WHY JOHN KERRY WILL WIN
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 11, 2004 -- Sen. John Kerry has a steep uphill grade ahead of him on the trail to the White House.
His front-running campaign has been pushed into third or fourth place by the insurgent campaigns of Gov. Howard Dean and Gen. Wesley Clark, and Rep. Richard Gephardt's network of unions and party leaders is propelling him towards what looks to be a second-place finish behind Dean.
But whatever the choice in Iowa, for America John Kerry remains the man most capable of leading this nation towards a stronger economy at home and a more successful America abroad. He is simply the most tested, the most experienced, the most honest and the most intelligent of all the Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency.
What no presidential campaign - not even one as thoroughly tuned to the nation's pulse as the 2000 Bush campaign - can anticipate is the immense drawing power of the insurgent who stokes a fire in the nation's heart for systemic changes that have been a half-century overdue.
That excitement stirred the Clean for Gene movement of 1968, when a little-known Sen. Eugene McCarthy threatened an incumbent President of the United States in the New Hampshire primary as leader of broad opposition to the War in Vietnam. The same role was played by a Republican in 2000, when Sen. John McCain, of Arizona almost single-handedly derailed the presidential juggernaut of Gov. George W. Bush, actually defeating Bush in New Hampshire and only fading as McCain's visceral appeal to the American character gave way to the President's powerful organization and vast campaign treasury.
Howard Dean's rise has been equally meteoric, and in the course of meeting him twice I found a lot to admire in the little guy from Vermont. He is a firebrand whose views are not radical but whose style is; not since Harry S Truman, as one backer pointed out, has the kind of straight-talking, forceful and progressive leadership Dean offers had so much impact on American politics, and so much promise for the presidency.
But impact and promise are qualities that really have to be distinguished from experience, knowledge and commitment, and that is where John Kerry is so much stronger than Howard Dean.
I was standing just a few feet away from Kerry when he and other Vietnam veterans who opposed the war stood at the chain link fence surrounding the Capitol in the Spring of 1971 and spoke of their nation's betrayal of its fundamental values during that war.
After the some of the veterans tossed the medals they had won over the fence, John went with a small group of us over to the State Dept., where he had gotten permission to speak to the lunch crowd in a Foggy Bottom auditorium. He spoke with such eloquence and feeling that I think all of us had a very powerful sense that he would one day be president.
I still believe that he will be, yet I and many others who have supported him since have all seen our hopes dashed by the rise of Dean and Clark and the surprising strength of Gephardt's campaign this time around. John has had to mortgage his home, borrow money and spend much more than he'd hoped just to get as far as he has come. As the polls now stand, he will lose in both Iowa and New Hampshire, fall further behind in South Carolina, and linger as an afterthought through Super Tuesday. That is hardly a path to the White House.
But all of this is to underestimate the determination and grit of John Kerry. His tall, bony frame and crag-shadowed face, not unlike a chunk of New England granite, doesn't reveal much about the man whose convictions were so strongly felt that he once refused a direct order from a far-away commander to open fire on a group of Vietnamese civilians standing alongside a riverbank on the Mekong. When he got back to base, facing the threat of a court martial, he defended himself with a tattered copy of the Rules of Engagement he kept handy in his hip pocket. He knew the rules, and he won the day.
John Kerry knows the rules and the ways of war and peace, and he has a strong understanding of the fundamentals of our economy. He is now the bearer of 20 years of experience on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, and he has been at the forefront of causes that have defined a progressive America for three decades. Howard Dean, by contrast, while he balanced the budget of a small state, got health care coverage for its children and helped gay people have civil unions - all worthy but relatively small achievements - has never been to war, and is without any experience in national economic policy. And like McCarthy and McCain, he has not yet shown that he can last the unforgiving miles ahead.
John Kerry will be there when Democrats at their national convention endorse a candidate for president. I believe he will be that candidate. What it will take to achieve that is a political miracle; but it cannot be a miracle that so many good Americans have followed John Kerry's career with such high expectations for so long. It is a democratic process that is the miracle, one that lets us all vote in the secrecy of a polling place as our hearts and minds will dictate. That is where John Kerry's fate rests, and where our faith in him is placed. This article and the accompanying photo may be freely republished.