The Israeli Newspaper, Ha´aretz, Internet Edition, article dated July 25 and 27, 2004:
On the road with JFK
By Nathan Guttman
(as in John Forbes Kerry) A report from inside the well-oiled machine behind a wealthy war hero with enviable hair who wants to capture the White House in November and throw out that guy from Texas
WASHINGTON - On the way to the White House, the candidates
are required to do unusual, sometimes even unreasonable, things to
convince the public that they are nice and good people who can lead
America. For John Kerry, who at the end of next week, at the
Democratic National Convention in Boston, will officially be declared
his party's candidate for president, this obligation includes the
need to tell jokes. It's difficult, it doesn't really suit him, but
he has no choice.
To a great extent, the battle over the White House is much more difficult for Kerry than for his rival, President George W. Bush, and not only because Bush is the incumbent. Kerry is a man of many traits; a complex personality is an asset for writing plays, not for an election campaign. During the past year, Kerry has been trying to simplify his image, almost to the point of being shallow, to repress his seriousness in favor of an emphasis on the lighter sides of his personality. The question is whether there are any such sides; Kerry is perceived as the most boring person in the world. To reach the hearts of the voters, he will have to shake off years of politics and return to the image of the war hero; to build on his credit as a leader of a protest movement, but without coming off as an extremist; to gain the affection of the middle class, although he is a representative of the elite; and mainly, to be an all-American guy when his entire being broadcasts his outsider status.
Kerry has a small, almost imperceptible habit. When he is presented to an audience at election rallies and at gatherings of supporters, he customarily thanks the moderator with a small salute. Not a big general's salute, more like a sergeant saluting an officer he has known for years. The salute, whether it's a natural gesture or a product of hours of work with his image consultants, is a kind of bridge to the persona that Kerry wants to broadcast in this election campaign, the image of the soldier.
Kerry is an officer and a gentleman in a country that long ago canceled the draft and has already stopped throwing confetti on soldiers who return from battle. The John Kerry who is trying to reach the voters is the one who took off his uniform fairly recently, barely 34 years ago, and wants to continue to serve the public. That's certainly not the only John Kerry, but that's the John Kerry who the Democrats believe can beat George W. Bush, That's also one of the reasons why at every stop on his exhausting campaign all over the United States, several veterans are waiting near his plane, to shake his hand first, before the local politicos, before the masses.
Kerry's military service was undoubtedly the formative experience of his public persona. By November there won't be a single American who is not familiar with the story, from election spots, from the Democratic National Convention, which will devote an entire day to the subject, and of course from the speeches and comments of the candidate himself. Kerry was the commander of a swift boat in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. His friends said that he was particularly courageous, liked to go into battle, and wasn't deterred by danger. Once he said in an interview that he felt a special excitement every time he heard the revving up of the engine at the start of an attack.
Kerry received two medals of valor for his service in Vietnam. He won the Silver Star in February 1969, after his ship was attacked by rockets. He headed for shore and then he discovered a Vietcong fighter standing in front of him with a rocket prepared for launching. Kerry jumped out of the boat, pursued him and killed him. Two weeks later, the boat went over a mine at sea and was attacked by fire from the shore. Kerry was wounded in his arm, and one of his crew members fell into the water and served as a target for the shooters. Kerry turned the boat around, entered the firing zone, and pulled the soldier out of the water. That's the story of the Bronze Star. He also received three Purple Hearts for battle injuries.
When he returned home from Vietnam in 1970, he already understood that the war was a terrible mistake, and became one of the leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement. He entered the spotlight when he was invited to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 1971, where he uttered the famous sentence: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Kerry was a momentary hero - the media loved him, the protest movement adopted him, the FBI began surveillance of him and H.R. Haldemann, President Nixon's adviser, said in the Oval Room that Kerry was a "Kennedy type." Since then, Kerry has been in public life and now, at the age of 61, he is ripe for the step that his friends at Yale University predicted, when they used to amuse themselves by trying to guess which jobs he would give them when he became president.
