Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi describes John Kerry as a taller, thinner version of Ted Kennedy. Precisely.
In fact, Kennedy is a driving force in the Kerry presidential campaign. During the recent Democratic primaries, Kennedy was the emcee at numerous rallies and fund-raisers for Kerry. Kennedy and his operatives are heavily invested in the Kerry campaign.
Kerry has hired former Chief of Staff Mary Beth Cahill as campaign manager and Kennedy’s former press secretary.
The chief political strategist in charge of developing “the message” is Bob Shrum, who has worked with Kennedy for decades.
Shrum and Kennedy have been testing two main themes for the general election. One is that Iraq is “George Bush’s Vietnam.” The second theme they are resurrecting is that old-time Democratic religion of class warfare.
The class-warfare theme is designed to appeal to the battleground states, particularly in the Midwest, where job loss has been significant.
Shrum will try to position Kerry as “standing up for Main Street not Wall Street.”
Make no mistake about it, during this presidential campaign, Kerry will do all he can to position himself as a populist and not a liberal.
Which brings up Teddy again. Not all Democratic activists and operatives believe that Kennedy is an asset to their nominee or their party.
Some Democratic activists and operatives think that Kerry can be “painted” as a Massachusetts liberal and that having Kennedy so closely associated with the Kerry campaign only highlights that image.
To make matters worse for Kerry, the Democratic convention will be conducted in Kennedy’s power base of Boston. Culturally, by almost any standard, “Boston values” on such issues as “gay marriage” are closer to Hollywood than they are to middle America.
In regard to the war in Iraq, Kennedy has been on the offensive, calling the war “a fraud” that was made up in Texas. Kennedy has said that Bush has “created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon.”
The Bush administration’s reaction to Kennedy has been weak, at best. Secretary of State Colin Powell confronted the “liberal lion” of the Senate remarks by saying he hopes Kennedy would be “a little more restrained and careful in his comments because we are at war.”
Kennedy hopes his left-wing rhetoric will become the topic of conversation in mainstream America. The horrific pictures that America sees on the nightly news from Iraq support Kennedy’s premise that the president has a bankrupt foreign policy.
Kennedy has had a free reign with the Bush administration. He was overwhelmingly the dominant force on the big-government Education Bill and the recent prescription drug benefit legislation that many conservatives consider the largest expansion of government since the Great Society.
If the 2004 presidential race ends with Kerry as the victor, he will owe a large part of his electoral success to Kennedy. Only in America and with the help of the liberal media could Kennedy rebound after the scandal of Chappaquiddick.
Many in the press have conveniently forgotten the 1969 scandal in which then two-term Sen. Kennedy left the scene of an accident, resulting in the fatal drowning of Mary Jo Kopeckne. Kennedy, thinking only of himself and his career, failed to report the accident for at least eight hours.
Kennedy proved himself a coward that day. He covered up and left a young woman for dead. His sentencing hearing was closed to the public, and the autopsy was sealed.
Kennedy has no business lecturing President Bush, or for that matter anyone else, on topics such as morality, honesty, or judgment.
It says a lot about Kerry that he would have an advisor such as Kennedy. At every turn, conservatives need to remind Americans of who is at the wheel in the Kerry campaign.