Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sen. John Kerry isn’t running for president, but he’s assumed the vocal and visible roles of campaign fundraiser, Iraq critic, political author and, now, global warming expert.

The Massachusetts Democrat has inserted himself into every issue on Capitol Hill — from conditions at veterans’ hospitals to Major League Baseball — keeping his public profile as prominent as it was during his failed 2004 White House bid.

“Hopefully, now I have a chance to talk about these things and people know it’s coming from my heart and my gut, not from a political strategy,” Mr. Kerry said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The senator appeared with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as the two touted their new book, “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future.”

He assessed the 2008 field and said no candidate so far is doing a great job staking out progressive environmental policy.

“I’m going to watch carefully and see who does articulate it,” he said. “Because to me, it’s a critical component of leadership of the future.”

Taking a page from Al Gore’s playbook, Mr. Kerry has jumped on the climate-change issue, frequently praising the former vice president in campaign e-mails and preparing to debate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on the topic this morning.

When Mr. Kerry gave a choked speech in January announcing he would not try to seek the presidency in 2008, he promised he wouldn’t go away.

“I intend to devote all my efforts and energies over the coming two years not to another race for the presidency for myself, but to doing whatever I can to ensure that the next president can take the oath with a reasonable prospect of success,” he said.

During the 5,000-word address on Jan. 24, Mr. Kerry talked about how close — “certainly close enough to be tempted to try again” — he came to beating President Bush just over two years ago.

“There are powerful reasons to want to continue that fight now, but I’ve concluded this isn’t the time for me to mount a presidential campaign,” he said. “It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the majority in the Senate, to do all I can to end this war and strengthen our security and our ability to fight the real war on terror.”

That day, he began a new effort, found at SetADeadline. com, to get his e-mail list of millions to push for an end to the Iraq war.

Being in the majority gave Mr. Kerry the chance to question Mr. Bush’s nominee to be ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, who helped to finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that hurt his campaign in 2004. The president gave Mr. Fox a recess appointment, irking Mr. Kerry and others, who called it an abuse of power.

Often he’s the first guy to send a press release reacting to just about anything, from the U.S. attorneys dust-up to responding to Iraq news. Mr. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, made headlines for promising to scrutinize the deal between Major League Baseball and DirecTV.

Mr. Kerry is seeking re-election to his Senate seat but also raises stacks of money for Democratic re-election campaigns.

He said he “probably” will endorse a candidate “at the right point,” but added he is mostly glad to be out of the 2008 “fray.”

“This book, for instance, would be viewed exclusively through the prism of a presidential race. I think people would discount it,” he said on “This Week.”

The book, which has a 206 sales rank on Amazon.com, is about trying to prove that ordinary Americans are affected by the environmental movement, Mr. Kerry said on the show.

“This is about moms and pops in North Carolina and Mississippi and places where people may be breathing bad air or getting sick from wells that are polluted or losing their fish in their lakes in their backyard playground because of what’s happening,” he said.

Mr. Gore, who has made global warming his signature issue, praised “This Moment on Earth,” saying it “is a profound challenge to all of us” but also shows Americans have “resourcefulness, determination and essential patriotism” to prevail.

Mr. Kerry will debate Mr. Gingrich this morning for two hours in the Russell Senate Office Building. The event is part of a series called “Legislating for the Future,” co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and Rand Corp.

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