The goal: to be one of the guys
"I know that they locked up the silverware because they heard that a presidential candidate who needs money is coming over." (Kerry jokes again on the porch of the Bowden family of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.)
One of Kerry's crucial battles is over his image as an extremely boring person, longwinded, a cold fish, distant and arrogant. His friends and relatives would be the first to admit that he needs a few minutes to warm up before he feels comfortable with people. That's a problematic trait for a politician on a presidential campaign, who can devote only 10 seconds to each person.
Last week, on the front porch of the Bowden family in Lansdowne, Kerry continued his efforts to reveal the Jim Kerry in him, and to be the life of the party. Bill and Mary Kay Bowden were the first to be chosen to host the series of "front porch events," in which Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, are visiting "all-American" families, coming up to their front porch and hearing what is really bothering ordinary Americans.
The spontaneous event is well-orchestrated - the streets of Lansdowne were closed to traffic, satellite broadcast vehicles were parked in the yards of nearby homes, and several dozen curious people waited in the sun at the entrance to the home of Bill and Mary Kay, to see the candidate.
Kerry tried hard to be one of the guys, took off his jacket, sat casually on the railing, took an interest and even touched people. It should be said in his favor that he managed to avoid the perpetual election cliche, and didn't pick up the baby to kiss it, but made do with a light touch to its cheek.
Like any other current politician, he is trying at the moment to emulate the successful formula of former president Bill Clinton, the man who succeeded in making all his listeners feel that nobody was more important than they. Kerry took an interest in details, remembered the names of all the family members and tried to speak to the Bowdens directly, almost personally. That will be his greatest challenge until the elections, to show that he is no less human than Bush, who is graced with that same mischievous Southern charm that can't be ignored - even if you don't like him.
When Kerry began his election campaign, everyone mentioned his arcane manner of speech as one of his greatest drawbacks. Kerry was accustomed to covering every subject from all angles, to examine the various aspects, to make an assessment and only then to reach conclusions. That was particularly evident in the public debates during the primaries, when Howard Dean shot well-formulated volleys, and Kerry explained and interpreted and went into detail.
Since then a great deal has changed. Kerry already knows how to be brief and to talk more about himself and less about the topics, as required in an election campaign. As his vice-presidential running mate he chose Edwards, a man whose charisma is supposed to melt the stiffness of his boss, and Kerry has even given up almost entirely the Shimon Peres-style wordplay that he loves, where he would paraphrase a well-known sentence in order to create a kind of new aphorism.
According to the latest surveys, from last week, the effort is bearing fruit, and Kerry has a slight advantage over Bush (5 percent according to The New York Times-CBS survey, 4 percent according to CNN, and a tie according to The Washington Post). However, the assessment is that his advantage stems from the excitement over his choice of Edwards for the vice presidency, and the upcoming Democratic convention.
It's possible that to try to shake off his square image, Kerry will reveal his adventurous, almost childish side, which leads him to devote himself to a large number of hobbies - all of them very sports-oriented and macho. He drives a motorcycle (a new Harley, which was preceded by European and Japanese models) and rides a bike (even during the campaign), surfs the waves, the wind and the snow, plays the guitar and flies a private plane. He also hunts - deer, pigeons, ducks - and consumes his prey (with his hands, he says), and when he was young, he even went to Pamplona, Spain to run with the bulls.
His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, says that he has too much energy, and she is referring to his aspiration to excellence, his desire to conquer every goal and to succeed in exploiting it to the full. Kerry himself has said in interviews that he doesn't pursue danger, but enjoys the sense of control that is involved in experiencing and succeeding at new things. Although he underwent surgery about a year ago to remove a cancerous growth on his prostate, he hasn't discontinued his sports activity.
