Obama's Attacks Applauded; 2004 GOP Attacks Were Assailed as "Brutal...Furious Assault"

The Times saluted Barack Obama's "good, great or something else" speech for its "cutting language" against Republicans - but four years ago Republicans were accused of "ruthless" and "brutal" attacks on Democrat John Kerry.

Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny were quite impressed with Obama's aggressivespeech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for president and attacking the GOP, as shown by Friday's banner headline: "Framing Goals, Obama Takes the Fight to McCain."

Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party presidential nomination on Thursday, declaring that the "American promise has been threatened" by eight years under President Bush and that John McCain represented a continuation of policies that undermined the nation's economy and imperiled its standing around the world.

The speech by Senator Obama, in front of an audience of nearly 80,000 people on a warm night in a football stadium refashioned into a vast political stage for television viewers, left little doubt how he intended to press his campaign against Mr. McCain this fall.

In cutting language, and to cheers that echoed across the stadium, he linked Mr. McCain to what he described as the "failed presidency of George W. Bush" and - reflecting what has been a central theme of his campaign since he entered the race - "the broken politics in Washington."

"America, we are better than these last eight years," he said. "We are a better country than this."

But Mr. Obama went beyond attacking Mr. McCain by linking him to Mr. Bush and his policies. In the course of a 42-minute speech that ended with a booming display of fireworks and a shower of confetti, he offered searing and far-reaching attacks on his presumptive Republican opponent, repeatedly portraying him as the face of the old way of politics and failed Republican policies.

Nagourney and Zeleny's reference to "cutting language" and "searing" attacks by Obama were understated compared to how Nagourney portrayed Republican attacks on Democrat John Kerry during the Republican Convention in September 2004.

At the time, convention speaker Rudy Giuliani was described by Nagourney as going after John Kerry "with almost ruthless abandon" in a story headlined "Loves Dogs, Hates Kerry: A Two-Prong Campaign Tactic."

In another convention story, Nagourney insisted that the Republican's 2004 keynote speaker, Democrat Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, delivered a "memorably brutal attack on Mr. Kerry and the Democratic Party," while Vice President Cheney "delivered equally brutal lines in an understated fashion." Reporter Carl Hulse called Miller's "bitter" speech a "furious assault" that may have backfired on the GOP.

Flash forward to Obama's speech Thursday night, where reporter Patrick Healy apparently ran out of superlatives in his front-page "news analysis, "Bringing Lofty Words Down to Earth."

Good, great or something else, Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night unquestionably confronted two of his greatest challenges.

One was to help voters, in emotion-laden language, to connect his promise of "change" to more earthly policy proposals, the other to show he could take the fight to Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama's own image and the best way forward for the nation.

But Obama's attacks on McCain and the GOP for undermining the economy and leaving people "on their own" were not portrayed as "brutal" or "ruthless" but as showing a welcome toughness. Instead:

Mr. Obama showed real fire, and directed memorable fire at his opponent, even on Mr. McCain's signature issue, national security.

Healy concluded by touting Obama's "experience."

On Thursday night, the speechmaker showed, in words, that he was also a man of experience, and a man who wanted to give something back to the people who gave it to him.

By contrast, the Times' Todd Purdum sniffed at Bush's 2004 acceptance speech:

"For a nation divided over his stewardship, distressed about the economy and dubious about the war with Iraq, President Bush had one overriding message last night: He's still the one....But he offered few critical details of the second-term domestic agenda he outlined. His big policy ideas-restraining government spending, simplifying the tax code, offering tax credits for health savings accounts, allowing personal investment accounts for Social Security-were vague. And the specific proposals he cited-increasing money for community colleges, opening rural health centers-were mostly small."