Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry's Finished: That's No Joke

In the new CNN poll just released yesterday, registered Democrats were asked which potential candidate they would most likely support for President in 2008. Hillary Clinton led the list receiving 28% of the vote followed by Barack Obama with 17%, Al Gore and John Edwards with 13% and John Kerry with 12%. This poll was taken before Kerry’s recent attempt at humor, and although it is still early to think about 2008 in some aspects, it’s not too early to realize that John Kerry will never become President of the United States.

The most striking element of the three day saga of the joke gone wrong is that it serves as a reinforcement of exactly why the majority of voters rejected Kerry in 2004. First, he mangles, what he says, was an attempt at humor at the expense of President Bush. His aides sprinted into damage control mode by releasing the full text of his comments to show what he “really” meant to say. Sure sounds a lot like “I voted for the 87 million dollars before I voted against it.”

Second, after White House press secretary Tony Snow raised the volume on Kerry’s comments by calling for an apology, along with Kerry’s friend and soon to be Presidential candidate John McCain, Kerry decided to fight back. “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy,” Kerry said. “I’m sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks who’ve never worn the uniform of our country are willing to lie about those who did.” Sure sounds a lot like what he should have said when the Republicans tried to “Swift-Boat” him.

Finally, he eventually was forced to apologize; forced not by his own admission that what he said was not only stupid but unnecessary in the last week before a mid-term election where his Party has a real chance to damage the opposition. No, he was forced by the people in his own Party, led by Hillary Clinton, who realized that the last thing Democrats needed was the focus of the electorate taken off George Bush and put on John Kerry. "As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones that my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about and never intended to refer to any troop. I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended," Kerry said. Sure sounds a lot like a flip-flop.

Worse than what he said is the fact that Kerry doesn’t possess the political acumen, the political “chops,” to get himself out of a sticky situation. It took less than a day for the Republicans to put him on the ropes over something as simple as a misinterpreted line on the campaign trail, and not even his campaign. How easy would it have been for Kerry to just have said: “Sure, I’m sorry if what I said offended anyone in uniform. I offer my apology. But why haven’t President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld apologized to the American people for sending this country to war over WMD that wasn’t there? Why haven’t they apologized to the 150,000 troops that were sent out there to the desert without a plan going in and with no plan to get out? Why hasn’t President Bush apologized for spending this country into the greatest fiscal crisis in our great history? I don’t mind apologizing, but it seems that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld don’t apologize or answer to anyone but themselves. Well, Tuesday, you, the American people have a chance to change all that by voting for the Democrat in your local election. That will make it much easier for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to say they’re sorry.”

A great politician knows how to flip the switch, turn a negative into a positive. Most people can dance, but not like Fred Astaire or Michael Jackson. Most people can carry a tune, but they can’t sing like Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. Most politicians, at least the ones that are successful, have to at some point in their career deal with a moment that must take some talent, some political acumen, to extricate themselves from. Twice now, the Swift Boat controversy and now the joke-that-wasn’t controversy, John Kerry had to sing and dance his way out, and he couldn’t. It was sad to watch.

The CNN poll already is an early signal that Democratic voters have given up on Kerry and this latest controversy is just the proverbial nail in the coffin. His Presidential prospects are gone, so now he must decide if he wants to continue to serve his country as a Senator and build a legacy of which he can be proud. The senior Senator from Massachusetts accomplished that feat after his Presidential aspirations dried up. Now the question is whether the junior Senator will follow his lead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post...

3:48 PM  
Blogger mw said...

Kerry would have been a great President, and we would not have been in such a deep hole in Iraq right now if he had been elected in '04. But, as you point out (and I agree with anon - great post, great analysis), he is a completely hopeless candidate. It is a huge benefit for the Dems that he has been pushed to the sidelines so early for '08.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

mw is right on the money. kerry had a chance to do great things but he never was able to get ahead of the curve. this is one of the best analysis of kerry i have ever read. who is this writer? hope to read more stuff from him...

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with this post 100 percent. What is sad is that within all of the hubub are the kernels of the anger and focus the Democrats could have had in 2004 and Kerry could have had in 2008... would that he would have shed his Senate personae and taken the gloves off earlier... esp. with the Swift Boat group.

My hope is that he communicates his withdrawal from consideration for the 2008 presidential nomination so that Hilary and Barack can get to serious work on that campaign. The way the party works, he still has the "official" nod unless he says otherwise. Like Imus said, "Go home and shut up."

12:59 AM  

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