Is he really arrogant, as his rivals claim? Apparently not, at least not deliberately, or at least no more arrogant than any other American who happens to be a war hero, the star of a protest movement, a successful politician, a Yale graduate, a millionaire married to a multimillionaire, and the tallest politician (1.90 meters) with the most impressive mane of hair in the Senate.
A year on the road
"The only thing that makes me feel bad is that you don't see on TV how warm and nice he is." (Connie, the flight attendant on John Kerry's plane, as she gives out napkins with the logo "Kerry 2004").
An election campaign, for a politician who is trying to defeat an incumbent president, is a demanding business. By the time he reaches the November 2 finish line, Kerry will have undergone over a year of life on the road, hopping from speech to rally, from interview to debate, from strategic meeting to filming election spots. The role of the campaign people is to build a bubble around the candidate, enabling him to focus only on the goal before him. For that purpose there are people like Marvin Nicholson, who follows Kerry like a shadow, always carrying a big bag.
In an interview with The New York Times a few months ago, Nicholson explained the contents of the bag - which include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hard candies, tissues, an umbrella and much more. When someone asks for an autograph, there will always be someone popping up behind Kerry with a pen and paper, when he perspires he will always be offered a handkerchief. On the way to an event, his advisers brief him about where he is going to appear, what the people's names are, who has to be thanked and who should be congratulated in honor of his birthday. All this support is supposed to make Kerry forget the fact that he spends entire days traveling from place to place in his plane, and to give him the energy to repeat the exact same speech, with the same enthusiasm and the same shticks, four, five and six times a day.
Last Thursday, Kerry left his home in Boston at 7:30 A.M., on his way to the Hanscom military airfield. Fifteen hours later he landed in Washington, D.C., after a day during which he had traveled through four different states, danced with the leaders of the African American community to the tune of "We Are Family" in Philadelphia, capered onstage to the tune of "Country Home" in West Virginia, given a light interview on Don Amos' radio program and a serious interview to The Wall Street Journal, and mainly, met dozens of people and shaken hundreds of hands.
Until the elections, the leased plane emblazoned with a huge "Kerry-Edwards 2004" logo is his second home, and that of the members of his staff and the journalists who accompany him regularly. It's not Air Force One, but it is certainly a respectable means of transportation for a presidential candidate. In the back of the plane sit the journalists, in the middle the members of Kerry's staff, and in front of them, in the sitting area in the front of the plane, Kerry himself. The journalists' advantage is their proximity to the bar in the middle of the plane, and the snack bar that regularly provides snacks, sushi, sandwiches and cake, but it's hard, even for them, to keep up with the pace. "We are now leaving for South Carolina," one of the photographers informs his family over the cell phone. "What are you talking about?" another corrects him. "We're flying to West Virginia."
The plane and its denizens share a special atmosphere. The sides of the overhead luggage compartments are covered with newspaper cuttings, postcards and photos pasted on by the journalists. The flight attendants have their own collage in the back, and are especially proud of a song written by attendant Connie in honor of Kerry; the song was first performed two weeks ago, and it became a hit on late night shows that same day, and a joke on the Comedy Central channel.
One of Kerry's aides, who hasn't slept at home for seven and a half months, explains that Kerry doesn't tire of the long election campaign because politicians are "made of different stuff." What is exhausting for ordinary people is energizing for politicians. The secret of Kerry's energy, his determination and ambition are usually linked to his early years. His unusual childhood provides quite a bit of psychological material.
Kerry was born in December, 1943 at a military hospital ner Denver, Colorado, where his family was living while his father was recuperating from tuberculosis that he had contracted when he served as a pilot in World War II. Afterward the family returned to Massachusetts, where Kerry still lives. Kerry doesn't like to be portrayed as a New England aristocrat, but he is, at the very least, part of the local elite. His mother, Rosemary Forbes Kerry, is a descendant of John Winthrop, who was one of the founders of Boston, and a member of the Forbes family, one of the oldest in New England, and owners of Forbes Magazine. His father, Richard, became a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service after his military service.
