Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Kerry Knows

Only twice in the last seventy years has this nation chosen a Democrat over a sitting Republican president, and the signs and portents make it look likely that this record will hold. Besides, those two others had names starting in a "C". Kerry's "K" is a poor substitute, just as he has failed to convince a sufficient number of voters that he is a worthy successor to George W.Bush. (As an aside, does anybody know what happened to Kerry's middle name? It disappeared when the convention started.)

The key item that is the convincing evidence of Kerry's failure is not the lack of a convention bounce, even though no challenger has ever wrested the White House from an incumbent without one. It is not his poll standings, which still persist at a tie between the candidates. No, what convinces most clearly is Kerry himself. Just look at any photo taken of him over the last few days. He wears the face of defeat, and no one knows how he is doing better than he does.

To be sure, events can overtake this election at any moment, and it is possible, though not likely, that an event could benefit Kerry. I am even sure that the democrats have an October surprise waiting, which should garner them a few of the undecideds. In war, events, either good or bad, tend to make the people fall in line behind our leadership. But the crucial thing affecting this election race is that Kerry has failed to make the American people love him, or even like him. Indeed, he has not even tried to make that appeal to the voters. His campaign, so far, has been a version of the Dukakis campaign, in which Dukakis famously said that it was not about ideology, it was about competence. Bob Dole is another one who put forth this same idea. Both men lost.

It is an unwavering rule of human combat that the champion can not be unseated in a close contest. The champion, or incumbent, must be defeated. Decisively. By knock out. You cannout outpoint the champ. The Lakers can not be beaten in a seven game series. Neither can the Yankees. You must take the first game, you must win on the other guy's home court, and you must deliver devastating blows repeatedly, to unseat an incumbent. Yet Kerry seems to believe that we the people will vote for him simply because we are unhappy with Bush, and JFK is an acceptable, competent, replacement. We can trust him to decide, ad hoc, all of the important decisions that will confront the American President in the next four years, he says. He has no need to explain exactly what he will do, or what his plan is, since he is so smart, so competent, so nuanced.

This guy really does not get it. Not being one of the folks means not understanding the folks at all. He believes that he can make a show of eating at Wendy's, while he and his Mistress eat food secretly brought in from the Newbergh Yacht Club, and we will never know, or care. He believes that he can parade a dozen sailors who like him, and the rest of those who served with him will keep silent about their contempt for this man. Americans do not care what you eat, but we do not expect you to lie about it. We have elected draft dodgers before, but never a man with a questionable military record who bragged about his "heroism" in every utterance and every speech of his two year campaign. We can not stand a man who will criticize another's record on intelligence, yet fail to appear for eighty five percent of the meetings of the intelligence committee, of which he is a member. And we do not like Senators who campaign for the highest office while they retain their Senate seat. We like winners, and winners are confident. Winners do not hedge their bets. Only losers need a fallback position.

And we do not like promises from politicians, since we all know that they are insincere. Yet this campaign has made more promises than any in memory. Better health care for all, world peace, clean air, pure water, expanded wilderness, better schools, and tax breaks for 98% of taxpayers, and 99% of small businesses.

A little over forty percent of voters will vote for Kerry, and about the same for Bush, no matter what. The ten to fifteen percent in the middle will decide this race. Just the same as always. They will either vote for the man they like, or they will vote for the man they know. It is looking more and more like know will win the day. When times are easy, we might go for a Clinton. Unfortunately for Kerry, times are anything but easy. We are at war. It is no time to fool around with your vote. And, this time, only the fools will break Kerry's way. And Kerry knows it. It's in his face. Just look at him. He knows.