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KERRY IN VIETNAM

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JOHN KERRY. . .

Kerry tries to suppress torture report

The unconstitutinal law Obama wants to use against Snowden

David Lindorff, Counterpunch - Our prissy Secretary of State John Kerry, hair carefully coiffed for his interview, told NBC’s Brian Williams that fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden should “man up” and return to the US to “stand in our system of justice and make his case.”...

And Kerry is not alone in convicting Snowden in absentia and without a trial. He is only echoing the sentiments of his boss, President Barack Obama, who has already made it clear that he thinks Snowden is guilty under the Espionage Act — that hoary World War I-era law that his administration has revivified from a legal crypt to prosecute whistleblowers and under which Snowden has been indicted by the US Justice Department...

The nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Eric Holder, has also said he thinks Snowden belongs in the slammer (though he promised Russia that Snowden, if handed over to the US for arrest, would not be tortured, and that if convicted, would not be executed). As Holder put it, in a question-and-answer session worthy of Lewis Carroll held at the University of Virginia Law School, his office would be “willing to discuss” a deal with Snowden, but only if Snowden first pleaded guilty....

Let’s be clear here. As Kerry surely knows, Snowden, under the Espionage Act, would not even be allowed to present — even at the sentencing phase of any trial — an argument justifying his decision to copy the NSA data, and to provide it to journalists. Nor, under the Espionage Act, would he be permitted to argue that the data had been unconstitutionally obtained by the NSA, or that it was improperly classified as secret. None of that would be permitted. All he would have a right to do would be to attempt the impossible and try to prove that he did not steal the data.

That is not a genuine trial. That is a witch-hunt. It is a star-chamber trial...

In fact, if Kerry had any real courage, he would admit to the American people that he nearly managed to drag this country into a tragic war in Syria (on the side of Al Qaeda), with the lies he spouted about a purported slam-dunk case of poison gas use by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad last year. He would admit that his own State Department was behind the bloody coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine. And he would admit that the fliers circulated in pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine purporting to require Ukranian Jews to register with the local rebel government were frauds and a false-flag action designed to discredit the rebels.

Kerry knows what courage is mainly because he is so clearly lacking in it. That was made abundantly evident during his sorry campaign for president back in 2004, when he ran as fast as he could from his brief history as a critic of American imperial war-making back in 1971, presenting himself instead as a bronze star-honored killer.

When you say somethng right in Washington, you have to apologize for it

Washington Examiner - Secretary of State John Kerry apologized Monday night for using the phrase "apartheid state" during a closed-door meeting to describe what Israel could become if both sides fail to agree on a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Kerry made the remark during a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission, an organization created to bring leaders together to discuss global issues.

In a rare apology sent out in a statement by the State Department, Kerry said if he “could rewind the tape,” he wouldn't have used the term “apartheid” in speaking about Israel.

The statement began with a defense of Kerry's record as a supporter of Israel.

“I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don't believe,” he said.

"First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one," he said. "Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt."

Still, he said he has “been around long enough” to know the power of words to “create a misimpression, even when unintentional.”

“If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution,” he said.

Kerry backs Israeli apartheid

Kerry pushes Israeli occupation of Palestine

Kerry supports Israeli land theft

John Kerry: Secretary of Buffoonery

Justin Raimando, Anti-War - Oh, the burden of empire! It weighs so heavily on John Kerry’s shoulders:

"Secretary of State John Kerry attested Tuesday to the massively complex challenges Washington faces in Ukraine, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, declaring ‘it was easier’ during the Cold War.

"In a candid moment during a State Department speech, the top US diplomat said changing global power dynamics made a quaint memory of the early East-West stalemate, when American children would ‘crouch under our desks at school and practice’ safety steps for a possible nuclear attack.

“’During the Cold War… it was easier than it is today – simpler is maybe a way to put it,’ Kerry told aid and development experts.

“’The choices were less varied, less complicated, more stark, more clear: Communism, democracy, West, East, the Iron Curtain.’”

Yes, those were the Good Old Days – when children in the schoolroom cowered beneath their desks – and we almost went to war with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba which posed no more threat than missiles outside Moscow. Does "quaint" even begin to describe that vintage scene? It’s all so Currier & Ives.

We were the Good Guys and the Russkies were the Bad Guys – and never the morally equivalent twain shall meet! If only we could get back to those halcyon days, everything would be "simpler," says Kerry.

Having an implacable enemy of unrivaled evil supposedly bent on our destruction has its advantages – yes, a US Secretary of State actually does seem to believe this. Having nuclear-armed enemies is a Good Thing – because it makes the job of US officials so much easier. Should we support a South American dictator who murders his own people for looking at him cross-eyed – but of course we should, because he hates the Russkies! Do we really need to build more nuclear weapons than it would take to incinerate the world one-hundred times over? The answer – back then – was an obvious yes, at least to our wise rulers (who never considered how dangerous our arsenal would become once it started to age….). And how about getting involved in a war in Southeast Asia that would take tens of thousands of American lives – and easily a million non-Americans – a war this same John Kerry would refer to with unmitigated contempt as he threw his war medals right back at the Pentagon?

Ah, yes – the beauty of simplicity! No hard decisions. No moral conundrums...

"In the post-war 1950s and 1960s, Kerry said, ‘we could make really bad decisions and still win, because we were pretty much the sole dominant economic and military power around. It’s not true any more.’”

Poor Kerry: he must’ve been suffering from jet lag during that little convocation, because back in the cold war era there were two big powers, not one: he seems to have forgotten about the Soviet Union. But no matter: that’s just a not-so-minor detail, the kind that makes all the difference in the world.

2013

Kerry pushes Israeli occupation of Palestine

Kerry says spying on allies is not unusual

Kerry lies about his Iraq war position

Kerry supports Israeli land theft

The case against Kerry

Ever modest John Kerry is going to be fun

2010

JOHN KERRY RATED MOST VAIN MEMBER THE SENATE

2008

KERRY TRIED TO GET MCCAIN ON HIS TICKET

KERRY THOUGHT ABOUT SELLING OUT BY RUNNING WITH RIGHT-WINGER MCCAIN

2007

PRESIDENTIAL AMBITION DROVE KERRY'S VOTE FOR WAR

GREG PIERCE, WASHINGTON TIMES - Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 after weighing the political ramifications and being told by his future campaign manager that he would never be elected president in 2004 unless he sided with President Bush on the issue, according to a forthcoming book by Mr. Kerry's former strategist. . . [Robert Shrum] writes that Mr. Kerry telephoned him on the eve of the Oct. 11, 2002, vote. Mr. Shrum said that Mr. Kerry was skeptical of Mr. Bush's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that he "didn't trust Bush to give the diplomatic route a real chance." Nonetheless, Mr. Kerry asked Mr. Shrum whether he would "be a viable general election candidate if he was in the small minority of senators who voted no." Mr. Shrum wrote that he told Mr. Kerry that it was "impossible to predict the political fallout if we went to war." But he wrote that Jim Jordan, Mr. Kerry's former Senate press secretary and future campaign manager, "was insisting that he had to vote with Bush." Mr. Shrum wrote that Mr. Jordan had "hammered" Mr. Kerry with a warning: "Go ahead and vote against it if you want, but you'll never be president of the United States." Mr. Kerry voted for the war resolution, and Mr. Jordan became Mr. Kerry's campaign manager three months later.