When John was 11 years old, his father was posted in Berlin, and the family moved to Germany. From here on in, Kerry followed the rocky path typical of "State Department kids." He was educated in a prestigious Swiss boarding school, returned with the family to the United States, lived in New Hampshire and later in Washington, and attended seven different schools, mostly boarding schools, before eighth grade. He grew up as an independent child, traveled by himself by train from Switzerland to Germany, and grew up far from his parents. That may be the clue to his distance and the explanation for his outsider status.
His parents were demanding. John, his younger brother Cameron, and their sisters Peggy and Diana, were expected to excel. In media interviews, the children said that their mother was the one responsible for their restrained behavior, while their father was the one who pushed them into challenges. When Kerry was learning to sail a sailboat, his father covered his eyes and asked him to try to bring the boat to shore, to teach him to navigate in foggy conditions.
A pragmatic liberal
"People say: `Does this guy know what our lives are about?' and I say: `You bet.'" (Kerry in West Virginia)
Kerry studied at Yale, began to get involved in politics when he
volunteered to help with Edward Kennedy's Senate campaign, and after
graduation enlisted in the Navy. In 1970, a few months after his
return home, he joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, whose
core group was founded in 1967. He was in charge of organizing
several of the outstanding protest events, including a demonstration
in which the veterans threw their decorations onto the steps of the
U.S. Capitol (Kerry threw his ribbons, but saved the medals
themselves). After his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, he became the person most identified with the movement,
which at the end had a membership of over 30,000 veterans.
Kerry's career as an anti-war protester is downplayed in favor of his military career. In general, from listening to his speeches and from conversations with his spokesmen and his friends, one gets the impression of a candidate who is a calculated product of political strategies, not necessarily of his biography or his character. The public Kerry, who is marketed to the voters, is a soldier and a hero, a defender of the weak, a friend of the middle class and an opponent of the establishment. Everything is true, of course, but this public image also deliberately ignores several other important features - the fact that he is a member of the elite, his great wealth and the fact that during the past 22 years he has been involved in only one thing, politics.
As in many other countries, "politics" has become a dirty word in America, and Washington, D.C. has become a synonym for corruption and red tape. George W. Bush, during his first year as president, established the Western White House in Texas, and complained that Washington journalists suck in the humid air of the East Coast. Howard Dean, a momentary rising star in the Democratic party, built his campaign on shaking off that same corrupt Washington. Kerry has also internalized this message, and in his appearances before an audience he often tells about other chapters in his life, rather than the political chapter.
Kerry's first experience in politics came in 1972, when he ran for the House of Representatives, riding the wave of his celebrity status as a protester. That was the first and last time that he lost a political contest. After the defeat he went to study law in Boston, and later began to work in the Massachusetts District Attorney's office. Alan Solomont, Kerry's close friend and the most senior Jew in the campaign, says that Kerry remained in the public eye both as prosecutor and later as a private attorney, and that he also maintained his connection to politics. In 1982 he was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and two years later he exploited the opportunity that came his way, when Senator Paul Tsongas announced his retirement from the Senate. "He was a good prosecutor and an excellent lieutenant governor, but it was always clear that he should be in national politics," says Solomont, who today serves as the campaign's finance chairman.
Kerry won a Senate seat, and although during his first years he was overshadowed by the senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy, he made a name for himself as a troublemaker, after insisting on investigations into the links between the Reagan administration and the Nicaraguan Contras. His voting pattern is liberal, but not ultra-liberal. Although the Republicans would like to portray him as crazy leftist, he is nevertheless a senator who voted in favor of the war in Iraq (although against the first Iraqi war), who doesn't support same-sex marriages and does support a citizen's right to bear arms. He is a moderate, pragmatic liberal, who understand that politics is the art of compromise and alliances, who receives donations from large communications corporations, who understands that to get ahead, one can't flee to the margins.
