The Blog

Kerry's Uncommon Touch

Besides the flip-flops, John Kerry has another big problem: how his life in the Senate has prepared him for connecting with ordinary Americans.

11:00 PM, Mar 17, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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JOHN KERRY presented President Bush with a St. Patrick's Day gift via the Wednesday morning New York Times. Responding to a new Bush ad reminding voters that Kerry had voted against last year's $87 billion dollar appropriation to support the troops deployed in Iraq, Kerry responded: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

This beautiful bit of nonsense from the nominee followed Sunday's Miami Herald piece on Kerry's many positions on Cuba and Cuba-related issues. The choice paragraphs from among many:

"Asked in the Herald interview last year about sending Elián back to Cuba, Kerry was blunt: 'I didn't agree with that.'"

"But when he was asked to elaborate, Kerry acknowledged that he agreed the boy should have been with his father."

"So what didn't he agree with?"

"'I didn't like the way they did it. I thought the process was butchered,' he said."

It is hard to caricature a caricature, but the Bush campaign may not have to. The New York Times/CBS poll which appeared the week following Kerry's first extended tour before the entire electorate had Bush beating Kerry by eight points in the three way race with Nader. (The fact that the race is closer without Nader was a "finding" of the poll; this is about as relevant as head-to-head match-ups between Bush senior and Clinton which ignored Perot. Why the New York Times publishes results on hypothetical situations alongside those of real ones is an odd bit of reporting, best understood as a clear attempt to message Ralph.)

KERRY had his first rotten week last week, with his venomous outburst about the "crooked" and lying GOP, his declaration that he wanted to be the nation's second black president, and his assertion that he's spoken with foreign leaders who want him to win in November. Pressed to name these Harvey-the-Rabbit leaders, Kerry dodged and darted, and found himself snarling at Cedric Brown, a signmaker from Pennsylvania. Kerry told Brown that it wasn't any of his business who these pro-Kerry leaders are, and followed that up by bullying Brown into admitting that he had voted for Bush, which led to boos from the pro-Kerry crowd.

As a caller to my show put it: Doesn't Kerry want to win any of the votes that went to Bush in 2000?

Analyst and blog-pioneer Mickey Kaus has been warning all those who move about the blogosphere that Kerry is a horrible candidate, and the last ten days are adding mountains of evidence to Kaus' already well-documented brief. James Lileks has argued that Kerry suffers from "Senatitus"--the strange condition affecting long-serving United States Senators which proceeds from years and years of no one telling you to your face that you are making no sense whatsoever.

Both Kaus and Lileks are correct. A long career in Massachusetts politics simply means intoning respectful nods towards Ted Kennedy and mouthing Harvard seminar sentences, as prolix as they are inconsequential (and frequently self-contradicting). Kerry has trained in a political land that requires none of the skills that a campaign extending to all corners of America requires.

Which brings me to Franklin Foer's important essay from the March 8, 2004 New Republic, "Like Father: What Kerry learned from his dad." Foer's article obliges its readers to focus on the facts of Kerry's biography that explain a lot about his hard-to-conceal arrogance as well as his fairly desperate habit of attention-seeking, which began long before his antiwar radicalism. There are many interesting facts in the piece: that Kerry's grandfather, "a Czech Jew [who] fled Europe," according to Foer, committed suicide; that Kerry's mother was French; that "when twelve-year-old son John lay quarantined with scarlet-fever at his Swiss boarding school, Richard Kerry didn't make the trip from Berlin to visit him." But the theme is that John Kerry's father was deeply hostile to the ordinary American's vision of America: Ronald Reagan's bright, shining city on a hill. Kerry the elder didn't buy it, and son John doesn't appear to either.

AMERICAN HAVE OFTEN SENT wealthy men to the White House, and certainly it is hard to find a more privileged set of Americans than the Harvard and Yale grads who have ended up at 1600 Pennsylvania.