Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sometimes little things can tell you about big things. While Sen. John Kerry and his running-mate Sen. John Edwards were recently photographed at lunchtime at Wendy’s, to show what regular guys they are, their real lunch was from a local yacht club, which is more their speed in real life.

There is nothing wrong with eating lunch from or at a yacht club. What is wrong is being phony — and thinking the American people need to be conned.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president four times while never pretending to be anything other than what he was, a born member of the elite class. Neither he nor the voters required a charade such as that of Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards.

A certain amount of fraud creeps into many political campaigns but fraud is absolutely central to the Kerry campaign. Above all, his campaign must camouflage or deny the central fact of Mr. Kerry’s political career — that he has been the most liberal member of the United States Senate.

Says who? Says Americans for Democratic Action, a leading liberal organization for more than half a century. The ADA keeps tabs on congressional voting and ranks senators on their votes for liberal causes, so as to inform ADA’s members as to who are their strongest supporters.

Mr. Kerry came in No. 1 on liberal voting in the Senate, ranking above Ted Kennedy. Sen. John Edwards also had a more liberal voting record than Mr. Kennedy. These guys are on the far left of a liberal party. What does that mean in concrete terms?

Among other things, it means racial quotas, higher taxes, weakening the military, and — perhaps most significant of all — appointing liberal judges who will spend decades finding reasons to turn criminals loose and allowing frivolous lawsuits that drive up prices to consumers and destroy businesses and jobs. You can’t run on that platform and win a national election.

Moreover, you cannot frankly state the underlying assumptions of the liberal vision of the world, such as the notion the liberal anointed need to impose their superior vision on the masses.

Politically, you have to pretend to be one of the people, even though the whole basis of your vision is that you are vastly superior to them. Even when you are a pompous elitist who looks down on the average American, you have to project a political image as a regular guy by being photographed with a baseball bat or a hunting rifle — or eating at Wendy’s.

Disinformation is where it’s at, if you are a liberal. Weakness on military defense, for example, has to be camouflaged by constantly using words like “strong,” “strength,” ” tough” and the like, while clenching your fist and using a bombastic tone.

In a memorable scene near the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” the wizard — exposed as a fraud — admits he cannot give Dorothy’s friends what they want, namely courage, a brain, and a heart. But he presents them all with substitutes.

That is what Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards must do to have a chance at winning this year’s election. They must come up with substitutes for reality.

In a sense, it is unfair to expect liberals to talk straight to the public because politically it is not a level playing field.

Conservatives can get elected to all sorts of offices, including president of the United States, while saying they are conservative. But there are far fewer places where a liberal can get elected saying he or she is a liberal — and certainly not elected president of the United States with that label.

Voters have seen the results of liberalism over the years and don’t like what they have seen. The last openly liberal candidate elected president was Lyndon Johnson, 40 years ago. The last Democratic candidate who even admitted to being a liberal was Walter Mondale, 16 years ago — and he was buried in a landslide.

So don’t look for liberal candidates to admit being liberals, when the presidency is on the line. They are not about to commit political suicide. Media people consider it an “attack” to call candidates liberals — or to call the media liberal.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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