Kerry’s Greatest Trait?

David Brooks‘s latest column, “Kerry at the Wheel,”[RSS] is a rather amusing series of one-liners about John Kerry’s tediousness, which Brooks thinks may actually be “Kerry’s greatest trait.”

[T]he Democratic Party is just sober enough to realize it needs a designated driver like John Kerry to get it home at night. This is a whacked-out party that has spent the past year throwing back Howard Dean hurricanes, being gripped with Michael Moore fever and indulging in Whoopi-esque animosity binges. And yet there’s that moment when you are drinking, before you get really blotto, when you realize that you have just enough sobriety for one last lifesaving act of responsibility. For the Democrats, nominating Kerry is that act – and now he’s running a professional, disciplined campaign.


This could be the only political environment in recent memory in which it actually helps to have spent 20 years in the U.S. Senate. The Senate is like the “Top Gun” school for bores. It takes people who have certain natural facilities for pomposity and it turns them, by putting them through years of pointless droning, into weapons of mass narcolepsy. Look up Kerry’s radio address from Saturday. No banality is left behind. If a soporific sentiment is hit upon, it must be repeated. Kerry has the virtues of a fine bore. He is steady, persevering, deliberate, unflappable and safe. This could serve him well.

He has unified the party through sheer force of prolixity. Bill Clinton pandered by telling you what you wanted to hear. John Kerry panders by never telling you what you don’t want to hear. This is negative pandering; he talks a lot without really ruling anything out so you can draw your own conclusions.

The latest conventional wisdom seems to be that the voters really want to dump George W. Bush and that all Kerry needs to do is convince them that he’s responsible enough for the job. If so, it would be the first time in my memory when the more likeable, optimistic candidate didn’t win.

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.