http://www.washtimes.com/functions/print.php?StoryID=20070529-120428-8000r

2006

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH JOHN KERRY

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING KERRY

[Collected by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal]

We cannot have it both ways in the war in Iraq. - June 2006

Yea. - vote on authorizing military force to liberate Iraq, Oct. 12, 2002

Even having botched the diplomacy, it is the duty of any president, in the final analysis, to defend this nation and dispel the security threat. . . . Saddam Hussein has brought military action upon himself by refusing for 12 years to comply with the mandates of the United Nations. - March 18, 2003

I voted to authorize. It was the right vote, and the reason I mentioned the threat is that we gave the--we had to give life to the threat. If there wasn't a legitimate threat, Saddam Hussein was not going to allow inspectors in. Now, let me make two points if I may. Ed [Gordon] questioned my answer. The reason I can't tell you to a certainty whether the president misled us is because I don't have any clue what he really knew about it, or whether he was just reading what was put in front of him. And I have no knowledge whether or not this president was in depth--I just don't know that. And that's an honest answer, and there are serious suspicions about the level to which this president really was involved in asking the questions that he should've. With respect to the question of, you know, the vote--let's remember where we were. If there hadn't been a vote, we would never have had inspectors. And if we hadn't voted the way we voted, we would not have been able to have a chance of going to the United Nations and stopping the president, in effect, who already had the votes, and who was obviously asking serious questions about whether or not the Congress was going to be there to enforce the effort to create a threat. So I think we did the right thing. I'm convinced we did. -Sept. 9, 2003

Nay - vote on $87 billion to fund operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Oct. 17, 2003

I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it. - March 16, 2004

The president made a mistake in invading Iraq. - Sept. 30, 2004

No. - answer to Jim Lehrer's question "Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?," Sept. 30, 2004

I was wrong to vote for that Iraqi resolution. - June 13, 2006

http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/

2005

STILL WAITING ON KERRY

JOAN VENNOCHI, BOSTON GLOBE - At this point, it comes as no surprise. John Kerry is releasing all his military records -- but then again, he isn't. During an interview with Globe editorial writers and columnists, the former Democratic presidential nominee was asked if [he] had signed Form SF 180, authorizing the Department of Defense to grant access to all his military records.

'I have signed it,' Kerry said. Then, he added that his staff was 'still going through it' and 'very, very shortly, you will have a chance to see it.'

The devil is usually in the details. With Kerry, it's also in the dodges and digressions. After the interview, Kerry's communications director, David Wade, was asked to clarify when Kerry signed SF 180 and when public access would be granted. Kerry drifted over to join the conversation, immediately raising the confusion level. He did not answer the question of when he signed the form or when the entire record will be made public.

Several e-mails later, Wade conveyed the following information: On Friday, May 20, Kerry obtained a copy of Form 180 and signed it. 'The next step is to send it to the Navy, which will happen in the next few days. The Navy will then send out the records,' e-mailed Wade. Kerry first said he would sign Form 180 when pressed by Tim Russert during a Jan. 30 appearance on 'Meet the Press.'

Six months after Kerry's loss to George W. Bush, it feels somewhat gratuitous to point out how hard it can be to get a clear, straight answer from Kerry on this and other matters. But as long as the Massachusetts senator is thinking about another presidential run, the candor gap remains on the table, because he puts it there.

JOSH GERSTEIN, NY SUN - More than a year after promising on national television to release his full military record, Senator Kerry of Massachusetts authorized the Navy last month to provide his service file to selected news organizations. However, Mr. Kerry has not given the military permission to disclose the records to the general public, fueling continued speculation by the senator's critics that he is attempting to hush up some aspect of his service.

The news organizations that have seen the latest collection of documents reported that there was little new information aside from a copy of Mr. Kerry's Yale University transcript showing that the future politician received some mediocre marks. . .

Some of Mr. Kerry's most ardent supporters said they were mystified by his handling of the military records flap. . . One of Mr. Kerry's leading critics during the campaign and during his years as an anti-war activist, John O'Neill, said yesterday that glaring gaps remain in the senator's military record. "This is not a complete release of all records, demonstrably not," Mr. O'Neill said in an interview. "It's the fourth time Kerry has made a complete release of his military records."

http://www.nysun.com/article/15135

2004 Election

KERRY'S CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT FOR TODAY

I'm going to talk somewhere, in an appropriate moment - I'm not sure when or where - you know values and faith.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN ON KERRY

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, COUNTERPUNCH - In the early days of his Senate career Kerry made headlines with hearings on contra-CIA drug smuggling and on BCCI, the crooked Pakistani bank linked to the CIA. Some of the Senate elders must have told him to mind his manners. The watchdog's barks died abruptly.

Kerry offers himself up mainly as a more competent manager of the Bush agenda, a steadier hand on the helm of the Empire. His pedigree is immaculate. He was a founder-member of the Democratic Leadership Council, the claque of neo-liberals that has sought to reshape it as a hawkish and pro-business party with a soft spot for abortion-essentially a stingier version of the Rockefeller Republicans. Kerry enthusiastically backed both of Bush's wars, and in June of 2004, at the very moment Bush signaled a desire to retreat, the senator called for 25,000 new troops to be sent to Iraq, with a plan for the US military to remain entrenched there for at least the next four years.

Kerry supported the Patriot Act without reservation or even much contemplation. Lest you conclude that this was a momentary aberration sparked by the post-9/11 hysteria, consider the fact that Kerry also voted for the two Clinton-era predecessors to the Patriot Act, the 1994 Crime Bill and the 1996 Counter-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Although, once his nomination was assured he regularly hammed it up in photo-ops with the barons of big labor, Kerry voted for NAFTA, the WTO and virtually every other job-slashing trade pact that came before the Senate. He courted and won the endorsement of nearly every police association in the nation, regularly calling for another 100,000 cops on the streets and even tougher criminal sanctions against victimless crimes. He refused to reconsider his fervid support for the insane war on drug users, which has destroyed families and clogged our prisons with more than 2 million people, many of them young black men, whom the draconian drug laws specifically target without mercy. Kerry backed the racist death penalty and minimum mandatory sentences.

