- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

When John Kerry put his toe in the presidential waters last weekend, he immediately was hit by riptides. The Washington press corps strongly dislikes him (a point in his favor). After his appearance on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, where he announced his plans to run for president, Washington has been atwitter with criticism.

In keeping with the seriousness of the times, the elite journalists here in the capital of the world went straight to the heart of his shortcomings. The Washington Post complained that "Kerry has a warmth problem. He recites his positions but doesn't tell any folksy stories… . " USA Today's lead critique was that "the Washington press corp doesn't much like John Kerry … that's important." The much-respected journalist Mickey Kaus, in trying to identify why he was a non-admirer of the senator, focused on Mr. Kerry's countenance: "I think it starts with the phony furrowed brow. Perpetually furrowed and perpetually phony. It's been furrowed for so long I doubt he could unfurrow it." (All of these examples were conveniently reported in Howard Kurtz's media review column in The Post.)

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge broke the biggest John Kerry story on his much-maligned but voraciously read Web site: Mr. Kerry pays $150 for a haircut. Now there was a story with legs. As we panting Washington journalists constantly checked back with Mr. Drudge for updates of that developing story, we learned first that Mr. Kerry and Hillary Clinton have the same stylist. Then it was revealed that he only paid $75 for his haircut, while Hillary paid $150. Then it was reported that Mr. Kerry may be having his hair dyed. This allegation was denied by a Kerry spokesman. Next it was suggested that if Hillary is paying more than Mr. Kerry, it may be a violation of D.C.'s sex-discrimination regulations that bar unequal charges for haircuts based on sex. That would be an unfair charge against the stylist, because obviously Hillary would take a lot more labor to whip into presentable shape than would the senator. (Full disclosure: I go to the same stylist. She is a gifted artist, making even the top of my old, fat head shimmer and glisten like a Hollywood starlet's. Both the senators have excellent taste in hair stylists. Moreover, the gossip around the beauty parlor is that for security reasons Miss Hillary never comes into the shop. The stylist is obliged to trudge through downtown traffic to wrestle with Hillary's thatched roof in private. That fact alone justifies a higher charge. So, if there are any snooping D.C. regulators out there: Lay off our Isabelle or else!)

Well, you can see how seriously Washington takes its responsibility to act as a shrewd explainer of national policy to a waiting American citizenry. I confess, as one plows through the "Meet the Press" transcript, it is hard to find solid, specific policy assertions to comment on. My favorite Kerryism is found in the first few paragraphs when he claims: "I think there's a deep anxiety in the American people about security, and they put it all under the word 'security' job security, income security, retirement security, health security, education security, physical, personal security and, of course, national security." That's nine times he squeezed the word security into one sentence. You don't suppose his pollsters have told him to use the word security as often as possible?

Perhaps the most intriguing comment by the senator came right after the security iterations. Tim Russert asked whether there was any turning back on the presidential quest. Mr. Kerry responded: "Well, I mean, I hope not, but on the other hand, if you find that you know, I can remember in times of war when you turn around and the troops aren't there behind you… ." Does he really remember that? He was a combat officer in Vietnam. Did his men fail to follow his lawful order? Did he attempt to rally the deserting troops? Was insubordination involved, or only a failure to keep track of his men's whereabouts during combat? Or, was he just slipping into his comments a sly reference to his military service?

He ended his explanation of whether he might quit the race with the observation: "You see if you can raise the money." Given that he and his wife the Widow Heinz are reported to be worth more than $600 million ketchup dollars, money would not seem to be the problem. As a Washington wag observed recently: Every time John Kerry goes to bed with his wife, it's a fund-raiser.

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