Saturday, December 6, 2003

John Kerry is too nuanced

Like others, I was intrigued by Eric Alterman’s post on a private meeting between John Kerry and some pundits. Alterman clearly likes Kerry, and says that Kerry’s challenge is to find out how “to break through to Dean voters in the short amount of time he has left when the media has their storyline already and no candidate gets to say anything that lasts more than a few seconds.”

Clearly this is a challenge for Kerry. I just watched him on C-Span at the Florida Democratic Convention, and can’t help but think that he’s going to have an extraordinarily hard time doing it. I’m a loyal Dean supporter, so my reaction is clearly not representative of less committed Dean supporters. But Kerry’s response to the question on the Patriot Act was a good example: instead of saying the government is abusing its power (see here for a good example), he first has to mention what’s good about the Patriot Act.

Now, he’s clearly right: there are some good provisions of the Patriot Act. But anyone who’s passionate about the Patriot Act would rather see the government try again and narrowly tailor a law aimed at fighting terrorism instead of trying to fix a very broken law. And if they heard Kerry’s response, their only conclusion would be that he supports the Patriot Act.

Which boils down to what I see as the major difference between Dean and Kerry: Dean seeks to empathize with the voter’s issues. Kerry seeks to show his deep understanding of those issues.

Kerry’s a smart guy, and Alterman’s discussion of Kerry’s conversation impressed me more than I’ve been in a while about Kerry as an individual. But his need to show that he sees both sides of the debate won’t win him any traction among the legions of Dean supporters who have found a home in the Dean camp.


  1. Thanks Rick for that post. It appears that you 'prefer' a candidate that is as 1-sided and 1-minded as can be. In fact, you generalize the entire Dean Supporter camp (excluding mild supporters of Dean) as preferring a 1-minded, 1-sided candidate.

    The interesting thing is that us Conservative Voters.... Voted in President George W. Bush knowing full well what he was like given his open arms treatment to democrats in Texas. We knew George W. Bush was a 'compromiser' and a 2-minded individual.

    I don't think too many people were shocked about President George W. Bush when he appointed Colon Powell as Secretary of State (EVEN THOUGH) he supports abortion and President Bush is religiously against it.

    The interesting thing is that us conservatives have grown to believe President Bush is siding TOO MUCH with the left. So much so that some of us conservative voters are asking the Libertarian Party for some help.

    Understand where I am getting at? There's really not much difference between THEM (you guys) and US. We both prefer as much 1-sided ness as we can get... And yet... 1-sided ness never wins elections.

    A truly 1-sided and 1-minded candidate will never win the presidency. That spells danger on Howard Dean's chances and he will have to work magic to get people to believe he is a 2-sided, 2-minded candidate without offending you guys too much.

  2. i'd like to see a real political issue that is just two sided. i'm "pro-choice" but that's shorthand for saying that i believe a woman has a right to control her own body even though i also believe that for all intents and purposes that life begins at conception. otoh i really like one of the pro-life positions which says that society should be so structured as to allow a woman to have a kid at any point in her reproductive cycle w/o damaging her sociall or economically. unrealistic, but a good goal.

    i think howard dean, like all candidates demonstrates that "right" and "left" are poor descriptions of something as complex as politics. he's a fiscal conservative with much more experience in balancing budgets then george bush. the cato institute gave him as the 5th best score in overall fiscal policy.

    the nra gave him a high rating - possibly a 100% rating - on his positions on gun control. he does not support government intrusion into your life - a key conservative position - unlike the bush administration which doesn't feel that the patriot act erodes your civil liberties enough.

  3. oh, as for john kerry. i like him. and i believe his position on the iraq vote - he was fooled by bush.

    i wasn't.

    i'm too young to be president and that's just the first of many reasons why i'm not qualified for the job. but on that very important thing i knew bush was going to invade iraq asap. heck, "the onion" knew it before all of us. they said he'd do it back in january, 2001.

    so as much as i like john kerry, i don't think he'll beat bush.

  4. Howard Dean spoke out against Assault Weapons and has been leaning Leftist in Gun Issues during this primary campaign.

    But even so. Gun Laws and Gun Issues are not exactly the most important and vital part of our society at the moment. It's the war on Terrorism Kevin. And Howard Dean is nothing more than a "Let's Compromise with the most Vile, Evil, People in the world" Anti-Military Politician.

    The Military absolutely HATES Howard Dean. Just like they absolutely hated Clinton.

    Only military people who like Howard Dean are those who are retired that want a 'Free Lunch' from Government.

    But that's besides the point. What makes Howard Dean an extremely 1-sided, 1-minded, person is that he is so Radically socialist, radically anti-war, and *ONLY* fiscally responsible by depleting money from the military to support domestic social agendas. That's not fiscal responsibility folks.

    Anyone with any kind of brains can get beyond the LIBRERAL spin around Howard Dean. And *I* know the real Howard Dean. The one that Rick Klaw is so far refusing to acknowledge.

  5. As always Jeff, your piercing analysis is an inspiration. For someone seeming unconcerned with Dean's prospects at winning the election, you sure do spend a lot of time trying to convince us poor saps who seem to have fallen for a charade.

    Seriously now - unless you plan on providing us with a shred of actual fact (you know, a link, a story, a news item) to back up your claims, I'm awfully close to just ignoring your comments from now on.


  6. Hmm, the war on terrorism is the "most important and vital part of our society right now"? Interesting, somehow, here where I live, it's making sure Americans have jobs, food on their tables, a place to call home, a decent education and access to health care.

    If the war on terrorism is so vital, please explain why the current administration fails to fully fund its own Homeland Defense initiatives? Why state and local govts are picking up huge parts of the tab for this? Making the world safer is obviously an admirable goal, but I've yet to see any program, initiative or plan that will have this effect. In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that we've brought an awful lot of this on ourselves with our aggressive and arrogant policies.

    And by the way, how do you *know* with such certainty that the military hates Howard Dean?