Journalists know they work for hungry beasts. The need to fill air time or empty column inches is unrelenting, and on days when inspiration fails, a nice tap-dance has to suffice.

It must have been one of those days for Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times. The normally sure-footed Brownstein today delivers a lengthy (nearly 1400 words) analysis on where John Kerry fits on the political spectrum.

“Kerry’s agenda, and the way he describes it,” writes Brownstein, “seems shaped by two conflicting forces: the push for new [more centrist] approaches from Democratic reformers during the 1980s and ’90s and the hunger for ideological combat with President Bush and the GOP among Democrats today.”

Brownstein dissects Kerry’s various positions in the best on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand style. (He neglects to mention, however, that this is the primary season, when Kerry, or any candidate, understandably is trying to bring as many voters into the tent as he can.)

Just as readers begin subconsciously humming a few bars of “Singing in the Rain.” Brownstein dances his way down the page to his not-so-big finale: “Probably,” writes Brownstein, “the most likely outcome is that Kerry will present an amalgam. He’s offering neither a rejection nor a revival of Clinton’s policies, but a more combative synthesis that reflects the country’s new challenges and the demands of a party virtually unified in hostility to the Bush agenda.”

Very nice, Ron. But we remember Gene Kelly … and you’re no Gene Kelly.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.