Like Joe Lieberman, Kerry marketed himself as a cultural prude, regularly chiding teens about the kind of clothes they wear, the music they listen to and the movies they watch. But even Lieberman didn't go so far as to support the Communications Decency Act. Kerry did.

KERRY AT WAR - Here's another reason J. Forbes Kerry should stop yakking about Vietnam and get down to business: There were 1.3 million medals awarded during the Vietnam War compared with 1.7 million during World War II. The figures are not as big for specific awards but the totals are still impressive. For example, there were 245 Medals of Honor(which Kerry didn't get). And the Army alone awarded 21,630 Silver Stars. Then there are the 47,000 troops who were killed. That's a lot of potential hero competition for Kerry. It's just lucky he's running against an AWOLer.

The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership
requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them; that one help identify the positive things that we learned about ourselves and about our nation, not play to the divisions and differences of that crucible of our generation - JOHN KERRY, 1992

KERRY'S VIETNAM GAMBIT PROVES A DISASTER AMONG VETS

As we warned on a number of occasions, John Kerry's hyping of his Vietnam tour has proved a huge disaster among voters who are veterans. According to a new CBS poll, only 37% of vets now support Kerry compared with 46% immediately after the convention. Bush, despite his AWOL status during the same war, has moved up from 46% to 55%. Nader got only 1% each time.

In short, this has been one of the great political missteps of recent years, a candidate who goes out and makes a big deal of a few months in his life only to have it backfire on him among the very voters he is trying to reach.

Here's how it seems to have happened. Kerry's victory in Iowa was rightfully attributed in part to the bounce from the public support given him by ex-shipmates. But Iowa is one of the most veteran-heavy states in the union and the story was relatively new and unchallenged.

If Kerry had let others speak of his Vietnam activities, all might have been well. Instead, the candidate engaged in version of the maritime barroom trait known as telling "sea stories." Some of these may be true, but typically they are embellished for the benefit of the listener. A "sea story" is by definition an exaggerated version of events, not considered malicious but also not to be taken as the verbatim truth.

When the sea story involves one's own alleged heroism, however, the reaction of other vets can turn decidedly sour. Bill Mauldin said you could tell the hero in a bar because he was the morose guy in the corner by himself. George McGovern described them as the ones who came home dead.

Kerry broke the rules of the game by his bragging and now is paying the price. It doesn't matter that some of his critics are also telling sea stories or real untruths. He should have been smart enough to see it coming and avoided the temptation. Now his campaign and the nation are paying the price as one of the dumbest campaign gimmicks of recent times falls part - SAM SMITH

NY POST & ABC: MAJOR KERRY DONOR HAD DEALINGS WITH MAFIA HIT MAN

RICHARD JOHNSON, NY POST - A scandal might be brewing in John Kerry's camp over revelations that his biggest donor, billionaire playboy Steve Bing, has close ties to a Mafia hitman. Bing, who inherited a $600 million real estate fortune courtesy of his grandfather, Leo Bing, has amassed over $16 million for the Democrats. He has donated $8.1 million to groups that are creating and airing anti-George Bush TV ads, according to Variety.

Now, ABC News reports that one of Bing's close friends is Dominic Montemarano, a.k.a. Donnie Shacks, a New York-based Mafia hit man who did 12 years in prison on racketeering charges and is currently serving four years for domestic violence. The L.A. Times has reported that Bing paid Montemarano's legal fees the last time he had a brush with the law. ABC described Montemarano as Bing's "business partner" and "employee" - although Bing's lawyer, Marty Singer, says that's not the case.

KERRY THE JOCK

MARK STEYN, LONDON TELEGRAPH - I find it hard to believe that getting to know John F Kerry can possibly work to his advantage. He was in Wisconsin the other day, pretending to be a regular guy, and was asked what kind of hunting he preferred. "I'd have to say deer," said the senator. "I go out with my trusty 12-gauge double-barrel, crawl around on my stomach... That's hunting."

This caused huge hilarity among my New Hampshire neighbors. None of us has ever heard of anybody deer hunting by crawling around on his stomach, even in Massachusetts. The trick is to blend in with the woods and, given that John Kerry already looks like a forlorn tree in late fall, it's hard to see why he'd give up his natural advantage in order to hunt horizontally. Possibly his weird Vietnam nostalgia is getting out of control. Still, if I come across a guy in the woods in deer season inching through the undergrowth with a mouthful of bear scat, at least I'll know who it is. Conversely, if you're a 14-point buck and get shot in the toe this autumn, you'll know who to sue.

GREG PIERCE, WASHINGTON TIMES - Sportswriter Peter Gammons, in a column last week on ESPN's Web site, took Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry to task for pretending to be a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. "So who puts the bug in candidates' ears about seeming what they are not?" Mr. Gammons asked. "John Kerry last week professed to be a big fan of 'Manny Ortez,' then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to 'David Ortez.' No, that was Dave (Baby) Cortez and 'The Happy Organ.' A few years back Kerry went on a Boston station with Eddie Andelman and said 'my favorite Red Sox player of all time is The Walking Man, Eddie Yost,' who never played for the Red Sox."

JULY 2004

KERRY'S PLATFORM

AL KREBS, CALAMITY HOWLER - If John Kerry should get elected, particularly after one reads that the Democrats have produced a party platform with broad appeal, turning aside one attempt after another to move the presidential campaign document --- and the party --- leftward, one can only wonder what the future holds for our children and their children.

"The Kerry/Edwards campaign and the Democratic Party leadership are apparently so afraid of confronting Bush that they're retreating on many of the most crucial issues in the 2004 election," Joe Fortunato, Green congressional candidate in New Jersey reminds us: "The Democratic platform draft should dispel illusions that those who care about reversing Bush policies on global warming or Iraq might find relief in the Democratic Party." Among the problems cited:

- Sen. Kerry has no clear position on strengthening the Kyoto Accord, restoring U.S. participation in the agreement, or aggressive national and international steps to stem catastrophic global climate change, or challenging the domination of U.S. policy by energy firms like Halliburton. The Democratic Party's 2004 platform does not mention the Kyoto Accord or higher fuel efficiency standards for cars.

- Neither Sen. Kerry nor the Democratic platform call for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; Sen. Kerry proposes to send 40,000 additional troops to Iraq for a prolonged occupation, despite Iraq's new 'sovereignty.' Neither Sen. Kerry nor the Democratic platform criticizes former Iraqi administrator Bremer's mandate opening up Iraqi resources and business to up to 100% foreign ownership, which violates the 1907 Hague Conventions' rules against pillage by an invading nation.

