- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Kerry Democrats

“The Democrats, from day one of Terry McAuliffe’s year-long nomination rondo, wanted a liberal who would be cast in their own likeness,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.

“They never wanted a moderate like Joe Lieberman, a Democrat trying to come to grips with the new political century — its security dangers, efficient global markets and a ragged domestic culture. Mr. Lieberman and those who share his views are secondary Democrats. They don’t count. The Democrats who pick the winners in their party’s primaries also choose its political course. They are the Primary Democrats. To oppose George W. Bush and his politics, the Primary Democrats want a candidate shaped as they were shaped in the late 1960s and the hard political battles they waged in the succeeding 30 years,” Mr. Henninger said.

“The Primary Democrats danced a few rounds with Howard Dean, whose rage-at-the-machine temperament recalled their own best memories way back when. They have since settled on John Kerry, and properly so. John Kerry, in his person and career, exists today as the embodiment of Democratic Party politics from 1968 to this moment. For Primary Democrats, he is their perfect vessel.

“These Democrats opposed the Vietnam War, and like Mr. Kerry, that event serves as sextant in their political journey. Primary Democrats regard their active and successful opposition to Vietnam as moral affirmation of their worldview, which holds, more as a matter of belief than principle, that any American foreign policy not of their making is too aggressive, morally suspect and wholly wrong.”

Season in the sun

“Presidential campaigns unfold in phases, and this is the Kerry phase,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“The storyline for the moment is: Kerry wins. Every week, sometimes twice a week, he beats his Democratic rivals. John Edwards, Wesley Clark and [Howard] Dean serve as the patsy Washington Generals who lose every game to Kerry’s Harlem Globetrotters. This produces a stream of favorable stories about Kerry. Indeed, the Kerry phase may last through Super Tuesday on March 2, and there’s nothing the president or his campaign team can do about it. Their time will come soon enough,” Mr. Barnes said.

“For Bush operatives, the problem with Kerry is where to begin. National security? Gay marriage? Flip-flops? Special interests? Beginning with national security makes the most sense since it’s Kerry’s weakest issue. It’s the one he least wants to discuss. All that bravado about ‘bring it on’ if Bush wants to raise national security actually means ‘don’t bring it on.’ But talking tough, Kerry hopes to scare Bush off.”

Mr. Barnes added: “The primaries will end in a few weeks and the Kerry phase of the campaign will fade. Unless Bush stumbles badly, the next phase will be his.”

The band plays on

Newsweek’s Bret Begun phoned former members of the Electras to find out what they had to say about the guy who used to play bass for the band: Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry.

The band formed at St. Paul’s, an elite New Hampshire prep school, and a copy of their 1961 Ventures-inspired album recently fetched more than $2,500 on EBay.

Jack Radcliffe, who played piano, recalled that at a show, “one of Kerry’s strings broke.”

“He looked down, gave it a glance like you would a gnat and went on playing. John was straight ahead; you didn’t worry.” Will he vote for Kerry? “There would have to be some real bungling on the part of the incumbent.”

Jon Prouty, who played guitar, said: “He was a quick learner. He was a little abrasive sometimes, because he wasn’t primarily out to make friends. He was there, but he was looking to the next horizon.” The record? “It’s dreadful.”

Larry Rand, who played guitar, said Mr. Kerry “was a competent bassist.”

“He was always at practice. I loved playing solos, little riffs, but John pulled it together and kept it very cohesive.”

Peter Lang, the drummer, said: “I wish him luck. We’ll all be better off if he’s elected.”

Andy Gagarin, who played maracas, said: “I’m not going to vote for someone who has diametrically opposite views, even though we played in a band. I’m pretty much a conservative Bush Republican.”

Lee Scarbrough, who played the saxophone, said: “I didn’t know Kerry was even in the Electras.”

Dukakis and Kerry

Bush strategist Matthew Dowd scoffs at the idea that the president will run against John Kerry in the same way that the president’s father ran against his Massachusetts opponent in 1988, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

“This idea that’s developed that we’re going to run against Kerry like he is Mike Dukakis is a bunch of baloney,” Mr. Dowd told the New York Times.

“Mike Dukakis was an outsider, and compared to John Kerry, Mike Dukakis is mainstream. Michael Dukakis was a governor who balanced a budget. I don’t remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating defense cuts, and I don’t remember Michael Dukakis ever advocating against cuts in taxes.”

Beckel’s return

“Democratic big shot Bob Beckel is not your usual faceless born-again,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“A lovable tough guy who racked up wins until his campaign to put Walter Mondale in the White House with the famous ‘Where’s the beef?’ quip failed. Beckel had convinced everyone he was the best in the biz. He turned that into a multimillion-dollar career as a consultant and TV pundit and lived ‘a 25-year-long party.’

“Life was good — except in reality he was a drunk who would say anything to duck trouble or have people like him. ‘I wore a mask,’ he says, conceding that luck was his partner. ‘I lived a lie.’ You can figure out the rest: His life tanked and eventually he was plowing cornfields to make ends meet. That’s when Fox News Channel called to ask that he debate conservative pundit Cal Thomas on air in early 2002,” Mr. Bedard said.

“After a year of shying away from TV, he said yes, for some reason. Afterward, Thomas ever so slightly counseled God. The chance meeting, Beckel says, ‘was the greatest gift I ever had.’ Now he’s back on TV and penning a political column. ‘I don’t even know where those old masks are.’”

San Fran scofflaw

“Gavin Newsom, the new mayor of San Francisco, is defying the California Constitution, which voters amended in 2000 to codify the definition of marriage,” James Taranto notes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“At Newsom’s order, the Associated Press reports, ‘city authorities officiated at the marriage of a lesbian couple Thursday and said they will issue more gay marriage licenses.’

“Well, this sort of thing has happened before, most recently when Roy Moore, then chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse grounds despite judicial rulings that the monument’s presence was unconstitutional. Moore was removed from office for defying the law. What will happen to Newsom?” Mr. Taranto asks.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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