Friday, October 22, 2004

In Ohio this week, John Kerry tried to stage something for the press to show that he’s not an anti-gun elitist who looks down his nose at the voting public. But the dog-and-pony show he put on in order to hunt geese in Ohio the other day largely served as another political opportunity for the Bush campaign and the National Rifle Association to remind gun owners that few senators have been as hostile to them as Mr. Kerry.

Mr. Kerry’s Ohio hunting adventure started last Saturday, when the senator, campaign entourage in tow, went into a grocery store and asked the owner: “Can I get me a hunting license here?” Even the phraseology sounded staged. Mr. Kerry ordinarily doesn’t talk this way, and his language sounded fake and patronizing — as if he was pretending to talk like someone from rural Ohio.

When Mr. Kerry went hunting on Thursday in Boardman, Ohio, the event was tightly choreographed. Even as Mr. Kerry allowed himself to be photographed wearing a camouflage jacket, he was “also careful not to scare off supporters who might be a little squeamish about seeing their candidate smeared with the fresh blood of a fowl whose only crime was to try landing in the wrong cornfield,” Charles Hurt of The Washington Times reported.

Mr. Kerry and his handlers wanted to come away with sanitized pictures they think will play well with focus groups. After two hours of hunting, photographers with long photo lenses noticed that Mr. Kerry’s hand was bloodied. By the time he reached the reporters, he had tucked that hand into his sleeve. Unlike the other hunters, all of them carrying their geese, Mr. Kerry was careful not to be photographed holding the bird he shot. He’s triangulating — trying to do whatever he can to to persuade hunters he’s their buddy, without completely alienating animal-rights backers on the political left who might be inclined to support him.

Given the likelihood that gun owners’ understandable antipathy in states like Ohio probably cost Al Gore the 2000 election, the senator desperately wants to neutralize this politically potent voting bloc. In Mr. Kerry’s view, these staged geese-hunting events (sans blood, of course) will convince those backward bumpkins in Ohio that he’s OK. That’s insulting and patronizing. After Mr. Kerry staged his hunting trip on Thursday, Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, a Democrat who has endorsed President Bush, said that the president “doesn’t have to get dressed up and try and fake a set of values or a connection to Ohio voters.” Hopefully, voters in this critical swing state will see through Mr. Kerry’s propaganda show.

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