- Sen. Kerry, reversing his position, has announced his support for Israel's security fence in the West Bank, which was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.

- The Democratic Platform says nothing about overturning or revising the USA Patriot Act or about the Ashcroft Justice Department's possible plans to expand the act. 332 cities, four states, and the Green Party have condemned the act's numerous violations of the U.S. Constitution

- The Democratic Platform makes no mention of veterans, despite the Bush Administration's efforts in 2003 to scale back veterans' benefits by $25 billion.

Greens have also noted that Kerry and the Democratic platform would maintain corporate insurance and HMO domination of the U.S. health care system, and say nothing about guaranteed living wages or repeal of Taft-Hartley restrictions on union organizing.

Kerry himself has told the Los Angeles Times because he expects his liberal base to stick by him no matter what happens he plans to aggressively court more conservative voters with a message that emphasizes traditional values of service, faith and family.

KERRY USING MAJOR DRUG WAR PUSHER AS ADVISOR

DAVE KOPEL AND MIKE KRAUSE, REASON - Anyone who thinks a vote for John Kerry means a vote for a more liberalized approach to drug policy should think again. Candidate Kerry's choice for Homeland Security Advisor, Rand Beers, is a seasoned drug warrior who has already shown his loyalty to the well being of the drug war, no matter how many lives it destroys, or how many narco-terrorists are enriched along the way. . .

More recently, before he quit his Bush White House position as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Combating Terrorism and joined the Kerry camp, he served in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations' as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the top cop and chief apologist for America's war on drugs in Latin America. He is also one of the architects of "Plan Colombia," the multi-billion dollar militarization of the drug war in Colombia.

COST OF JOHN KERRY'S Ottrott bicycle: $8,000

HOW TO GET A LOT OF NUANCE

JONATHAN WEISMAN, WASHINGTON POST - From a tight knit group of experienced advisers, John F. Kerry's presidential campaign has grown exponentially in recent months to include a cast literally of thousands, making it difficult to manage an increasingly unwieldy policy apparatus. The campaign now includes 37 separate domestic policy councils and 27 foreign policy groups, each with scores of members. The justice policy task force alone includes 195 members. The environmental group is roughly the same size, as is the agriculture and rural development council. Kerry counts more than 200 economists as his advisers.

JUNE 2004

KERRY HAS TO BEAT CLINTON AS WELL AS BUSH

OUR CHECK OF Google over the past three months finds Clinton behind George Bush in mentions but ahead of John Kerry. Figures are:

Bush: 7,40, 000
Clinton: 2,530,000
Kerry: 2,481,000

Kerry does better with news media where he runs comfortably ahead of Clinton

Bush 36,500
Kerry 27,000
Clinton 11,700

But at the Washington Post over the past two weeks we find Clinton close to Kerry:

Kerry: 120
Clinton: 93

Clinton, who did more damage to his party than any Democratic White House incumbent in a century, has considerable mischief capability over the next few weeks. Two possible Kerry responses that might help: go counter to the con wiz and pick an exciting vice president. John Edwards, for example, is just as good a southern bull shitter as Clinton and hell of a lot cleaner. Another possibility: do what Gore should have done and criticize Clinton’s behavior in the White House.

The Democrats deny it, the media ignores it, but according to exit polls, 15% of the people who voted for Clinton in 1996 voted for Bush in 2000, a much bigger factor than Nader. Gore got only 15% of the vote of those who thought being honest and trustworthy was most important in a president. Only 36% of all voters had a favorable opinion of Clinton and 68% said Clinton would go down in the history books for his scandals rather than for his leadership.

[We used two alternate names in each case i.e George Bush and George W. Bush, John Kerry and John F. Kerry, and Bill Clinton and William Jefferson Clinton]

JOHN KERRY - Our tax code has gone from 14 pages to 17,000 pages. Do any of you have your own page? Enron got its own a page. . . . And it looks like Halliburton got a whole chapter.

Three Purple Hearts beat three DWIs - Horseshoe guy at Don Imus' ranch

KERRY'S HEALTH CARE PLAN

CECI CONNOLLY WASHINGTON POST - For more than a decade, the health care debate in America has focused on the millions of people without insurance. Now, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), in an unconventional twist for a Democrat, is focusing on the 162 million Americans who are purchasing insurance and what can be done to ease the double-digit premium increases paid by employers and their workers.

At the center of Kerry's ideas is his proposal to have the federal government reimburse employers 75 percent of medical bills over $50,000 that a worker runs up in a year. The reimbursement would, in effect, make the government a secondary insurer and ease costs for employers, workers and private insurers.

In exchange for the benefit, Kerry would require employers to offer insurance to every worker and to provide health programs that detect and manage chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure early enough to prevent the diseases from worsening.

HOWELL RAINES ON JOHN KERRY

[Raines is now writing for the British Guardian]

HOWELL RAINES, GUARDIAN - I believe Kerry can do it, but I feel less sure of that now than I did in the primaries. Every time I talk to a reporter who has covered him, new doubts creep in about his ability to connect with voters. I personally find him easier to talk to than Al Gore, but there's no denying that he's ponderous.

And he's pompous in a way that Gore is not. With Gore, you feel that if he could choose, he would have been born poor and cool. Kerry radiates the feeling that he is entitled to his sense of entitlement. Probably that comes from spending too much time with Teddy Kennedy, but it's a problem. The TV camera is an x-ray for picking up attitudinal truths, and Kerry's lantern jaw and Addams Family face somehow reinforce the message that this guy has passed from ponderous to pompous and is so accustomed to privilege that he doesn't have to worry about looking goofy. It's as if Lurch had gone to Choate.

Recently, a lot of campaign reporters were writing that Kerry is altering his "populist" message and moving to the centre. If John Kerry was ever a populist, George W Bush is a Rhodes scholar. Here's what Kerry has to face up to and build upon. The difference between him and Bush is that Kerry represents the liberal, charitable wing of the Privilege party and George W represents the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party.

MAY 2004

KERRY BLOWS COVER ON CONVENTION AND FINANCING MYTHS

WALL STREET JOURNAL - The news that the Massachusetts senator may delay accepting the presidential nomination until several weeks beyond the Democratic Party's late-July Boston convention exposes two truths that the political class hates to admit.

The first is that the party conventions are now little more than free advertising vehicles. They long ago lost all political drama, but this year one of them may not even nominate a candidate. The next step would be for the media finally to agree not to cover them, though we probably won't because these week-long affairs have also become the equivalent of cardiologist conventions for the political press. We get to see old friends and eat well on expense accounts.

