Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Monday, January 19, 2004
John Kerry Kerry has given more to his country than any of the candidates. He was a war hero and then marched on Washington to protest the war. He went on to be a prosecutor before entering politics. More than even Clark, Kerry is running on his resume. The real question is whether he has enough off-resume qualities to make him a good candidate and President.
Policy Positions From the start of the campaign, I thought Kerry had great policies. He's the second-most liberal candidate (after Kucinich), and has a great voting record. He voted for the Iraq invasion, but I don't blame him. He's a vet and the president lied to him. Of course, it would have been nice if he'd joined with the (few) bolder Congresspeople who questioned the President, but my sense is that Kerry actually thought it was a good idea to invade. It makes his outrage about the lies and political opportunism all the more believeable to me.
Electability Kerry's still in the race because he's regarded as electable. While Dean is tattoed for being a "Northeastern liberal," Kerry, thanks to his purple heart and bronze star, gets a pass.
Personally, I think Kerry is a weaker candidate than Iowans rallying to him. He seems to be running for President to fill out the resume, not to make change. That comes through in his tepid public appearances. I also don't like the constant shifts and maneuvering of his campaign. We're seeing from Kerry the same things we saw from Gore--a candidate guided by handlers, not conviction. It killed Gore (another guy trying to fill out the resume), and it could kill Kerry, too.
Leadership Kerry isn't a great leader. He's a solid guy and a great number two man. His politics are good, but he hasn't led the charge on innovative policy. Despite 20 years in the public eye, he doesn't speak well, and lacks charisma. He's something like the Democratic Bob Dole. You admire the guy, but don't necessarily want to follow him.
Honesty Kerry got rattled by Dean's insurgency, and he didn't handle it well. Lacking a pure vision, he falls back on the handlers (who seem to keep changing). This isn't inspiring. I don't think he'd pull bait and switches, but I don't know how he would handle an onslaught from Delay/Hastert and Frist. Which, of course, any Democratic president can expect.
Bottom Line If Kerry emerges, we'll have a solid old line Democrat who will offer a serious challenge to Bush. He's not going to change politics or lead the Democratic Party in a bold new direction. A Kerry presidency will be a kind of band-aid to get through tough times. Given the choice between Buish and a band-aid Presidency, the choice is clear.