Better Angels

"...all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." ---Abraham Lincoln, First Innaugural Address

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Just Who is this John Kerry You Speak Of?

Last night, watching the DNC on C-Span: Mr. B. cuts over to WGBH during a dull moment and I hear the question - Can John Kerry define himself for the American people on Thursday?

This morning, on the Connection: What do we want to know about Kerry and will that help him get elected?

In my mailbox this afternoon: Cover of Newsweek, "In Search of John Kerry."

Ok, ok, I get it. John Kerry is an elusive cipher, a whil-o'the-wisp, Mr. Cellophane himself. I have no idea what to think about him and I don't think I can make up my mind unless he drives to my house, settles in on the couch and personally tells me what it is he's all about.

At least, this is what the media would have us believe.

When did the "cuddliness" of the candidate and the transparency of his personality trump the substance of his intellect in presidential campaigns? Did post-Revolutionary voters lament the lack of intimate details about George Washington?

Dorcas: I know he is a great general, but pray, tell me of his pastimes and predilictions.
Constance: Marry, I know not, but mayhap we could secure an interview with his great friend LaFayette to discern the quality of his nature. I hasten to enquire.
Dorcas: Godspeed!

The fact is, what we do know about Kerry is enough to assure us of his fitness for the office of the President. He decided on public service at an early age, and has never wavered in that committment. He has a mind capable of seeing the nuances in complicated matters. He makes careful decisions and listens to advisors. He is willing to change his mind. He studies history.
Want details about his personal life? He is still close friends with people he met as a young man. His children adore him. His ex-wife speaks of him kindly. His step-sons are happily campaigning for him. He loves his wife.

On the Connection, the point was made that Kerry is more relaxed one on one and that Bush is more "comfortable in his skin" in public. But we all know that the most important moments of the presidency don't happen in public, they happen away from the cameras in tense negotiations and heated debates. They happen when the President presents his case to a foreign leader or brokers the support of the Congress. In the middle of the whirlwind of security and motorcades, of proclamations and gala dinners, surrounded by the Secret Service, his staff and the press, the President is, ultimately, alone. He shoulders the responsibility for protecting us and helping us prosper. He has to live with the results of his choices and decisions, good and bad. He is accountable to us.

We don't need a President who knows how to work a rope line and josh with the press. We don't need a President who needs the constant approval of syncophants to fuel him. We need a President who knows how to be alone with the issues, to grapple with the tough questions and face down the distractions, until the answers come to the fore. John Kerry can do that. What more do we need to know?