Even better, this Kerry trial balloon exposes campaign-finance limits as a monumental farce. The Kerry camp is considering this maneuver so it can keep raising and spending money as long as possible without having to abide by spending limits that kick in once a party formally nominates its candidate.

WHY NOT NADER AS KERRY'S VEEP?

JOHJN GILMORE, BOING BOING - If Kerry had the sense to pick Nader as his VP, they'd unify the anti-Bush ranks and eliminate the chance of a significant protest vote. Nader polls at 4%, which would put Kerry over the top. Independent voters have noticed the remarkably similar platforms of Bush and Kerry re the Iraq war (they're for it), Guantanamo (they're for indefinite imprisonment without judicial review), the Patriot Act (they're for it), and many other issues like the drug war (they're for it). If independents could vote at least one honest person into one party's administration, known for blowing the whistle when needed, they would be a lot more inclined to do so.

KERRY HAS TROUBLE WITH WHITE VOTERS

RICK LYMAN, NY TIMES - Despite President Bush's dip in popularity, Mr. Kerry hasn't made any real headway, according to the polls. Part of the problem is his lack of support among white men. Mr. Kerry has the support of only 36 percent of white male voters, compared with 55 for the president, according to the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, taken last month. To win the presidency, Mr. Kerry won't need a majority of white male votes. No Democratic presidential candidate has managed to do that since Jimmy Carter in 1976, because of the party's perceived weak-kneed stance on military matters. But Mr. Kerry will almost certainly need to do better among white men than Al Gore did in 2000, when 36 percent voted for the Democratic nominee compared with 60 percent for Mr. Bush. Yet if Mr. Kerry tries to woo the testosterone crowd, he risks losing support from the party's base, including women and minorities, said John B. Judis, co-author of "The Emerging Democratic Majority" and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government's decision to build the barrier off of the Green Line - cutting deep into Palestinian areas. We don't need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis' security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people, and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder."

"Israel's security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense. No nation can stand by while its children are blown up at pizza parlors and in buses. While President Bush is rightly discussing with Israel the exact route of the fence to minimize the hardship it causes innocent Palestinians, Israel has a right and a duty to defend its citizens. The fence only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel."

RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH - The first statement came from a speech to the Arab American Institute in Michigan; the second appeared in the Jerusalem Post one week before the New York primary. In both cases the speaker was John Kerry.

MORE HARI KERRY

NBC FIRST READ - The AP reports from its Kerry interview yesterday that Kerry "grudgingly gave Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress credit for creating 900,000 jobs this year, echoed the administration's views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and seconded Bush's decision to nominate Alan Greenspan for a fifth term as chairman of the Federal Reserve."

KERRY' STRATEGY

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK - Kerry's theory of this campaign is pretty straightforward: to be the guy people have no choice but to vote for on Nov. 2. Not because he has a stirring new vision (he doesn't); not because he's such a darned likable guy (he isn't); but because circumstances are such that fair-minded "swing" voters have no choice but to pick him. He's not running against the war, per se, but as the nobleman at the end of the Shakespeare play, a beacon of sanity on the battlefield.

An odd mixture of arrogance and self-abnegation, Kerry is under no illusions that voters will embrace him in a personal way. At a meeting with fund-raisers in New York the other month, he declared that his goal was to weather a wave of attacks and "preserve my acceptability." There you have his strategy in its clinical glory: They don't have to love me, they don't even have to like me. If I am in the right place at the right time (and am "acceptable") they will choose me.

ONION TRIES TO HELP THE KERRY CAMPAIGN
PDF VERSION AVAILABLE

FRIENDLY TIP TO THE KERRY CAMPAIGN

DON'T EVEN THINK about Wesley Clark as your vice president. He'll explode on you when people find out how truly weird he is.

WONKETTE - A Wonkette campaign trail operative gives us an observation about Kerry's attempts to ape W.'s regular-guy demeanor with the press corps: "He wants come over and kind of punch you in the shoulder in a friendly way, but when he does it, he really punches you. It hurts." And, added our operative, "He doesn't actually talk to you. He just punches you in the shoulder."

PUSH TO EXTEND JOBLESS BENEFITS LOSES BY ONE VOTE - KERRY'S

FOX NEWS - A push by Senate Democrats to extend jobless benefits lost by a single vote yesterday - as their nominee-to-be, John Kerry, missed the vote while campaigning in Kentucky. Kerry, the only senator to miss the vote, said he didn't come back to Washington because "we were told that no matter what would happen, [the Republicans] would change a vote in the Senate and they were not going to let it happen." A bid to extend federal jobless benefits for an extra 13 weeks failed by 59-40, one short of the 60 votes needed because the cost would exceed last year's budget agreement.

[Every Democrat voted to extend the benefits except for Kerry, who was absent, and turncoat Zell Miller, who voted against it]

KERRY'S HEALTH PLAN HAS GOOD AND BAD

WASHINGTON POST - During the discussion, Kerry reiterated his proposal to offer small-business owners a mix of tax breaks and government assistance in exchange for their lowering the cost of health insurance for employees. Under the Kerry plan, small-business owners would get a tax credit to cover as much as 50 percent of the cost of providing coverage to employees with incomes that are not more than 300 percent of the poverty level. In 2003, a family of three making less than $45,000 and a family of four making less than $54,000 would have qualified if the Kerry plan were law, according to Sarah Bianchi, the senator's policy director. Kerry would also allow small-business owners to buy into the same health plan that covers members of Congress and to receive a tax credit if they pick up at least half of the cost for employees. Finally, Kerry said he would seek to drive down coverage costs by taking catastrophic medical costs -- $50,000 or more -- out of the private sector and placing them on the government's tab.

THE GOOD: The small business tax credit and allowing small businesses to buy into Congress' own health plan.

THE BAD: Letting government take on the coverage of catastrophic medical costs. This dramatically reduces the risk for insurance companies without guaranteeing a commensurate reduction in insurance costs.

KERRY'S DOCTOR QUESTIONS SERIOUSNESS OF WOUND

BYRON YORK, NATIONAL REVIEW - Kerry was treated for the wound [that won him the first of three Purple Hearts] at a medical facility in Cam Ranh Bay. The doctor who treated Kerry, Louis Letson, is today a retired general practitioner in Alabama. . . Letson says that last year, as the Democratic campaign began to heat up, he told friends that he remembered treating one of the candidates many years ago. In response to their questions, Letson says, he wrote down his recollections of the time. (Letson says he has had no contacts with anyone from the Bush campaign or the Republican party.) What follows is Letson's memory, as he wrote it.

||| I have a very clear memory of an incident which occurred while I was the Medical Officer at Naval Support Facility, Cam Ranh Bay. John Kerry was a (jg), the OinC or skipper of a Swift boat, newly arrived in Vietnam. On the night of December 2, he was on patrol north of Cam Ranh, up near Nha Trang area. The next day he came to sick bay, the medical facility, for treatment of a wound that had occurred that night.

