Jewish World Review March 31, 2004 / 9 Nissan, 5764

Tony Blankley

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Consumer Reports

Kerry personally vulnerable | John Kerry's presidential candidacy has all the makings of a classic flop — in the modern sidesplitting tradition of Thomas Dewey, Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. This is not a prediction — merely an assessment of some potentialities.

I am mindful that events in Iraq and elsewhere could leap up and bite the Bush candidacy hard on the backside. The hysteria about phantom lost jobs could grow, rather than recede. The nation is closely divided between Republicans and Democrats. And, most valuably, the Democratic Party's carefully nurtured four-year Bush-hatred should yield strong turnout for its base in November.

And yet, John Kerry has impressive downside potential. Like Thomas Dewey in 1948, his deepest flaw as a candidate is his sheer unlikeability. It was said of Dewey that you had to know him really well to dislike him. But his pompous, stilted style rang through even in his public appearances.

In his Sept. 20, 1948, kick-off speech for his "Victory Special" national tour, Dewey proclaimed: "Tonight we enter upon a campaign to unite America. On Jan. 20, we will enter upon a new era. We propose to install in Washington an administration which has faith in the American people, a warm understanding of their needs and the competence to meet them." If you close your eyes, you can hear the Massachusetts Mandarin in Dewey's old words. Listening to Dewey, one understands why the scrappy, uneducated Harry Truman beat the striped pants off him in November.

But what may become the enduring exemplar of the Kerry style was his spontaneous expletive on the ski slopes when his Secret Service guard bumped into him by accident (while guarding him): "I don't fall down. The S.O.B. knocked me over." To instinctively say that about the man who is sworn to put himself between Kerry and a bullet, paints a lasting and contemptible character portrait. Contrast that with what Ronald Reagan said shortly after he was shot: "Honey, I forgot to duck." It was at that moment that 60 percent of the American public fell permanently in love with the Gipper. As Ernest Hemmingway put it in another time, that is grace under pressure — and Kerry doesn't have it.

The second emerging liability is the matter of Senator Kerry's health and vigor. Few people commented adversely when Mr. Kerry had his cancer operation last year. Most otherwise healthy men go on to fully active lives after such a successful operation. But some people began to notice when he took a week off to relax and "re-charge his batteries" at his wife's ski lodge — just when the campaign was heating up and he had not yet recovered from his foolish foreign leaders claim. His staff had to explain that he gets verbally sloppy when he gets tired. (Of course, the presidency is a darned tiring job 365 days a year.)

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Now comes the unrelated matter of an operation to repair a torn shoulder tendon, an injury that the Kerry campaign says he incurred while on a campaign bus in January. The post-operative period will again take him out of action for "three or four days." Of such episodes, impressions begin to form.

In the murky background, national tabloid papers speculate that he may be a victim of more embarrassing diseases. Such nasty rumors are commonplace in American politics (and inevitably have their effects), but they are fueled by candidates who refuse to release all their medical records — as Mr. Kerry refuses. The limited, general, uncorroborated statements by his personal physician, Dr. Gerald J. Doyle of Boston, only keep the controversy on a slow simmer. The doctor said that "there was no evidence of metastic disease" and that Mr. Kerry's heart function "was above average for a man his age." Is that really the best his helpful doctor could offer up?

The American public has a growing experience with incomplete, protective or misleading statements by the doctors of politicians and other celebrities. So long as Mr. Kerry refuses to permit the release of his military records relating to his war injuries and health, as well as his current and comprehensive medical records, a curious American public will have to judge the senator's physical fitness for the presidency by publicly available evidence, speculation and rumor. It's Kerry's own fault if false rumors affect his candidacy.

He is already on record as lying about his cancer condition last year — first denying the condition, then admitting it when the fact could not be avoided. Even The Washington Post yesterday reported that: "Kerry, 60, who appeared athletic and robust during his recent skiing holiday, has nonetheless faced medical issues in the past year that have raised questions about his overall health." When the Washington Post puts its corporate teeth into a candidate on a personal matter — that's not good news for the politician.

As the Post alluded to, even Kerry's intentionally conspicuous athleticism (playing ice hockey, snow boarding and racing his 10-speed bike in front of news cameras) raises suspicions. We all remember Kerry's idol — John F. Kennedy — conspicuously playing vigorous football and sailing for the news cameras as a cover for his Addison's Disease and severe back ailments.

Putting aside for the moment the big substantive issues of terrorism, Iraq and the economy (which don't seem to be currently catapulting Kerry into the lead), if the public comes to a negative personal judgment on Kerry the man, he will be hard pressed to make a close run of it in November.

