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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Opinion Columns

Kerry’s biggest foe
is his mouth

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Perhaps dazzled into complacency by his smooth glide to the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. John Kerry is getting reckless on the campaign trail.

Kerry forgets the failings of Al Gore, Howard Dean and George W. Bush—their mouths.

Twice in one week he’s made verbal gaffes that put him on the defensive while handing President Bush’s strategists a tidy set of campaign zingers to use over and over and for political reporters to repeat time and again.

First, an open microphone caught him telling supporters he faces "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."

Kerry dodged, denying he was talking about President Bush, his putative November opponent. Instead he claimed he meant Bush campaign workers. However, he failed to cite what lies and crookedness he had in mind.

Then, a few days later in speaking to Florida supporters, Kerry boasted:

"I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say it publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ‘You gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy,’ things like that."

Again, dodging and weaving when asked for names of "foreign leaders" he’d met, Kerry claimed a different quote, saying he had "heard" from foreign leaders rather than having "met" them.

Still, he wouldn’t or couldn’t name anyone, and faced an embarrassing moment when challenged at a Pennsylvania town hall meeting to name the foreign leaders, finally blurting to questioner Cedric Brown:

"That’s none of your business."

Oh? None of a voter’s business about a presidential candidate’s public boasts of support from foreign leaders?

If Sen. Kerry isn’t prepared to back up high-handed claims, then he shouldn’t recklessly make them.

This sort of loose-lip blundering is what turned Vice President Al Gore into a late night comic caricature with claims of having invented the Internet.

Mouthiness—his now legendary scream—led to Howard Dean’s downfall.

And Kerry surely needs no reminding that President Bush’s support is tenuous because of deceitful claims—the "imminent threat" of Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, empty promises of millions of new jobs, hollow pledges of fiscal prudence, understating the new Medicare plan by $200 billion.

Kerry doesn’t have spare political capital to waste so carelessly and casually. Voters are nearly equally divided on their choices.

Standing in the wings to rob either candidate of a percentage or two of support is the egomaniacal political Luddite, Ralph Nader.

If more GIs die in Iraq, if jobs at home don't materialize by hundreds of thousands, if even Republican congressmen run from Bush’s plunder-the-Treasury budgets, Kerry need not resort to marginally believable rhetoric.

But if exuberant braggadocio intoxicates Kerry, and he pops off with hyperbole that raises eyebrows about his veracity, he might as well reserve a plot in the political graveyard of also-rans who forgot that voters sometimes are smarter than candidates and can spot shiftiness in an instant.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.