"I am running for president because I am frustrated and tired of a Washington that throws words at you and plays with your lives." On the Bowdens' porch in Lansdowne, to an audience that is tired of politicians but still invites them to its front porch, Kerry promised to restore values and dreams to the country. A few hours later, in Charleston, West Virginia, he told several hundred donors that he understands the good old America, where "people talk to one another, worry, work, go to church and watch baseball."
Kerry's economic platform, which will be emphasized more as election day draws near, is aimed exactly at those same members of the middle class whom he wants to represent. Your situation could be better, much better, Kerry plans to inform the Americans, and the climax will be his promise of universal health insurance, which will once and for all solve the problem of 44 million Americans who lack any health insurance, and of many millions of others who are constantly afraid of losing their insurance.
The idea of universal health insurance (which Richard Gephardt was the first to present in the election campaign, when he was still a Democratic candidate) is the Democrats' main weapon against the administration. Where will Kerry get the money to pay for it? One answer is by amending George W. Bush's huge tax cut, so that it won't apply to the wealthy. Another answer is at the expense of the deficit, which in any case has grown in recent years. At the election rallies he reminds his listeners that only 20 years ago, the salary of one wage earner in an average American family was enough to buy a house and to pay for higher education for the children, whereas today even two salaries aren't sufficient. There is no one in the audience who doesn't nod in agreement.
The economy will not be the only major issue in the elections. Traditionally, it is customary to assume that elections in the United States are decided on questions of domestic rather than foreign policy, but this time, because of the entanglement in Iraq, both fronts are equally important. It is difficult for Kerry to take a prominent stand on the issue of Iraq. Although he often attacks Bush for the decision to go to war without international backing, poor planning and mistaken intelligence, he is in a dubious position, because he voted in favor of the decision to go to war.
After the fact, he said that had he known that the intelligence was so faulty and that Bush wasn't planning to work with international cooperation, he wouldn't have given his support. To emphasize his opposition to the war as it has developed, he voted against the special budget for funding the costs of the war and of reconstruction. That aroused criticism on the part of the Republicans, who claimed that Kerry didn't want to transfer money to pay for protective gear for the soldiers.
Kerry has no solution for Iraq that differs from Bush's solution - he doesn't think that the American forces should be withdrawn immediately, and he refuses to mention a date for the end of the U.S. military intervention there. His only message on this issue is a classic example of political vagueness: international cooperation and demonstrating more responsibility in future. At an election rally last week, he promised to restore the principle that America should never go to war because it wants to, but only because it has to.
While on foreign policy issues Kerry intends to emphasize his character, values and principles as opposed to those of Bush, at least on economic matters he is talking about real plans. Aiming at those swing states that will decide the elections, Kerry speaks to them mainly about wages, jobs and health insurance. Kerry's message is simple: Too many jobs are leaving the American market for overseas - and he knows someone who can stop that. Kerry promises to bring America back to the Clintonian era of economic prosperity, while he tends to ignore quite a few changes, both domestic and international, which make it doubtful that he can keep that promise.
The religion issue
While the first commandment in a modern American election campaign prohibits a politician from being portrayed as a politician, or even as a friend of politicians, the second prohibition relates to religion - and totally prohibits being portrayed as an unbeliever. George W. Bush is a believing Christian, and Kerry, who is Catholic, doesn't fail on this point either, although as opposed to Bush, he doesn't bring faith and religion into every speech and every response. As someone who declares his faith in God and, at least according to the testimony of his friends, attends church whenever possible, during the election campaign Kerry mentions religion in accordance with the nature of his audience. At a convention of the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in Philadelphia last week, he cited from the New Testament regarding "faith without deeds," and talked about values that stem from the Holy Writ.
