A year ago, Sen. John Kerry stated, “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.” This kind of cheap rhetoric, which compares the legitimacy of the Bush administration to that of the Butcher of Baghdad, is the typical Kerry tone. In place after place, he typically lets loose with attacks that are below the belt. His sneering contemptuousness is both bad manners and bad politics.
Mr. Kerry is running on the hope that voters see him as presidential, but he is nasty on the campaign trail. The senator consistently chooses ad hominem adjectives and phrases to describe the president. Three weeks ago, he said of Mr. Bush’s leadership: “The arrogance, and the sheer sort of, almost stupidity of it, is stunning.” Over the weekend, Mr. Kerry hinted that Mr. Bush should go back to college so “he could straighten out his fuzzy math.” Last year, he joked, “General Boykin has confused the heck out of the White House on all this talk about the Almighty, when he talks about the Almighty, the president thinks he’s talking about Cheney.”
To Vogue magazine, Mr. Kerry suggested that Mr. Bush was and is a fun-loving guy who doesn’t know much. “He was two years behind me at Yale, and I knew him, and he’s still the same guy,” he said — though it has been subsequently revealed since that the two actually did not know one another at the time. On a campaign stop, the senator got very personal, asking, “My God, what’s the matter with the values of these people? This is the most screwed-up, misplaced values.” Mr. Kerry also has called Mr. Bush’s agenda “craven” and “selfish.” At Stanford University in December, he referred to the Bush administration as “arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological.”
Mr. Kerry has cracked numerous times, “We all saw George Bush play dress-up on an aircraft carrier.” Campaigning in New Hampshire, he added, “I left some blood on a battlefield that President Bush never left anywhere.” Two weeks ago, in a shot at “the president and his henchmen,” Mr. Kerry denigrated Mr. Bush’s service in the National Guard when he said, “I don’t know what it is that all of these Republicans who didn’t serve in Vietnam are fighting a war against those of us who did.”
Certainly Mr. Kerry set a new low for American presidential contests when he used the F-word in regards to Mr. Bush in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. These low-level attacks could backfire. Americans hold the office of the presidency in high esteem. While voters appreciate a good debate on policies, they are offended by relentless expressions of contempt for the man who sits in the Oval Office. Even though a majority of Americans thought Bill Clinton’s adulterous affairs were wrong, they were nonetheless repelled by the unbridled personal vendetta Republicans orchestrated against him. Mr. Kerry seems to be making the same mistake.