Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, March 19, 2003



JFK Raises Money In NYC

The greatest candidate in the world came to the greatest city in the world, and I was there!

Well, the event was a few days ago, and this post has been lurking as a "draft" for a while now, but since Jeff Hauser has just awarded California to Howard Dean, I feel obliged to respond.

You may wonder why I am contributing to a Democrat, since to outward appearances I am an evil Righty, complete with Dark Force Decoder Ring and an autographed picture of Karl Rove on my desk.

Never fear - appearances do not deceive! However, a friend asked me to go, my wife wanted to go but could not, and I have my secret reason: I am aware of the vague possibility that, come November 2004, we will have a weak economy and a quagmire in the Middle and Far East. That strikes me as a bad time to be puzzling over a choice between George Bush and James Dean, or Howard the Duck, or whoever it is a bunch of unreliable Lefties seem to have fallen in love with.

So, my civic duty. Besides, as a Yankee fan I am accustomed to having all the money, but it seems like an odd way to run a political system.

Hence, my report. All quotes are, in fact, paraphrases, unless they appear in italics. And I actually attended two events on the same night, so I got a double dose of the stump speech.

First Impression as the candidate mingles: Kerry clearly and easily passes the "Stature Test": could you seriously imagine this person as President of the US? Yes, he walks and talks like a potential President.

His aides introduce him with particular emphasis on his war record: "the only candidate on either side who has actually served in combat". And Kerry speaks!

He opens with some health related jokes, since his recent prostate surgery has been in the news. "I'm here tonight, and let me tell you, it's amazing what they can do with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Now, I know some of you are worried about the rigors of the upcoming campaign - can he handle the travel, the meetings, the fatigue. Well, I am going to tell you not to worry - I met recently with Dick Cheney, and he is doing just fine."

The first campaign theme Kerry introduced was voter apathy, and nobody cared. Apparently 60% of prospective voters don't, and he wants to change that. He came back to this theme at a later point, suggesting that he wanted to rekindle the spirit that energized his generation in the 60's, and lead his own generation in one last hurrah. He also wanted to energize the youth of America. A questioner later wondered what he saw as the galvanizing issue for America's youth, and he replied "the environment." Oh, boy. Not only did that seem so last decade, but it ignored the donkey in the room that is the anti-war movement. Kerry's determination to link himself to the spirt of JFK and RFK struck me as hollow, buy I understand that to be a Dem thing.

Next, the economy - it is doing badly! But the 90's was a bubble, so Kerry is not promising a return to riches.

Education - the property tax results in separate and unequal schools; the solution is Federal grants to assure each child "full citizenship". OK, my evil puzzle - just how many suburban soccer moms want to pay more Federal tax in order to subsidize the inner-city schools they moved to the suburbs to escape?

Energy - Kerry's big push was for a plan he has been billing as "2020": 20% of energy from renewables by 2020; energy independence; ANWR preserved; "we can not drill our way to energy independence, we must invent our way there".

Environment - he likes it! Thinks it will be a rally point for young people.

Social Security - he likes it!

Health Care - should be affordable for all!

Prescription Drugs - another good thing! But now a real clunker - Kerry mentions that his devoted wife, Theresa Heinz of the catsup fortune, was deeply involved in the Massachusetts effort to reform prescription drug coverage. If we are going to reprise the best moments of "Hillarycare", then Sweet Jesus, kill me now. For folks who care, this link should get you started on the Massachusetts medical miracle, and yes, the Heinz charity was a major force.

Iraq - this was not a subject the Senator hurried to address, but eventually he go to it. "My vote did not give the President power he did not already have. I authorized diplomacy, but not this failed attempt. America must have friends! [Crowd cheers for friends]. War should be our last choice, not our first choice! [Big cheer for first choices]. But, Kerry is committed to disarming Saddam, as any responsible President must be. In fact, he said so in 1998 on Senate floor. [Don't rush him].

And that, roughly, was that. Theresa Heinz Kerry spoke at one of the events, and was so dull and depressing that I would hesitate to book her for a convention of morticians. In the mingling phase, an Edwards spy asked Kerry whether he could possibly make the Electoral Map add up to victory. "Gore showed that a Democrat could win the Presidency without winning any Southern States, if he had carried New Hampshire, which I will," said Kerry. Perhaps he sensed a possible follow up on the point that, with redistricting, the Gore states plus NH won't work in 2004, because he then added that he expected to add several other states to the Gore basket - Ohio stuck in my mind, but there were several others that savvy Dems will guess immediately. Wisconsin, maybe? I should look it up, but I am already weeks late with this.

I did not sense the annoying aloofness at all. However, the "both sides of the issue" issue was alive and well.

My strong impression was that I had just met the next Democrat nominee. My opinion is that the Dems have four credible candidates (Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt, and Graham, and boy, did the Edwards spy sputter when I told him that). Of those four, Lieberman has been described as "too conservative", in those exact words, by the last seven Dems I have asked. Probably a bad sign. Gephardt strikes me as too stale, Graham has a fabulous resume but is probably too old, too ill, and too Southern, and that leaves my new main man, Kerry. Not that I am ready to vote for him, of course, but here we are.

UPDATE: Hmm, the "No Southern strategy" has been repeated, and made a bit of news. Ricky West feels left out.


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