Monday, July 18, 2005

Kerry Continues Fight For Change in America

Raasch: Kerry taking path unbeaten by other losers

When Republicans circled the wagons around embattled White House guru Karl Rove last week, it was no coincidence their counterattack centered on three Democrats.

The first was New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential presidential nominee in 2008. The second was Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And the third, somewhat surprisingly, was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, whom the Republicans not long ago battered into defeat in the 2004 presidential campaign.

In a rough week for the White House, President Bush and White House advisers tried to remain mum on the allegation that Rove had confirmed the identify of a CIA agent to Time reporter Matt Cooper two years ago. There is a raging public relations battle over whether Rove's actions violated federal law, and a federal grand jury is investigating.

In a classic diversion, Republican political operatives tried to paint the three Democrats as leaders of the "angry left" out to smear Rove, regardless of the truth. For their part, Democrats portrayed Rovegate as part of a broader White House campaign to manipulate intelligence to justify the Iraqi invasion.

Clinton is an obvious Republican target. Like it or not, the 2008 campaign is under way, and no one will pass up a chance to nick the hide of the foe's presumptive front-runner.

Dean will always be an obvious target because of his cannonades against Republicans in general. He is to Republicans what Newt Gingrich was to Democrats in the early 1990s.

Kerry's inclusion in the gang of three is the most interesting. He remains a target because he's acted so unlike most vanquished presidential candidates. Not since George McGovern in 1973 has a defeated presidential candidate of a major party returned to public office. The losers - from Gerald Ford to Al Gore - took more obscure paths into history. Now it looks like 2004 was the midpoint of an eight-year Kerry campaign.

He's made no declarations of whether he will run again. Yet since the election, he's given or helped raise about $5 million for Democrats, including $2.5 million transferred from his presidential campaign to the national party, struggling to keep up.

Kerry has called for Rove to resign and urged his e-mail network of 3 million supporters from 2004 to write Bush to ask the president to fire Rove.

Kerry has held fund-raisers for Clinton and other Democratic candidates. He's contributed to 10 state parties around the country, and he's traveled to about as many on behalf of candidates.

Some cynics might call that the most obvious sign that he's running again - a political design to rebuild bridges with military veterans after the battering that Kerry took from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in '04. Others might point out that Kerry is the most vivid example that modern campaigns never end - even for the losers.

But Kerry aides spin his postelection vigor as a cause, not a campaign. "It is a continuation of the fight for change in America," said John Giesser, director of Keeping America's Promise, a political action committee that Kerry began in March.

Too early for '08 speculation? Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack are testing the waters. Kerry is only staying in the game that never ends.

Contact Chuck Raasch, political editor for Gannett News Service at



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