Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Un-Gore, Un-Hillary

With all the talk about Gore and Hillary, Susan Estrich mentions another strong 2008 contender. While we might disagree with a couple points, for the most part she sure makes sense:

Opinion : The Un-Gore, Un-Hillary…

by Susan Estrich

While Al Gore is commanding all the attention of those searching for the un-Hillary, there’s another candidate who is quietly doing the work it actually takes to run for president. While Al Gore continues to protest that he isn’t running, there’s another candidate who is privately making no bones about his future prospects. While Al Gore has yet to acknowledge that he lost, there’s another candidate who is belatedly addressing the mistakes that caused his defeat.

The un-Gore, un-Hillary is John Kerry.

He is doing everything Gore isn’t doing to prepare for a presidential run in 2008.

He is running hard and running smart.

Watch him, and you know Gore has a lot of catching up to do — that it isn’t just a matter of making a movie and then standing back and waiting for the votes to come in. Running for president is a lot of work, and John Kerry is working hard.

He is finally addressing the Swift Boat lies that, more than anything else, undermined his campaign. He is working his lists, traveling the country and re-recruiting his old backers, one-by-one.

Don’t count him out for a minute.

How does he get past the electability argument? I asked one of his supporters. After all, electability was his claim last time, and it isn’t an argument you can easily make twice. He’s a different man, this friend and supporter told me.

That is certainly evident in his approach to his military record.

Last time, with his record under attack, he basically did nothing. He let them attack his heroism, his integrity and his manhood, and he simply didn’t answer. It was positively Dukakis-like, and it killed him. Since February of last year, he and his team have been fighting back, lie by lie. Maybe it’s all for the next run, but his friends tell me they would be doing it anyway, because he cannot bear leaving the record where it was. In the immediate aftermath of the campaign, he was ready to blame this one or that one — those days are past. It’s not about blame any more, it’s about getting it right.

What Dick Nixon did between 1960 and 1968 is what John Kerry has been doing and will do in these four years. Unlike Gore, it isn’t a show about him. It’s about each congressman and woman who calls and asks him to come to their district and do a fund-raiser. He comes. He spreads money around. He contributes to everyone. He has a list of 3 million voter contacts, and they hear from him regularly. He is generous with time. He is easy to get to.

It’s not like getting in an endless line to get into the Hillary campaign, or fighting half of Hollywood to get close to Gore. It’s not like negotiating the intricacies of Clinton Inc., where you are expected to give endlessly and might someday get an invitation to lunch with a hundred others. If you want to have dinner with Kerry, you can have dinner with Kerry. Alone, or with one or two other people. You can spend real time. He’ll listen.

Maybe the arrogance is still there, but he isn’t wearing it on his sleeve. He doesn’t talk about all the votes he got. He knows that the people he had last time have to be re-recruited, one by one, and that’s how he’s doing it.

His vice presidential nominee, John Edwards, may well run — but so what? No love lost between those two. What one does won’t matter to the other, one way or the other. My guess is that he wishes he’d picked Dick Gephardt. Whether it would have mattered or not, who knows? Would Gephardt have been a better debater? Fought harder? That’s the past. It won’t stop Kerry from running against Edwards. Or Gore. Or Hillary.


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