Monday, February 23, 2004

Heat Shield

Veteran Kerry watchers have long noted the Massachusetts Senator's rabbit ears. He doesn't like to be criticized. When he is criticized, he puts up what might be called the Vietnam heat shield. Usually this occurs in the late stages of his general election campaigns (see: Kerry vs. Shamie, 1984 and Kerry vs. Weld, 1996).

So it must be a bit disconcerting for Democrats that the Senator has deployed the Vietnam heat shield in February of this election year. Particularly since what provoked the deployment was a Republican Senator's criticism of JFK's voting record. There is, one supposes, a certain pre-emptive logic to Kerry campaign broadsides against the "GOP smear machine." It might, just might, deflect the criticisms incoming. But as a rule, you don't want a candidate who whines when he is attacked. And surely complaining about Senator Chambliss's attack comes under the general category of "whinery."

Veteran Kerry watchers are also resigning themselves to another grim JFK fact. He never says anything even remotely new or interesting. We're not even to March yet and Ellisblog is already bored to tears. Everything is boilerplate.

This is especially important to the scribes, who are trying their best to imagine liking Kerry. They've long thought of him as a room-emptying blowhard. But since he is, after all, the presumptive nominee, they are searching desperately for things to like about him. Just when they think they've got a new Kerry paradigm (he's serious, thoughtful and electable -- he's got gravitas!), the Senator speaks and all their instinctive anti-Kerry feelings come flooding back.

Kerry would be well-advised to go negative on Edwards. It will give the scribes a new story line: Kerry is tough; he does what he needs to do to win.