, ninety-five percent of the delegates think the Iraq war was—is—"a mistake." John Kerry disagrees: he believes the war was not a mistake, nor was his vote to authorize it. If he had been president, some of his statements imply, he would have gone to war too—just not "the way Bush did." In other words, candidate Kerry won't challenge what Bush did, but how he did it.
Kerry and the delegates also disagree about how long the U.S. should stay in Iraq. Forty-one percent of them want the troops out by the end of the year, or within eighteen months. Only two percent think the U.S. should stay from three to five years. Kerry appears to agree with that sliver of his party; the Democratic platform talks about staying until the job is done.
Kerry is not only out of step with his delegates; sixty percent of voters also view the war as a mistake. And a plurality want the U.S. out now, or within eighteen months.
A candidate out of step with his party and the country on the wisdom and course of an unpopular war? Who does that put you in mind of? Last night, on the NPR public affairs program On Point, Walter Shapiro, a political columnist for USA Today, compared Kerry to Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee in 1968. But with this invidious difference: until the closing hours of the campaign (when it was too late), Vice President Humphrey backed the war policy of his own president, Lyndon Johnson. Kerry is backing the policy of the man he is running against.