Jewish World Review April 28, 2004 /7 Iyar, 5764

Tony Blankley

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Kerry's fatal flaw | It would appear that John Kerry is running for president for the same reason that chickens cross to the other side of the street: just to get there. Can anyone, including Mr. Kerry, state in one sentence why he wants to be president? Usually, presidential aspirants at least fake some intense sense of mission.

Dwight Eisenhower was going to end the Korean War. Kennedy was going to get the country moving again. Nixon was going to bring the country together and end the Vietnam War. Jimmy Carter was going to return honesty to the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan was going to defeat communism and cut taxes. George H.W. Bush was going to make a kinder, gentler country (whatever that meant) and save the Pledge of Allegiance from the ACLU. Bill Clinton was going to focus on the economy like a laser and end welfare as we know it. George W. Bush in 2000 was going to return decency to the Oval Office and have a more humble foreign policy (one out of two isn't bad). Even that old scalawag, the 29th president, Warren Gamaliel Harding, won a historic victory on the promise of a return to normalcy. (A promise he kept, if one considers corruption and philandering normal.)

Losers, also, usually have a campaign theme. George McGovern wanted to end the war in Vietnam (a perennial favorite). Walter Mondale wanted to raise taxes (Yes, it was only 20 years ago that liberal tax raisers openly and honestly ran on their convictions.) Al Gore was going to be for the people and against the powerful. (Bad call; the meek may inherit the Earth, but they rarely win elections. But at least Mr. Gore had a theme.)

Certainly, Howard Dean had a mission: End the war in Iraq, and crush Washington politicians like they were cockroaches. He would have been the sentimental favorite on the second point, and might yet have won on the first one.

Quickly, think of the phrase that catches John Kerry's theme. ... I can't either. Only two phrases come to mind at all: Bring It On, and Work With Our Allies in Europe and the U.N. Who amongst us will put down our beers (or cognacs) and remote controls on Nov. 2 to go to the polls and vote for either of those phrases?

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The ancient Greeks believed that a person's personality defined one's destiny. John Kerry would seem to be making that case. While his opponents and some of his Senate colleagues consider him an opportunist, a true opportunist would ruthlessly say and do whatever is necessary to win. If he is an opportunist, he would have to be considered a singularly inept one. And John Kerry does not strike me as inept.

His friends say he is just instinctively nuanced in his thinking. That may be closer to the mark. According to Webster's Dictionary, the etymology of nuance is from the middle French (Hmm!) word nuer: to make shades of color; from nue: clouds, akin to the Greek; nythos: dark. That would seem to be Mr. Kerry's problem. He thinks and talks in shades that create clouds and darkness around him. No one knows what he is saying, and thus what he is thinking. This makes things rather awkward for an American politician.

The rhetoric of American politics is binary, not gradational: Give me liberty or give me death; our nation cannot exist half slave and half free; are you pro life or pro choice; are you for or against capital punishment; pro or anti-war; for or against tax cuts.

Some cultures admire subtlety of thought and expression in their politicians. No, not just the French. The Chinese, the Hindus, the old Persian culture all admire such traits in their leaders. But the Anglo-Saxon cultures, and preeminently we Americans, admire decisiveness and clarity. We instinctively suspect deceit or indecision where we hear subtlety. We are often right to do so.

Seeing seven sides to an issue is useful in the study of metaphysics. But men of action — and world events always have required American presidents to be men of action — must be capable of decisive action. A candidate for president who is incapable of clearly expressing a single principle or goal he will fight for is inevitably going to be an ineffective candidate. And if he can't even decide what to say with clarity, he is unlikely to be able to act as president under the crushing pressure of world events.

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

04/21/04: Beware of an old man in a hurry
04/14/04: Islam confronting its demons?
04/08/04: Vigilance is not enough
03/24/04: Kerry personally vulnerable
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