Even after John F. Kennedy, a Catholic candidate is an exception on the American political landscape, but John Kerry is even more unusual - he may not be the first Catholic to reach the White House, but he is definitely the first Catholic who comes from a Jewish background, and can, if he wishes, take advantage of Israel's Law of Return.
Kerry learned of the fact that his paternal grandparents were Jewish only during the past year, in the wake of a Boston Globe investigation. His ignorance was the result of the fact that his grandfather, Fritz Kohn, was a Czech Jew who converted to Christianity and changed his name to Frederick Kerry when he immigrated to the United States in 1905.
When the story came out, Kerry said that he had had a vague idea about his grandmother's connection to Judaism, but hadn't been aware that his grandfather, who committed suicide in 1921, was a Jew who converted. "It was a revelation for me," he said, adding how important it is for him to know more about his roots, particularly when he learned that he had relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. Investigators in the Czech Republic also raised the possibility that Kerry is not an ordinary Jew, but a descendant of the famous 16th-century Prague scholar the Maharal (an acronym for Moreinu Harav Loewe, our teacher Rabbi Yehuda Loewe), although this hasn't been verified.
Today Kerry doesn't deny his Jewish roots, but he doesn't use them often either. When he met with Jewish leaders in New York on the day before the Super Tuesday primaries, he told them about the discovery and about his curiosity regarding his roots, but didn't try to present himself as someone who now has a better understanding of the needs of the Jews. "The issue of his Jewishness was something personal, not something that changed his attitude toward the Jews or toward Israel," says Solomont, adding that in any case "Kerry was always aligned with the Jewish community."
Kerry is now totally aligned with Israel as well. At the beginning of the campaign there were still a few faux pas, as when he condemned the separation fence at a convention of the Arab American Institute, when he supported the Geneva Initiative, or when he suggested Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter or James Baker as intermediaries in the Middle East - men considered problematic for Israel by the American Jewish community. But in recent months Kerry has fixed all his mistakes - he supports the separation fence and the disengagement plan, opposes any pressure on Israel, and presents as strong a pro-Israel platform as does Bush.
The Jewish community also points out that during all his years in the Senate, he had a "perfect AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) record"; in other words, he has always voted in accordance with the pro-Israel lobby on matters related to Israel and the Middle East. His supporters also mention that he has visited Israel many times, unlike Bush who came to visit only when he was a presidential candidate (Kerry recalls his first visit to Israel in 1984, on a tour for American legislators, when on the mountaintop in Masada they shouted "Am Yisrael Hai" - the people of Israel live).
At the end of a long day of speeches and handshaking, when his plane was ready to take off for the last stop in Washington, Kerry took time to give a brief answer to my question about his views regarding the Middle East. In an interview that took place in the front section of his plane, he explains that if he is elected president he will not try to impose an agreement. "It's up to Israel to negotiate peace," he says, "and it needs a partner to do it with and they don't have one yet." He believes that the designated role of the United States in the Middle East is in the war against terror and against the Arab countries that support it, saying "we can help change the climate more effectively than George Bush."
Although his Middle East platform is very similar to that of Bush at present, he emphasizes the main difference between them - defining aid to Saudi Arabia as an obstacle that must be dealt with. "I can be more effective with the accountability of the Saudis and other Arab countries ... I'll do a better job of reducing the threat to Israel and the rest of the world." His agenda regarding Israel, he emphasizes, is clear - Israel has no partner, Arafat is not an interlocutor - and he has no intention of embarking on initiatives or appointing emissaries. Everything will be done with Israel's agreement.
