- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

TV cameras are brutally unforgiving — especially during high-stakes election debates. They amplified the angst on Richard Nixon’s brow, the inexperience in Dan Quayle’s eyes, and the vulgarity of Al Gore’s visage.

How did Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry hold up under the spotlight? What did the cameras reveal? Beneath the Christophe-coifed hair, unnaturally taut skin and artificially enhanced tan, there are some naked attributes Mr. Kerry cannot conceal: His spite. His haughtiness. His condescending core.

John Kerry detests his opponents. He detests his own staff. He detests anybody and anything that interferes with his political ambitions. Since returning from Vietnam, his main contribution to public discourse has been contempt, not courage. He possesses resentment, not hope. He does not inspire. He sulks.

Much has been said about Mr. Kerry’s superior argumentative skills. He was a champion debater at Yale; his former Republican opponents in Massachusetts have effusively praised his quick recall and rhetorical agility.

This will no doubt impress the like-minded lefties in America’s newsrooms and Hollywood salons. But in America’s living rooms, a man’s unvarnished character — how he carries himself, how he treats others, how he responds to adversity — speaks volumes over the stilted platitudes and smoothly memorized factoids that come out of his mouth. This isn’t a race for prom king or “Jeopardy” champion. It’s a race for leader of the Free World.

Throughout the course of the campaign, Mr. Kerry has demonstrated a holier-than-thou hubris that continues alienating security moms, Reagan Democrats and swing voters of all backgrounds. It’s not just his disingenuous vacillation on foreign policy (he was for the war before he was against it, but he would vote the same way) that bothers folks. It’s not just the Kennedyesque photo-ops of Mr. Kerry in athletic settings that scream vanity instead of vigor. It’s the ugly little things that pile up and create the indelible image of a Royal Jerk:

• Such as publicly calling one of his own Secret Service agents a “son of a [bleep]” for accidentally knocking him down on his snowboard during a press availability in Ketchum, Idaho. “I don’t fall,” Mr. Kerry sniffed to reporters as he cursed the Secret Service agent on the record.

• Such as badmouthing NASA for releasing routine publicity photos of Mr. Kerry, dressed in a goofy-looking “bunny suit,” while on a campaign visit to the shuttle Discovery at the Kennedy Space Center. After the pictures caused unforeseen embarrassment, Kerry sent his spokeswoman onto the cable news to falsely suggest NASA had played a dirty trick.

• Such as burning his campaign staff over his failure to counter the Swift Boat Veterans’ claims. “The candidate is furious,” a longtime senior Kerry adviser told the New York Daily News. “He knows the campaign was wrong. He wanted to go after the Swift boat attacks, but his top aides said no.”

• Such as ridiculing President Bush for remaining with schoolchildren for a few extra minutes after learning of the September 11, 2001, attacks, while neglecting to mention his own emotional paralysis at the Capitol that morning.

• And such as using an Outdoor Life magazine question about his favorite gun to tout his Vietnam War hero status again, then faulting his campaign staff for fabricating the weapon he named. “My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam,” Mr. Kerry is quoted in the October issue: “I don’t own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a communist Chinese assault rifle.”

Monday’s New York Times said: “Sen. John Kerry’s campaign said yesterday Mr. Kerry did not own a Chinese assault rifle, as he was quoted as saying in Outdoor Life magazine, but a single-bolt-action military rifle, blaming aides who filled out the magazine’s questionnaire on his behalf for the error.”

This is the paragon of strong moral leadership who will bring victory in the War on Terrorism and restore America’s values? This Botoxed egomaniac? This serial waffler? This ruthless buck-passer?

Proverbs 18:12 counsels: “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.” It’s a lesson Mr. Perfect will learn too late.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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