TOOK more than 40 years, but the Democratic Party
finally found itself another John F. Kennedy.
modern twist: in 2004, it takes two men, not one,
to play the prince of Camelot.
Kerry has the right resume but lacks the Kennedy
charisma. John Edwards has charisma but lacks
the Kennedy portfolio. Like pieces of a puzzle,
the two Johns might just make one Jack. That is
the party bet.
the presidential candidate, brings naval war hero
status and a privileged upbringing, just like
the fallen president. Kerry also brings Senate
experience, a good head of hair, and the JFK initials.
Kerry's pick for vice president, offers youth,
vigor, and adorable young children. He is at ease
with himself and the press. He can banter one
minute and the next minute launch his elegant
riff about "two Americas." During the primary
season, he withstood insulting questions about
his "Breck girl" hair with charm and a pleasant
Forbes Kerry may do or say whatever it takes to
win the White House, but he cannot become the
John Fitzgerald Kennedy voters of a certain age
recall from news clips. Like his confusing statements
on war, gay marriage, and now abortion, Kerry's
charm deficit cannot be willed away. Edwards and
family look and sound more like the old news clips,
but he cannot enhance the heft deficit in his
political resume between now and November. On
their own, neither measures up to the original
deficits may matter less to voters than the truth-telling
deficit in the Oval Office regarding war with
Iraq. Still, they represent the Republicans' best
chance for victory. If voters fall so much in
love with the handsome picture of a Kerry-Edwards
ticket they decline to deconstruct it, George
W. Bush will not be reelected.
Edwards on grounds of political lightness is unlikely
to greatly help the GOP cause. George H.W. Bush
picked Dan Quayle to be his running mate, and
it doesn't get lighter than that. Even so, Dukakis-Bentsen
failed to derail Bush-Quayle in 1988 despite Texas
Senator Lloyd Bentsen's debate crusher: "Senator,
I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy.
Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you
are no Jack Kennedy." Edwards is smoother, more
cerebral, and much more articulate than the Indiana
senator who ended up as vice president. It's hard
to imagine Dick Cheney taking him down in similar
fashion, although Cheney did better than expected
against Joe Lieberman in 2000.
voters' ultimate comfort level with Kerry is another
matter. Edwards is the sunshine on the ticket,
and it remains to be seen how long the presidential
candidate enjoys basking in his running mate's
glow. Choosing Edwards demonstrates a humility
not usually associated with the Massachusetts
senator. Accepting the media's unqualified love
affair with Edwards up until Election Day requires
more of the same.
the meantime, Kerry continues to give voters reason
to question his core convictions. The candidate's
recent statements regarding abortion are a prime
example. "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't
like abortion. I believe life begins at conception,"
he told an Iowa newspaper. If that is his belief,
why the long voting record favoring abortion rights?
Do voters want a president who is for and against
abortion, just as he was for the $87 billion for
Iraq before he was against it?
such questions about Kerry brings a burst of brutish
criticism from liberals, who argue that these
are small matters compared with the Bush administration's
false premise for war with Iraq. The argument
from the anyone-but-Bush crowd does not lack merit.
But if a candidate who wants to be all things
to all people turns into a president with the
same goal, where, exactly, does he plan to lead
the country? Voters have a right to know. Leadership
requires choices, not obfuscation. Bush made his
choices and will live or lose with them on Election
Day. Kerry still has a lot of explaining to do.
question is, will anyone make him explain much
of anything between now and Election Day?
calls. It is a place flooded with fond, fuzzy
memories. The pictures running through the mind's
eye are beautiful -- a smiling handsome president
leading us to the New Frontier, beautiful, young
children, and a demure, gracious wife.
wait a minute, which John is the new JFK? Kerry
or Edwards? It gets a bit confusing. Maybe two
Johns do equal a Jack. Or maybe they don't.
Posted: July 13, 2004