Curbing the Kerry Enthusiasm

In what the Note — itself a must-read — calls a must-read, Michael Duffy, Matthew Cooper, and John Dickerson of Time report on the political fallout over Iraq. Here’s the gist: “As casualties in Iraq continue to mount … and the twisted images from Abu Ghraib are posted and re-posted on websites by the US’s critics around the globe, a growing number of voters are having second thoughts about Bush’s instinctive brand of leadership.” But the authors also warn, “Kerry, meanwhile, is far from completing the sale with voters.”

Maybe we’ve been reading too much campaign coverage, but none of this seems like earth-shattering news. We’d love to see what the Note calls a must-not read.

Ryan Lizza of The New Republic has a different take on the political implication of Iraq. Lizza argues that just as Kerry has been moving to the center on Iraq — ruling out a quick withdrawal, and voicing support for more manpower, if needed, and more dollars — the public is moving left, with 47 percent saying some or all troops should be withdrawn. That could be one reason why Kerry has so far been unable to capitalize on Bush’s political troubles. And, as Lizza points out, Kerry’s stance threatens to lose him votes to the antiwar candidacy of Ralph Nader.

On the other side of the aisle, Jay Nordlinger of National Review digs up (subscription required) a 1985 trip taken by Kerry, then a freshman senator, to Nicaragua to meet Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega (the NR includes the obligatory “shocking” picture of Kerry and Ortega shaking hands). Kerry returned to Washington advocating negotiation with Ortega, rather than continuing to fund the right-wing guerilla Contras, which Nordlinger sees as damning. After detailing a few more instances of Kerry’s “leftism” on Latin America during the ’80s, which contrast with his more recent foreign policy centrism, Nordlinger concludes, “If Kerry has ‘evolved,’ as we say, more power to him … But Kerry has given no trustworthy indication of such growth. He seems merely to be engaged in some rhetorical adjustments, necessary to an American general election.” In other words, he’s a flip-flopper.

And finally, “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fans will be relieved to know that Larry David, writing in Vanity Fair, has weighed in on the veepstakes issue. Who does the unbelievably (but ironically!) narcissistic Lakers fan think would make the best running-mate for Kerry? Larry David, of course. “Whatever qualities Bush has that people find appealing … I have those same qualities in spades,” David argues. “I’m a nincompoop, a chicken, and a liar,” he says, sounding like Radiohead. No word yet on how David plays in Ohio.

Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.