January 23, 2003

READER ALI KARIM BEY, who has been emailing me for a while with evidence supporting his contention that John Kerry will be our next President, sends this piece from The New Republic. I'm not convinced that this makes the case, as these excerpts indicate:

Just as Dean is inheriting the Bradley machine, John Kerry is inheriting the Al Gore operation. "They have the Gore staff of 2004," says Brazile, who, as Gore's campaign manager, ought to know. . . . Indeed, if there is one candidate who might really benefit from a Sister Souljah moment, it's Kerry. "Kerry's in danger of being the pander-bear of the race," says an adviser to a rival campaign.

I find Kerry deeply unimpressive. I can articulate some of the reasons, but a lot of it is just the gut reaction I have when I see him on TV. That reaction seems like it might be widely shared, and it's a big problem for Kerry if it is.

Of course, all the Democratic candidates look unimpressive at the moment. By the time one of them is the nominee, he will likely seem to have a lot more stature. But, really, if the war goes well, and the economy doesn't tank, Bush should win. And if the war goes badly, and the economy tanks, he probably won't. Which makes handicapping the Democratic field a pretty unrewarding endeavor at the moment.

UPDATE: You know if Democrats keep calling for a return to the draft, it just might have an effect on the election. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Of course, I could be totally wrong about the war and the economy. By that kind of logic, Gore should have trounced Bush easily. I'm not sure which way this cuts.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who is free from the self-doubt I express above emails:

Oh, get real! How can anyone take seriously a candidate whose campaign depends on the sale of Heinz ketchup? Not to mention his appearance: the Knight of the Woeful Countenance look has been out for over a century. You might have to go back even beyond Lincoln to find a face more expressive of depression. If Kerry won as president there would be more suicides in the US than in the Socialist Utopia of Sweden. Imagine having to look at that face day after day on television. And that droning voice...

Well, let's stop right there, buddy. Kerry's one thing, but don't come around here dissing Heinz Ketchup. We're talking America in a bottle. Heinz Ketchup is a quintessentially American food, which I'll put up against any of yer sissified Frenchy sauces. Any candidate should be proud to have his campaign funded by Heinz Ketchup -- it's like having your campaign funded by baseball!

(In a John Barnes alternate-history novel where the Germans won World War Two, American expats huddle in New Zealand, comforting themselves with Heinz Ketchup. Like Proust's madeleines, only with healthy lycopene!)

FINAL KETCHUP-RELATED UPDATE: In the interest of nauseating full disclosure, I once served as an adviser to the Heinz Family Foundation. They didn't give me any money. Or even any free ketchup.