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Tony Blankley is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

03/24/04: Futile finger pointing
03/17/04: The Spanish disease
03/10/04: Euro back-stabbers for Kerry
02/25/04: What makes John Kerry tick?
02/18/04: Kerry's pre-emptive war policy
02/11/04: George W. Bush — grand strategist?
02/04/04: Elections in the age of terror
01/28/04: There's a war on?
01/21/04: It's good that we live in ignorance of the future
01/14/04: The strange case of immigration politics
01/07/04: Funding for American presidential elections is beginning to go global
12/31/03: Make us laugh
12/24/03: War prophesies
12/17/03: Analyze this!
12/10/03: Until peace is ready to be negotiated
12/03/03: AFL-CIO meets Monty Python
11/26/03: Republicans need to learn from the Romans
11/19/03: All of a sudden we have a responsible media?
11/12/03: To arms
11/05/03: Mayor Mike's appetite for self-destructive accusations
10/29/03: A bloody march to peace
10/22/03: Calls for a general 's head because his comments may have ruffled the feathers of our esteemed enemies!?
10/08/03: The leakers' agony
10/01/03: Managing a scandal
09/24/03: Will we have to balance our strong ethical and religious revulsion of cloning against the danger of being surpassed by a gene-manipulated super-race?
09/17/03: The skinny on the First Ladies
09/10/03: More than cynicism will be needed to defeat prez
09/03/03: Dead Man Politickin'
08/27/03: Patience is not America's long suit
08/13/03: George Will's trifecta of punitive aspirations
07/30/03: A question for the candidates: Whose side are you on?
07/23/03: When GOPers attack their leader
07/17/03: Spanish fest mirrors U.S. elections
07/09/03: On the horns of a dilemma
06/25/03: The continuing deaths of American and British soldiers in Iraq should not be rhetorically minimized -- but sanctified
06/18/03: No reason to feel defensive about criticism of the war on terrorism
06/11/03: The Clintons — self-proclaimed geniuses — have no defense against the charge of cunning mendacity
06/04/03: George 'Machiavelli' Bush? Nah
05/28/03: When 'progressives' become reactionaries
05/21/03: Yes, this conservative is defending the NYTimes
05/14/03: Playing the politics of deflation
05/07/03: Only the stupid could think it'll be the economy: Comparing the Bushes 04/30/03: How to squelch increasing Iraqi distrust of America
04/25/03: Winning the war, losing the peace
04/16/03: Our own domestic Senate Republican Guard better be prepared for a grinding
04/03/03: At this human moment we need to act like humans, not just calculating analysts
04/02/03: If we could only draft Jennings' eyebrow to the cause, we wouldn't need the 4th Armored Division?
03/26/03: This war is showing the world who we really are
03/19/03: Time for America to laugh at itself
03/13/03: They're coming out of the woodwork: Russert, Buchanan and Moran
03/05/03: Franc-tireur
02/26/03: World history is shifting under our feet --- even our most experienced statesmen are, effectively, inexperienced
02/19/03: The shame! We've mischaracterized the French 02/12/03: Schroeder and Chirac will be disproportionately undercutting their interests
02/05/03: We need to rise above our temporary anger and seek to preserve our bonds with our European cousins
01/29/03: Who is President Bush's stupidest opponent: Saddam Hussein or Tom Daschle?
01/22/03: We call them our European cousins --- but I demand a DNA test
01/16/03: Dems bare partisan teeth
01/02/03: Before the cheering must come the struggle
12/27/02: Long ago and far away
12/18/02: Be glad that Gore's gone?
12/11/02: What fun! A titanic, once-in-a-century partisan battle royal is in the offing
12/04/02: Kerry atwitter
11/27/02: The unThankful list
11/20/02: First the scare, then the yawn
11/13/02: It's going to be a long two years for Lefty Pelosi and the Frisco Dems
11/06/02: Technology: A pollster's worst enemy --- thank goodness!
10/31/02: Watch this election's Wheel of Fate
10/23/02: The Ari and Colin Show: Politics has never been, well, more vaudeville-like
10/09/02: Bush beats drums of realism
10/02/02: Needed: A political chromatograph to detect any true statements in the public domain
09/25/02: Buchanan's new mag
09/18/02: There are many forms of peace
09/11/02: The imperial period of our history starts
09/04/02: Memo to Powell: In periods of upheaval, the refusal to act gives aid to those bent on destruction
08/30/02: Logging old growth is a sham issue

© 2002, Creators Syndicate