The story he told was different from what his crewmen had to say about that night. According to Kerry, they had been engaged in a fire fight, receiving small arms fire from on shore. He said that his injury resulted from this enemy action.

Some of his crew confided that they did not receive any fire from shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to some rocks on shore. The crewman thought that the injury was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when it struck the rocks.That seemed to fit the injury which I treated.

What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin of Kerry's arm. The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2 or 3 mm in diameter. It certainly did not look like a round from a rifle.

I simply removed the piece of metal by lifting it out of the skin with forceps. I doubt that it penetrated more than 3 or 4 mm. It did not require probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not require any sutures to close the wound.

The wound was covered with a band aid. Not [sic] other injuries were reported and I do not recall that there was any reported damage to the boat.|||

RUNNING INTO SOMEONE KNOWN in the trade as a "leading Democratic operative," your editor was asked what he thought of the campaign. I put forth my suggestion that the Democrats offer John Kerry the Supreme Court chief justiceship and seek someone who could win.

What was fascinating was that there was no argument, no anger, no dismissal, only a question: who would you run instead?

I said I thought John Edwards was the logical choice but that the Dems might want to check out their governors, especially since governors didn't have foreign policy records the GOP could attack.

Again, no argument or dismissal. . .

Later it occurred to me that the dark horse candidates might include George Mitchell since Iraq seems to be turning into our North Ireland and Mitchell knows something about the matter.

RUNNING INTO A FORMER ARMY DOCTOR we were reminded of a little item in the Kerry medical records about a non-specific urinary infection. He pointed that there was a more common name for this: the clap. On the other hand, one veteran notes that only officers have non-specific urinary infections, enlisted men get the clap.

JOHN KERRY'S BUTLER

KERRY ORGANIZATION LACKING IN KEY STATES

DONALD LAMBRO, WASHINGTON TIMES - Sen. John Kerry has yet to establish campaign organizations in battleground states that likely will decide who wins the presidential race in November, Democratic strategists said yesterday. The Democratic presidential candidate's campaign has been almost invisible not only in pivotal states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but also in the South, a region that some party strategists fear he will "write off" to focus his resources elsewhere in the country, according to Democratic officials.

Mr. Kerry's campaign apparatus is nowhere to be seen in Michigan, a critical Midwestern prize with 17 electoral votes that Democrat Al Gore captured in 2000, but is now a neck-and-neck race where President Bush has the edge in some polls, Democrats say. "It's dead even here but there is almost no activity in the state" from Mr. Kerry's campaign organization, said Michigan Democratic pollster Ed Sarpolus.

The lack of a Kerry ground organization at this point is in sharp contrast to Mr. Bush's campaign, which has a state-by-state pyramidal organization of precinct, county, state and regional volunteers that already number in the hundreds of thousands across the country.

HARI-KERRY OF THE DAY

JOHN KERRY forgot to mention his wife's German Audi Quattro when listing his parking lot contents to reporters in Michigan to proved how America-made it was. Said a GOP official, "How many people own so many cars that they can't remember them all?" . . . Well, that's what he's got a butler for.

KERRY HITS CHENEY ON DRAFT

JILL ZUCKMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE - In a campaign unusually focused on the Vietnam War, Sen. John Kerry trained his criticism on Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday, saying it is "inappropriate" for Cheney to criticize his military service when he "got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do."

A day after Cheney questioned Kerry's credibility on national security, the Massachusetts senator went after the vice president--in addition to President Bush--as he took his campaign bus tour from economically depressed Youngstown to the shores of Lake Erie. Though Kerry met with two unemployed people and stopped by a construction site to greet workers here, the Democrat's focus shifted for a second day in a row to questions of military service. . .

From 1963 to 1966, Cheney received five deferments: four student deferments while attending the University of Wyoming and one for having a child. "I had other priorities in the '60s other than military service," Cheney told a reporter in 1989. Kerry's campaign also released a document posing nine "unanswered questions" about Bush's service in the National Guard, asking why he hasn't proved that he showed up for service in Alabama, whether he received special treatment to get into the Guard, and why he specifically requested not to be sent overseas, among others.

MAUREEN DOWD, NY TIMES - An incumbent who sticks with the wrong decisions based on the wrong facts versus a challenger who seems unable to stick to one side of any decision, right or wrong . . . "

"Bush strategists seem to believe that the worse Mr. Bush makes things, the better off he is, because nervous Americans will cling to the obstinate president they know over the vacillating challenger they don't know."

"Mr. Kerry errs on the side of giving the answer he thinks people want to hear, even as Mr. Bush errs on the side of giving the answer he expects people to accept as true."

APRIL 2004

UH-OH, WE MAY HAVE STARTED SOMETHING

A FEW DAYS AGO WE SUGGESTED that the Dems might find it convenient down the pike to give John Kerry a chief justiceship on the Supreme Court to get him to withdraw from the race. It looks like we might have yelled, "Sex!" in a crowded and very bored theater, to wit:

MICKEY KLAUS, SLATE - At what point do Democrats begin to consider that they haven't nominated this guy yet?

JAMES RIDGEWAY, VILLAGE VOICE - With the air gushing out of John Kerry's balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn't have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party's got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can't exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air.

With growing issues over his wealth (which makes fellow plutocrat Bush seem a charity case by comparison), the miasma over his medals and ribbons (or ribbons and medals), his uninspiring record in the Senate (yes war, no war), and wishy-washy efforts to mimic Bill Clinton's triangulation gimmickry (the protractor factor), Kerry sinks day by day. The pros all know that the candidate who starts each morning by having to explain himself is a goner.

What to do? Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual- resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both. If things proceed as they are, the dim-bulb Dem leaders are going to be very sorry they screwed Howard Dean.

THE PROGRESSIVE CASE FOR A KERRY VOTE

[Doug Henwood, who supported Nader in two previous elections, is going with Kerry this time]

DOUG HENWOOD, LEFT BUSINESS OBSERVER - There seems little alternative at the moment; the best we can do is hope for a Kerry victory, and that disillusionment will rapidly set in. After 1,200 days of the George W. Bush presidency, it's difficult to say there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties. Sure there are plenty of similarities - deep agreement on the beauties of capitalism and the rightness of U.S. power in the world. But, as Noam Chomsky puts it, to the distress of many of his fans, given the magnitude of U.S. power, "small differences can translate into large outcomes."

