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June 18, 2012 5:15 PM Kerry Takes One For the Team

By Ed Kilgore

You have to admire John Kerry’s team spirit in agreeing to impersonate Mitt Romney in debate prep sessions with the President. He will duly be subjected to mockery from all the late-night comics for his unique ability to play the role of a stiff, out-of-touch aristocratic Massachusetts pol.

Truth is, though, Kerry knows the ins-and-outs of policy exceptionally well; did a good job in the 2004 debates; is one of five living Democrats who ran against an incumbent president (the other four being 89-year-old George McGovern, 84-year-old Fritz Mondale, and the two winners, Carter and Clinton, who are presumably exempt from this kind of duty); and knows from painful experience an awful lot about the kind of Rovian tactics Romney is likely to deploy. All in all, the choice makes sense.

Presumably, Romney will choose Rob Portman as his sparring partner, since the Ohioan, reportedly a “method actor” when it comes to this rare craft, has been doing presidential debate prep since 1996, most recently standing in as Barack Obama for John McCain in 2008. If Portman turns out to be the GOP veep choice, it might seem a bit weird for the two members of the same ticket to square off, even in mock form. But without question, being a bit of a chameleon should make Portman a good personal fit for Mitt.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • T2 on June 18, 2012 5:38 PM:

    I figured Romney would use R2D2. As for Kerry.....geez, he should have killed Bush, and he did get the little monkey steamed up a couple times, but by the 3rd debate, the pundits gave it a draw (mostly to be nice to Bush). How come he couldn't crush him? Kerry's problem is simple - he's a Democrat. Obama needs someone like Santorum or Bachmann to serve as his foe - see what it's like to debate a totally insane person.

  • JackD on June 18, 2012 6:20 PM:

    Wasn't Kerry the guy who said if had known then what he knew now he would have voted again to authorize the military force in Iraq?

  • June on June 18, 2012 6:22 PM:

    "Obama needs someone like Santorum or Bachmann to serve as his foe - see what it's like to debate a totally insane person.

    My thought almost exactly, @T2. As a debater, it would be hard not to be gobsmacked by this type of expected exchange:

    Pres. Obama: The sky is blue.

    Romney: There's the president again, refusing to tell us the color of the sky.

    Moderator: He said "blue," Gov. Romney.

    Romney: I don't believe that - I didn't hear that.

    Pres. Obama: The larger issue here, regardless of the governor's level of hearing, is that the sky is blue.

    Romney: We don't know that for sure. We don't even really know that there is a sky.

    Pres. Obama: You said ten minutes ago that there is a sky.

    Romney: Well, I'm not sure what I said, but whatever it was, I stand by it.

    Moderator: So, you agree there is a sky.

    Romney: No. Yes -- no. Is that the president's position that there is a sky?... Then, no. No, I certainly don't agree with that.

  • TomByrd on June 18, 2012 6:37 PM:

    "...just three living Democrats who ran against an incumbent president..."

    Not true. Bill Clinton ran against President GHW Bush and last I looked Bill was still alive. Ditto for Jimmy Carter (I hope, been a while since he surfaced) who ran against sitting president (albeit not elected president) Jerry Ford. The two mentioned, plus John Kerry, are the three alive who LOST against an incumbent Republican president.

  • low-tech cyclist on June 19, 2012 10:17 AM:

    He will duly be subjected to mockery from all the late-night comics for his unique ability to play the role of a stiff, out-of-touch aristocratic Massachusetts pol.

    "...and all I've got to do is act naturally."
    -Ringo Starr, "Act Naturally"

    Seriously, Kerry deserves a better rap than he's gotten. He would have made a fine President.

  • biggerbox on June 19, 2012 10:42 AM:

    I think Obama should use Jon Lovitz as his debate practice, with Lovitz playing his old character Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar.

  • Lance on June 19, 2012 1:41 PM:

    You're missing the subtle jab this selection represents.

    Obama is saying Romney is a flip-flopping Mass politician.