Thursday, July 29, 2004

Changing minds

The Decembrist has some second thoughts about John Kerry:

As a political analyst, Tom Oliphant is the equivalent of a Red Sox broadcaster, always certain that his own homeboys are going all the way this year, not quite finding the distance. It's got its limits as analysis. But on the subject of just those New England politicians who float his bowtie, he is indispensable. I found his argument for the potential that John Kerry could be not just a non-Bush president but in fact a great one, in the current American Prospect, extraordinarily convincing. And this has really troubled me, because I thought I had a grasp of Kerry. I thought that after seven years spent observing a lot of Senators, sometimes in their public roles and sometimes in meetings of 2-3 Senators and some staff, I was correct in dismissing him. He hadn't been much of a presence, didn't seem to have figured out how to make his way in that absurd, entrepreneurial institution, didn't seem even to have a driving passion. I had a sense of him as sort of an incomplete person, unable to find much of a reason to be in public life except for his own sense of himself and a conviction that one can never be too careful. It was a view of him very similar to William Saletan's, expressed often in Slate.

And, I think, wrong. Or maybe right at the time, and for that context, but not right anymore. I still don't quite know how he did it, but this nominee -- despite going into January stuck in a pack of Dean alternatives -- won the nomination more smoothly than any non-incumbent in history, and has raised five times as much money as any Democrat in history: there is some real talent there. I'm certain that his marriage played a role here in centering him around a human purpose. Oliphant says as much.