John Kerry was kicked around by the left far more than he deserved both in 2004 and after his close loss to George Bush. The previous post notes the quiet contributions John Kerry has made to the health care reform legislation. He has also been hard at work in other areas including climate change and on foreign policy. I supported John Kerry in 2004 because of many of the qualities he has shown since losing–not because he was the most flashy or charismatic candidate.
Gail Collins compares Kerry to Joe Lieberman and now regrets much of what she said about Kerry in the past:
I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He’s been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama’s early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.
Lieberman was a terrible vice presidential candidate. (Like John Edwards, he not only lost his vice presidential debate, he managed to make Dick Cheney seem likable.) But instead of going back to something he could actually do well, he ran for president. He failed to gain any traction with the voters whatsoever, and like John McCain, he came out of the process bitterly denying that he was bitter.
Let’s look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).
Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as “character” candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren’t all that popular in prep school, either.
Considering that Kerry came closest of any challenger to a sitting president during time of war I wouldn’t be so hard on him as a failed candidate. I have no idea how popular he was in prep school, and that is hardly meaningful. What counts is the work Kerry has done in the Senate in recent years, following the path of another Senator from Massachusetts who wanted to be president but was unable to–Ted Kennedy.