That's probably truer of domestic than foreign policy. We're more likely to see the privatization of Social Security and Medicare under a second Bush administration, more likely to see the public schools further privatized, more likely to see troglodytes appointed to the NLRB or the federal courts, more attacks on civil liberties, and…ad nauseam.

Abroad, a Kerry administration is likely to be marginally less aggressive, less likely to talk of pre-emptive war or the right to use nuclear weapons, and more likely to be respectful of international institutions (such as they are). There are also intangibles, like a better discursive and organizing environment. It's better for radicals when politics is about the guys in power not doing enough than when it's about defending the social gains of the 20th century. No matter how conservative a Democratic administration would like to be, it still has to respond to some of the party's core constituencies-like environmentalists, African-Americans, feminists, and civil libertarians, a sharp contrast with creationists and oilmen.

Life is better when the air isn't filled with stupidity, arrogance, anti-intellectualism, and covert or overt appeals to bigotry coming from the top. It's good when the president isn't an ignoramus who thinks he's on a divine appointment and the attorney general doesn't hold prayer meetings and assemble anti-porn strike forces. . .

The U.S. is now more hated than it's been in decades, maybe ever. Kerry would probably work to repair this. A Democratic administration would also police more vigilantly the departures from neo-liberalism discussed in the last issue, like Argentina's admirable stiffing of its private bondholders. It'd be a return to empire as usual, which on balance would be a refreshing thing. . .

For this newsletter, which has from the beginning viewed the Democratic Party as an obstacle to human progress, this is a difficult endorsement to make. Making it easier is the knowledge that were Kerry to win, he'd become the enemy on November 3. He is also likely to be disappointing in many ways (disappointing to already low expectations), which is a comfort. . .

Come November, it's going to require a giant clothespin to enter a polling booth. LBO has quoted several times Garry Wills' explanation of why the 1960s exploded: after years of liberals' saying things would improve when Ike was replaced, when things didn't get much better under JFK, a lot of people decided the System was the problem, not party or personnel. Some similar disillusionment with Clinton probably helped spark Seattle. It could happen again. Let's hope it does.

KERRY EXPLAINS HIGH GAS PRICES

MSNBC FIRST READ - In a room of about 80 union workers yesterday, Kerry was asked what he'll do about the high gas prices. His answer: "This president said, and I'm not quoting him - not completely - but paraphrasing - in the debates, in the year 2000 - in New Hampshire, the then-Governor Bush was asked about gasoline prices. He said what the President ought to do is be prepared to get on the phone, and jawbone with OPEC and push them to produce more and lower the prices. Now, this is an oilman speaking and he supposedly knew what he was saying about it. You know what - the four years he's been there he hasn't jawboned. He hasn't jawboned in the last months and we just found out there there's this big meeting with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia - I don't know if there's a deal or no deal - I don't know anything about it except what I read, what Bob Woodward said but I'll tell you this - we ought to be jawboning now. We ought to be raising that production now, and the other thing that we can do and we can do this - instead of diverting a whole lot of our crude to the strategic petroleum reserve for a period of time - we should divert that so it goes into the supply system so there's a greater supply which reduces price and finally there are different additives - standards about additives in gasoline. There are different standards all around the country and in different states. We need to try to work towards a uniformity because those different standards raise the prices very significantly of what happens in distribution nationally.

TRANSCRIPT OF KERRY WITH CHARLIE GIBSON ON GMA CONFUSING MEDAL ISSUE EVEN FURTHER

NUANCE DISAPPEARS WHEN KERRY DISCUSSES ISRAEL

RONALD BROWNSTEIN, LA TIMES - Terse isn't the first word usually applied to Sen. John F. Kerry's disquisitions on foreign policy. At a town meeting just before January's New Hampshire primary, Kerry wandered through nearly five minutes of agonized ambivalence when a fellow Vietnam veteran asked him why he supported the war in Iraq. . .

But Kerry was a model of unambiguous concision the other day when he was asked about Bush's meeting this month with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. . . Bush's meeting with Sharon seemed precisely the sort of unilateral, headstrong gesture that Kerry has in mind when he accuses Bush of pursuing the most arrogant and ideological foreign policy in U.S. history. So jaws dropped across Washington when Kerry responded with just one word after host Tim Russert asked him on "Meet the Press" whether he supported Bush's promises to Sharon.

"Yes," Kerry said.

"Completely?" Russert followed.

"Yes," Kerry said again.

Not much ambiguity there. Kerry probably hasn't answered an important question in so few words since his wedding day.

KERRY CAMPAIGN SHORT ON MINORITIES
ETHNICS REDUCED TO 'COMMUNITY OUTREACH' POSTS

KERRY TRIES TO TRIANGULATE

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY - Bill Clinton perfected the political art form known as triangulation, a word coined by the flamboyant consultant Dick Morris, who frequently advised the former president on the wily ways of taking both sides of an issue and pointing them toward the ideological center. . . John Kerry's first major attempt at presidential campaign triangulation, on the other hand, looked more like a crude sketch.

The presumed Democratic nominee first signaled his pirouette on April 15 in New York City, to a group of wealthy campaign donors. Declaring that he is not a "redistribution Democrat" who would "make the mistakes of the Democratic Party of 20, 25 years ago," the Massachusetts senator assured his supporters that he would run to the ideological center.
That was Kerry's first mistake in trying to form the magical three-sided political shape. The basic rule is to never let them see you plotting your move. Don't say you're moving to the center. Just do it.

Less than a week later, Kerry chose to take his first centrist steps on a horribly complex issue - and in a politically explosive state. He tried to have it both ways on the environment here in Florida.

His invitation-only April 20 speech to Florida's top environmentalists does not bode well for Kerry's efforts at triangulation. In trying to portray himself as a pro-business environmentalist, he failed to avoid the pitfall of internal contradiction that this approach can so easily generate.

While endorsing extremely technical - and limited - environmental policies, Kerry called himself an "entrepreneurial Democrat" who favors business development and some offshore oil drilling. And he failed to mention saving the Everglades, the top concern of Florida environmentalists. The result of Kerry's appearance on Tampa Bay was a flock of confused supporters, a mixed message to swing voters and a huge opening for Bush to run to his left on a powerful issue.

"The largest unexplored oil field in the world is actually the deep-water oil out in the gulf," Kerry told his stunned environmental backers. "Now, there is a capacity to protect what we have today, the protections for the coast of Florida, and still be able to drill in those locations where they're already permitted, already had the environmental impact study, they already have the leases."

. . . "There are some environmental issues in Florida where you cannot waffle or equivocate," said former Audubon Society President Clay Henderson, who was in the front row for Kerry's speech. "There were some people who left the event wondering why the Everglades was never mentioned and confused on Kerry's statement on offshore oil drilling."

