- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

The liberal hand being dealt to voters by John F. Kerry is hardly surprising, considering the Democrats’ high level of frustration with the fact that Republicans are comfortably settled in the White House and both houses of Congress. His anointment as the front-runner has turned the formerly red and blue states into a distinct shade of purple that moms and other women won’t find in a box of Crayolas. Yet, how that hand is played will depend on several variables,includingwhere thepresident, Mr. Kerry and all their men stand on social issues, and what voters think of their wives.

Mr.Kerry himself is prochoice, a same-sex-marriage proponent and a “practicing” Catholic. He also is a divorcee who, in 1995, married a wealthy African-American widow named Teresa Heinz. The media tries to cast her as a mother, wife and philanthropist in the likes of Jackie Kennedy or Hillary Clinton. They are wrong. She is a whole lot of woman. But she is nothing like the oxymoronic Jackie Kennedy, who was at once a demure pillbox-hat-wearing Northeasterner and a lioness protective of her cubs. And she certainly is no Hillary Clinton, whose workhorse image re-sculpted the biceps of Rosie the Riveter.

Teresa Heinz is … well … Teresa Heinz.

She is incredibly smart and sexy, made up her own mind long ago who she wanted to be and, still today, stands strong in her belief that individuals shape their future. Her politics — and those of the love of her life, the late Sen. John Heinz — don’t always meet common ground with her current husband, John, who thinks it is Uncle Sam’s job to be nanny, professor and banker. On the contrary, as she told Carnegie-Mellon’s Class of 2003, “America isn’t just a country; it is an ideal … Here, freedom is defined not just by the absence of tyranny, but by our affirmative acts of citizenship.”

Americans aren’t mere subjects, but citizens. But you would never gather that by looking at where John Kerry stands. The likely Democratic nominee is hustling to be all things to all possible constituencies. Mr. Kerry has even hijacked Martin Luther King’s immortal words “I Have a Dream” as the name for his college-access program. He has another deal for you, too: Give your country two years of service, and Uncle Sam will give you a $4,000 tax credit. Now, both of those plans might sound like the American dream come true, but don’t be fooled. The admissions officers at Mr. Kerry’s alma mater, Yale, are not interested in the government mandating that the uneducated and the poor stand among the frosh of their Ivy League school — even if those students would later apply “affirmative acts of citizenship” vis a vis service to their country.

In some circles, such proposals are called compassionate policies. I call it the frothing on the cake.

While Mr. Kerry does not have George W. Bush shaking in his boots, it is clear that the president and all his men have not yet developed their strategy for 2004. They know — or should know by now — the same-sex “marriage” debate can prove to be a costly distraction, that the economic recovery is moving slowly, that people want closed borders, that Medicare has not been “reformed” and that better schools for urban education are a must. They also know that war was the answer but is not the issue.

At this stage in the winner-take-all game, Mr. Bush is engaging his base and raising funds. But which hand will he play? Will he continue to play the hand already dealt by John Kerry — the hand that leaves him on the defensive? Or will he do as Teresa Heinz has done, and is doing, and play the hand that life has dealt him? It’s not a bad hand. And George W. Bush, ordinarily, is not a bad poker player — when he knows who he is playing against.

Teresa Heinz is a Republican no more. That’s too bad. She has a better sense of compassionate conservatism than her hubby probably ever will. Born in Mozambique, she also understands, as the West African proverb says, that “health is wealth” — that is, a relationship with nature, not environmentalism. Mrs. Heinz became a Democrat because you-know-who is running for the White House. Just as it was easy to imagine Laura Bush taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania, so it is with Mrs. Heinz. It will be interesting to see what happens once they take their seats at the table.

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