Kerry's "Image" Problem

- by Michael Dempsey

John Kerry's got a problem with the image thing. This even his fans confirm. Eric Alterman, while reflecting on a private meeting he and a few other liberal scribblers had attended with Senator Kerry, reported that although the Senator would make an able president he lacked savor faire so crucial in connecting with American voters. As a remedy to this, The New York Times reported with no small amount of elation that Kerry will be unleashing a barrage of million dollar television ads to acquaint the American people with him. The worrisome impression is that the voters don't know (or don't care to know) anything about John Kerry. By funneling snippets of his St. Alban's childhood into living rooms across America, people will begin to identify with the Senators program, whatever it happens to be on that particular day, or so the hope is.

David Brooks, the house conservative at the New York Times, wrote an astute analysis of Kerry in which he pointed out that Kerry, despite his inter-personal deficiencies, will have to portray himself more like Bill Clinton if he intends to mount a challenge to the President.

And all the factions recognize that Kerry can't just present a laundry list of policies. He has to come up with a narrative in which he casts himself as an Andrew Jackson-style populist reformer, incorporating the policies of the center with the anti-plutocrat language of the left. That's what the big brains are working on now Jackson's "populism", by the way, was pro-slavery.

But one might care to notice that even if the presumptive Democratic nominee were Howard Dean instead of John Kerry the prognosis stated above would still be accurate. Considering that on a number of occasions Dean admitted that he was a Clinton style democrat, it is inevitable that he would have had to work overtime to shed the skin of the anti-war pro-plebian podium thumper. Kerry, never having fallen ill to the bleeding heart syndrome, doesn't have this problem.

Brooks sounds a lot like former Clinton advisor turned dominatrix specimen Dick Morris. Morris tutored Clinton in the theory of triangulation, which essentially argued that if a Democratic politicians feeds the liberals the rhetoric they need, and the conservatives the results they want, then he or she will have created a new center, or synthesis, from which you will be able to entertain the aspirations of both while in truth committing to the agenda of one over the other. In Clinton's case, his solidarity was with big business. Former Clinton apparatchik George Stephanopoulos wrote in his book, All Too Human, that Clinton harbored an almost insatiable obsession with pleasing a room full of suits. (It was the capital-friendly Clinton campaign of 1992 that prompted the CEO of Martin Marietta to note, "I think the Democrats are moving more towards business and business is moving more towards the Democrats."

Kerry is savvy enough to know that the time has come to stash away his pseudo-populist persona and to start flashing his credentials as a carpet bomber. He must have been saying something right in order to deserve the encomium showered on him by United For Peace and Justice, an anti-war group whose website describes Mr. Kerry as being the "closest thing to a peace candidate we have," providing thus another example of how violently misguided the ideology of "peace" is.

Even Noam Chomsky, someone not known for his timidity when it comes to pouncing on the Democrats, has enlisted his influence in the People's Front against Bush. His argument is that although the quantitative differences between Bush and Kerry are small, these differences can produce qualitatively different outcomes under certain circumstances. This is true, only if it is also true that Kerry would respond statically to changing conditions on the ground, and in a manner the anti-war movement would like him to! For if conditions can compel Kerry to swing to the left, they can also compel him to swing to the right. Chomsky, a lifelong student of formal logic, should know this.

Sadly for the "realists", the inductive evidence in support of the pro- Kerry argument is non-existent. Lyndon Johnson was far more liberal than John Kerry, and yet his policy was more hawkish than his predecessors and his successors combined. His exterior appearance may not have been as malignant as Richard Nixon's', but then did that matter to the Vietnamese?

John Kerry may be more educated and less abrasive than George Bush, but does this matter to people of Baghdad, or Fallujulah, or Najaf, as it does to the Harvard Democrats for Kerry?[1]

The only "pragmatic" lesson to adduce, therefore, is that, the short-term lesser of two evils is in the long term the greatest evil of all. The sooner the Left realizes this better, and the closer it will then be to building a political alternative in America worthy of the word progressive.

Michael Dempsey, 23, is a staff writer for The Raw Story, contributor to Justice(the newspaper of Socalist Alternative), and member of Boston to Palestine. He can be reached here:

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[1] The Harvard Democrats for Kerry have a poster which assails President Bush for his "uncouthness." This gives some idea as to the constituency the Harvard Democrats are politicking to.

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