When we sent John Kerry up against George Bush in 2004 we thought we picked the right guy. Thoughtful, experienced and self-possessed, the “other” Senator from Massachusetts seemed more serious than Howard Dean, more authentic than John Edwards and certainly more presidential than the incumbent.
But when the Republicans do what they do best - disparage, distort and degrade - Kerry wobbled. The candidate - and the campaign - lacked that sharp edge that we need against conservative tactics.
What was missing in the Kerry candidacy became quite apparent four years later when we saw Obama - and his organization - in action.
Despite his mediocre performance, Kerry was spared the distain many Democrats felt toward our 1988 nominee, Michael Dukakis who squandered a large lead in the polls to George Bush Sr. and was clueless when Republicans began to create their usual brand of mischief, picking Dukakis apart on crime, “un-Americanism” and looking silly riding atop an army tank.
After finishing his term as Massachusetts Governor in 1991, Dukakis went into a sort of academic exile at Northeastern and UCLA. Kerry, on the other hand, has stayed right in the thick of it. It was interesting to see him this week alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, having helped broker the deal to rerun that nation’s election.
Although Kerry didn’t quite deliver for us five years ago, he certainly didn’t disgrace himself and retains quite a bit of respect among mainstream and progressive Democrats.
The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now positioned, I think, to be a big voice on the war issue and could give cover and credibility - on the left - to a possible call for an Afghanistan “surge” by President Obama.