The next day the Bush re-election team pounced on Kerry's remarks. The president's brother Jeb, Florida's Republican governor, swiftly condemned Kerry for favoring offshore oil drilling. The Bush camp dispatched the president to Florida for an environmental speech April 23.

Kerry managed to violate a central tenet of triangulation: Whatever you do, do not end up giving your opponent his own chance to move to the center.

NY POST - On Earth Day, Democrat John Kerry reluctantly admitted to having a gas-guzzling SUV in the family - but blamed his wife. "The family has it. I don't have it," Kerry said yesterday. But at first, Kerry - quizzed by reporters on a conference call - tried to deny any links to a gas-guzzler on a day when he was touting his credentials as an environmentalist. "I don't own an SUV," he initially insisted - but 'fessed up when asked if his wife, ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, owned the Chevrolet Suburban seen at their Sun Valley ski lodge.

MORNING LINE

JOHN KERRY IS THE MOST lackluster presidential candidate the Democrats have had since Michael Dukakis. That he is their candidate is due in no small part to Terry McAwful's successful efforts at frontloading the Democratic primaries. If we were still happily engrossed in such exercises in real democracy, where candidates have to go out and actually meet voters rather than just spend tens of millions on TV ads, Kerry would probably be fading now against a resurgent John Edwards or even a dark horse candidate.

Further, the Democrats would be getting considerably more free airtime because two or more Democrats trying to beat the shit out of each other is inherently more interesting than George Bush talking about God or terrorism.

Kerry's problems have been submerged by a combination of factors including Bush's own troubles in Iraq and before the 9/11 commission, and the media's initial reverence towards anyone who has just won anything. But already, as Meet the Press showed, this is wearing thin and the brutal fact that Kerry has a lot of explaining to do - not just about his positions but about his repeatedly touted heroism - has become apparent. Just this morning, even the ever so cautious CSPAN joined the questioning with a disgruntled fellow Vietnam veteran berating Kerry.

Worse, there's been a strange silence about Kerry's virtues even from his most stolid supporters. Governor Bill Richardson on Don Imus tried to make the best of Kerry's MTP appearance but just ended up sounding as unconvincing as the candidate. And the Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson writes about a Kerry fundraising letter:

"What was striking about the letter was that the entire first page was about how Bush misleads, but not a single sentence about how Kerry would lead. Even as Bush flounders in self-righteousness, you have to wonder if the ABB (Anybody But Bush) crowd is lulling themselves into a reverse trap. . .

"The reality is there is a core on folks on the right who believe Bush is an appointed guardian of unilateral American might. There is a core of people on the left who believe Bush is still not their president. But if it was so obvious to Americans outside the elite east and the Bay Area that Bush was a scoundrel, then the polls should not be merely even - Kerry should be ahead by a landslide."

And that's the problem. If there's any time that Kerry should be showing strength it's right now. Bush is on the ropes and still ahead on points. Meanwhile, Kerry appears to be intensifying his search for the extremist middle, witness this description by Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post:

"As he prepares for the most ambitious and defining phase of his presidential candidacy, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) is relying on image-makers schooled in traditional Kennedy liberalism to sell himself anew to voters as a 21st-century centrist Democrat, a muscular hawk on national defense and deficits. . .

"It is Shrum's word and Kiley's polling data and Donilon's ads shaping a soon-to-be-released media campaign introducing Kerry to voters in battleground states. But it is Mary Beth Cahill, campaign manager and another longtime adviser to Kennedy, calling the final shots and overseeing the fast-growing operation.

"Their lofty mission: to set aside a long-running feud within the Democratic Party over its direction to position Kerry as the presidential candidate who is pro-national defense, pro-middle-class tax cuts, pro-balanced budgets -- with the rhetorical dash and inspiration of John F. Kennedy, a hero to Kerry and many of his top aides.

"For instance, Kerry and his advisers seek to blend a traditional populist rant against big corporations with policies designed, in part, to placate business -- such as his across-the-board tax break for corporations.

"Although most of Kerry's top aides were trained to fight for a bigger, more activist government, they are evolving with the candidate and the party. 'The best people, the best thinkers, generally adapt with a change in circumstance,' Cahill said."

Note that, according to the Washington Post paradigm, one 'evolves' away from more activist government towards the miasma of the mushy middle. As for the "the rhetorical dash and inspiration of John F. Kennedy," VandeHei and the aforementioned staffers are probably the only people in the county who would expect that of Kerry.

So what's to be done? The rules of the game pretty well handcuff the Democrats to Kerry even if he continues to muddle along. The only possible out would be if those running the party were to take him aside and promise him the first seat (or chief justicehood) on the Supreme Court should the party win. His ego would be far less challenged and much more comfortable there anyway.

Otherwise, it seems it's pretty much up to George Bush, the Israelis, Iraqis, bin Laden and the stock market to decide this election. - SAM SMITH

KERRY WITH THE YOUNG

ANYA KAMENETZ, VILLAGE VOICE - Judging from Wednesday's performance, John Kerry is not all that interested in playing to young voters. Senator Hillary Clinton, greeted with a standing ovation, introduced the presumptive Democratic nominee, ticking off a long list of his accomplishments in the Senate: the fight for Vietnam P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s, the investigations into Iran Contra and BCCI, and a crusade against irresponsible fiscal policies. All important, none relevant to a college student today.

Then Kerry gave 15 minutes of his standard stump speech: tax-code reform, outsourcing, Social Security, and Medicare. "Let's think about the worker who's 45 or 50 years old who's lost his job, lost his health insurance," he exhorted the crowd of twenty-somethings, many of whom work two or even three jobs to pay their way through school. The senator didn't talk about his proposed $4,000 tuition tax credit, maybe because it goes to parents who pay tuition, not students who shoulder the debt. . .

No candidate would go to a senior center and give a lecture about Head Start. . . The tone-deafness was all the more puzzling since this was absolutely a crowd that wanted to be on Kerry's side. . . Yet Kerry bypassed obvious points of connection with his audience, mentioning tuition hikes only briefly and never referring specifically to the 25 percent increase CUNY students got last year along with budget cuts. . .

One audience member at City College, introduced as a 23-year-old social service worker from Chicago, asked Kerry, "How do we get young people involved in politics, since it's not a sexy thing?" "I think it's sexy," answered a smiling Kerry. He talked about John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps, and his own national-service plan, seemingly content to use young people as a scenic backdrop for his nostalgia-rooted campaign. He figures the kids should be satisfied with an appeal to idealism, as he was in his privileged youth, and not be so rude as to ask what's in it for them.