Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 25, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE REAL JOHN KERRY....Here's the final paragraph of Tom Oliphant's highly personal profile of John Kerry in the American Prospect:

John Kerry is a good, tough man. He is curious, grounded after a public and personal life that has not always been pleasant, a fan of ideas whose practical side has usually kept him from policy wonkery, a natural progressive with the added fixation on what works that made FDR and JFK so interesting. I know it is chic to be disdainful, but the modern Democratic neurosis gets in the way of a solid case for affection. Without embarrassment, and after a very long journey, I really like this guy. As one of his top campaign officials, himself a convert since the primaries ended, told me recently, this is pure Merle Haggard. Its not love, but its not bad.

This is a genuinely interesting article from a guy who's known Kerry for more than 30 years, but he's right: there's no real love there. In fact, here's another version of his piece:

....slow climb up the public-service ladder....could be a successful, even excellent, president....well-prepared....likely to be a tough grind....contemplative, serious person....iron butt for grunt work....patience and tough negotiating that are Kerry attributes....sober yet imaginative person....quiet leadership....pretty good, ambitious local prosecutor....true expert....passionate and authoritative advocate....leading spokesman....worked like a dog....always listened to criticism....listened and responded....difficult path to success....careful vetting....vintage Kerry: part traditional....part new thinking....worker as well as a thinker....not by instinct a visionary....grubby, central task of coalition building.

Compare that to this take on the Bush administration from John Lewis Gaddis, who's basically sympathetic to their worldview:

They violated a really fundamental principle. It's the dog-and-car syndrome. Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about and chasing cars. But they don't know what to do with a car when they actually catch one. It seems to me this, in a nutshell, is what has happened to the Bush administration in Iraq.

Yep. After four years of almost breathtaking unwillingness to face up to the hard work of how to really deal with 9/11, an "iron butt for grunt work" strikes me as a welcome change. The question is, will the American public agree? Will they interpret this kind of traditional work ethic as more Thomas Edison or more Jimmy Carter?

Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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