John Kerry, International Man of Nuance

Jonah Goldberg captures the essence of the Kerry campaign quite nicely:

In the 1980s, when it seemed like the “squishes” in the Reagan White House were getting the upper hand over the Reaganites – or, if you prefer, the hardliners – in the battle for Reagan’s ear, the call went forth, “Let Reagan be Reagan.” The argument was that Reagan’s instincts and principles were better than those of his New York Times-pleasing handlers, and they shouldn’t try to make the Gipper be somebody he wasn’t.

Today we’re witnessing the same thing in reverse. A host of Democratic operatives, elder statesmen, consultants and pundits have launched a campaign that says in effect, “Don’t let Kerry be Kerry.” Here’s the problem. Kerry is, as he’s been known to brag, a “man of nuance” or of “complexity.” What he means by these terms, of course, is that he should be permitted to say whatever he wants – or whatever the audience at a particular moment wants to hear – without feeling like he’s contradicting, or making an ass of, himself.

The little examples are legion. “Who among us doesn’t like NASCAR?” Kerry asked not too long ago, about as convincingly as a French chef lauding Spam. More recently, he tried to convince a crowd of farmers that even though he grew up the son of a diplomat, spending most of his time in Europe or boarding school, he was actually a farmer at heart because as a kid he got to ride a tractor a few times at a relative’s house. By this standard, I joined the circus as a kid because I once got to ride an elephant when Barnum and Bailey came to New York.


Although it would have been funnier had Kerry said, “Whom among us doesn’t like NASCAR?”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. pennywit says:

    “Whom” would have been even funnier because it is incorrect grammar.