If at the start of the campaign, Teresa Heinz Kerry was considered a liability because of her blunt style, she is now one of its main assets. Heinz Kerry is the second wife of the Democratic candidate. He married his first wife, Julia Thorne, in 1970, when he returned from Vietnam, and after 12 years and two daughters the marriage fell apart; Thorne says it was because Kerry devoted all his time to politics. Kerry's two daughters are actively involved in the campaign, but his ex-wife stays away from any event, and barely maintains contact with him. Her brother, David Thorne, a good friend of Kerry's, is often interviewed and speaks in favor of the candidate.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, 65, was born in Mozambique and was educated in Switzerland and South Africa. In her public appearances she often talks about her childhood in an undemocratic country, and about her studies in South Africa, where she participated in demonstrations against the apartheid regime. After arriving in the United States to work at the United Nations, she married John Heinz, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and the heir to the huge Heinz food empire. In 1991, Heinz was killed in a plane crash, and Teresa was left with three sons, with the task of running the huge Heinz philanthropic enterprises and with an inheritance of half a billion dollars.
Before his death, Heinz had introduced Teresa to his Democratic colleague Kerry. Afterward, the two met again at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and in 1995 they got married. "When you get married when you're older, it's not the same as when you get married when you're a young little thing. It's better," said Heinz Kerry at one of her campaign appearances last week.
As opposed to Laura Bush, who is satisfied with sending an admiring glance in her husband's direction, and with discussions with children about the importance of reading books, Heinz Kerry is a sharp and opinionated liberal, who will be an activist and a fascinating First Lady. The Chanel suits and scarves, the foreign accent and her loose tongue attract a great deal of interest. At election meetings she speaks mainly about democracy, environmental issues and women's rights. "It's time that we who clean up have a say in how dirt should be made," she was heard to say at a gathering in Boston last week.
She also has a Jewish connection in her past: In the late 1970s, Heinz Kerry was the co-chair of Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry, and she maintained a friendly relationship with Avital Sharansky, who was working to have her husband Natan released from a Soviet prison and allowed to immigrate to Israel. "She was very passionate and very knowledgeable," recalls Mark Levine, the director of the National Council for Soviet Jewry, who organized the women's group.
Welcome to JFK
As opposed to his wife, Kerry does everything possible to hide the fact that he's a man of the world. At the end of the election rally outside the University of Charleston, a German journalist showed photographs of the house where Kerry lived in Berlin in the 1950s. Kerry not only remembered the house and the neighborhood, but did an excellent job of reading the headlines in the German weekly magazine. The Democratic candidate's command of German is considered good, but it doesn't compare to his French, which is defined as really excellent, in addition to his Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. In other circumstances, this knowledge of languages could be considered an asset, but Kerry and his people are doing everything to hide it. Even official biographies don't mention knowledge of languages, and he doesn't use them in public.
Paradoxically, Kerry's command of languages is considered a problem in the election campaign, as something to be hidden, not only because it reinforces the intellectual image from which he is trying to distance himself, but also because to speak European languages, or to be friendly with Europeans, is considered almost a moral defect in America today. Kerry and his people know that Bush's election headquarters will make mincemeat of every syllable of French he utters, and of any hint of the fact that Kerry has friends in "old Europe," as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it.
Kerry fell into this trap at the start of the campaign, when he said that he had heard from many world leaders that they would like to see him replace Bush. The Republicans latched onto the statement as a sign of treason, and Kerry hastened to remove it from the agenda. At a fundraising event in Charleston, Kerry almost was tempted to repeat the claim, when he told of a telephone conversation he had had that day with Clinton, who is visiting Europe. "I won't repeat the things I have said in the past, but I can say that hope overseas is growing," said Kerry. Later, in the plane, he couldn't restrain himself, and said that he had heard from Clinton that 95 percent of Europeans are hoping he gets elected.
It's already clear to Kerry what kind of a president he wants to be. Last Thursday at the University of Charleston, as the sun was set, Kerry reminded his listeners that 40 years ago, West Virginia gave its vote to John Kennedy, and it wasn't disappointed. Now he wants to repeat the Kennedy model. He already has a head start - like Kennedy he's Catholic, he's from Massachusetts, his name is John, and his initials are JFK (John Forbes Kerry). But somehow, it's reminiscent of his joke about Edwards and People Magazine.