…if there is any more evidence for the proposition that the press just hates John Kerry, I don’t think it’s necessary any more. I guarantee you that each candidate, every week, has a small screw-up like this on the road. But for this one, the press started to sneer and hiss because it allowed them to write, in a factual way, about why they think Kerry is weird, and to let the rest of us in on the jeering.
Point taken. Those reporters can be such dicks, can’t they?
Still, though, there’s an important message Kerry’s campaign should take from this episode. It’s not just about the nature of the press, but rather, popular perception of their own candidate. Think about it: would partisans, pundits and the press have relayed the details with such glee if, say, Gephardt couldn’t handle the sandwich? Lieberman?
During the 2000 campaign the press, with prodding from the Republicans, jumped on every Gore misstatement and presented it as evidence that Gore had problems telling the truth. Sure, most of those claims have long since been debunked. But the fact that they were allowed to spread during the campaign pointed to serious preexisting concerns with the candidate himself.
Al Gore’s willingness to fudge the facts (such as in his debates with Bill Bradley) gave plausibility to the argument that he was a habitual liar with no real convictions, eager to say anything just to get elected.
Kerry, likewise, is stiff, insecure and seemingly unable to level with voters and speak from his own heart. Furthermore, he is seen as an arrogant Massachusetts aristocrat who wants the presidency not because of some personal calling, but rather, because it’s his turn.
Kerry walks and talks the part, with a persona that lends itself well to Saturday night caricatures. He will increasingly be cast as an imposter in events like these, and ridiculed, as Hillary Clinton was for suddenly donning a Yankees cap.
As a native Philadelphian, I have to admit I laughed pretty damn hard reading the story — louder than I would have if Howard Dean had made the same mistake. Now that I think about it, the equally WASPy Howard Dean would’ve at least given that sandwich a hearty bite before giving up.
You see, it’s not so much about background as it is about personality. And with John Kerry, personality is the heart of the problem.