Thursday, March 24, 2005

TIME MAGAZINE: Kerry On Values, the Media, his Future


Last week John Kerry took a trip to Florida and Georgia as part of "thank you" tours he is taking around the country to visit past supporters and also attend fundraisers to help out Democrat candidates for 2006, such as Bill Nelson of Florida, who is running to keep his Senate seat. Riding through Atlanta in a nondescript blue van accompanied by a handful of aides and two writers, Kerry sounded at times like he was thrilled to be done campaigning ("this is the first time in Georgia in four years I'm not asking anybody for money" he joked at one stop) but at others like he was still trying to make his case to be President. He returned to President Bush's dismissal of his plan to cover the 11 million children as a government boondoggle, insisting repeatedly "it's not a government plan."

Kerry's strategy for his post-campaign career, in which he is looking to rally his base of supporters outside Washington to give him influence inside the Capitol, is reminiscent of two other ex-candidates: Howard Dean and John McCain. McCain leveraged his support from his 2000 race into a movement behind campaign finance reform, eventually forcing President Bush to sign a bill he didn't like. After his disastrous showing in the primaries, Dean campaigned for candidates all around the country and raised money from his supporters, efforts that earned praise from fellow Democrats that helped him win the chairmanship of the party this year. It's difficult to predict how successful Kerry will be: on one hand, in winning 59 million votes, the Massachusetts Senator has a much greater potential base than the other two ex-candidates, on the other hand, it's not clear he has the intensity of backing of Dean or the breadth of support of McCain, who is admired by Democrats, Republicans and the press.

Here is Kerry in his own words on some of the key subjects of the day:

On the role of faith in politics: "The values reflected in a broad array of religious faiths are being hijacked and it's important for us to take it head on. It's a very difficult thing to do in two or three months of the campaign, the atmospheres are not right for it, but now is the time for that. . . . I know that I was never taught that faith was a one-issue event. I've spent a lot of time rereading things to make sure I'm clear on it all. While we all have powerful beliefs about life and when it begins, the fact that one supports Roe v. Wade doesn't mean you're pro-abortion by any sense of the imagination. If you go back and read the New Testament and the Teaching of the Lord, nowhere in those teaching do I find Jesus talking about abortion or gays or intolerance. I find forgiveness and embracement."

On the changing America media: "A whole bunch of folks don't get news from anybody. 80% of Americans get 100% of their news from television, some of them get their news literally from Jon Stewart or from Jay Leno, David Letterman, Bill Maher, Saturday Night live or they get it from Fox. News has become entertainment and not necessarily an arbiter for what's true and I learned this first hand in the campaign. 77% of people who voted for George Bush believe that weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. So that's the challenge."

On what Democrats must do to win: ''This is the real challenge. I became the nominee of our party in March and had 5 months to put together a national structure. Karl Rove and the Republicans had 6 years before that, two years running against Al Gore and 4 years (in the White House). And they spent 150 million dollars a year doing major analyses. They had time to analyze how people live and how their lives affect the choices people make. We haven't and we have to get our party on the same page. I'm convinced we can turn around [the party] and reclaim our leadership."

On the problem with politics today: " The real issues of concern to people have been shunted aside and a bunch of phony choices have been put in front of people. I love the fact that we're exporting democracy, it's a great hallmark of America, but we've got to practice democracy better right here at home."


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