Dear John Kerry [Updated: Now with PS!]

Hi!  Are you super-nervous about your confirmation hearing later today to be Secretary of State?  Now that I think about it, probably not.  You know everybody on that committee pretty well (what with your having chaired it and all) and I’ll bet you’re feeling pretty good about your chances.  Good luck!  I think you’ll do great.

Um… but we need to talk about something else.  Something I heard about on the radio this morning, which literally made me yelp with dismay.  (I can’t find a link on WBUR’s website, so I’m afraid I have to link to the Boston Herald.  I know, I know.  It’s the Herald.  But it will have to do.)

John Kerry will be moving from the U.S. Senate to the State 
Department soon, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up his real 
ambition: a move to the White House.

Kerry, according to several Democratic sources, has not ruled out another presidential bid in 2016, and a successful stint as secretary of state could boost his case.

“He’s talked to people about it,” one Democratic
 operative said.

Kerry also recently made a surprise and lengthy visit to a reunion of his staffers from his Iowa campaign, according to Politico. That’s a clear sign The Massachusetts Democrat still has the presidential bug.

I think I speak for Democrats everywhere when I say “SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP, MAN!  For the LOVE of GOD, PLEASE do not do this.”

Now, I happen to think any attempt on your part to get the Democratic nomination again would crash and burn spectacularly.  Assuming my sentiments are not way out of the mainstream here, I predict enthusiasm for another run on your part would be roughly equivalent to that for a sequel to “Gigli.”

But you never know!  You never know, man.  And in the off chance that you could actually land the nomination again, I’d like to point out why that would be just terrible for everyone.

First of all, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the last few presidential elections, it’s that Americans don’t want to vote for uncharismatic, super-wealthy douchebags from Massachusetts.  Perhaps that’s unfair, and maybe you’re not actually a douchebag in real life.  But I voted for you, and I did so despite thinking you kind of seemed like one.  Uncharismatic, super-wealthy douchebags from Massachusetts have now failed to defeat incredibly vulnerable incumbents twice in a row, and if you couldn’t make it happen against W I don’t like your chances against whomever you’d face next time.  Sorry.

Also, I haven’t really forgiven you for elevating John Edwards.  Yeah, yeah.  Nobody knew back then what an epic waste of skin the man would turn out to be.  But you actually got to spend time with him and (once again) perhaps it’s unfair to think so, but I feel like maybe you should have been a better judge of character.  Picking him wasn’t an absolute failure of statesmanship like McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, but it doesn’t really speak to your ability to make good personnel choices, either.

Finally, however, there’s this — you were a complete failure at countering those Swift Boat attacks.  Just a total failure.  All those people laughing it up at the Republican National Convention wearing Purple Heart band-aids?  I could have crafted an attack ad with that footage in my sleep.  And your refusal to release the military records that might have vindicated you remains one of the most utterly baffling bits of political malpractice I’ve ever seen.

Anyhow, I hope things go well for you at State.  I think you’ll make a fine Secretary.  And then I think you’ll make a fine elder statesman in any of a variety of estimable roles.  But not again as a presidential nominee.  You suck at it.



PS>  All the above said, I have to admit that you’re coming off kind of awesome during your confirmation hearing.

PPS>  Special shout-out to Matt Yglesias!  Matt, isn’t “outperformed the fundamentals” a wonkishly comforting way to say “lost”?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Space Awesome. I never got the feeling of douchebagginess from Kerry. Of course, I also never got it from Romney either. So maybe I’m missing a nuance or something. Or maybe I just like it when politicians sound more patrician.

    • Romney oozed smarmy elitism, giving off the impression that he generally thought he was better than anyone in the room. The 46 percent tape confirmed his utter douchebaggery. Kerry lacks charisma, but has never given off the inauthenticity vibe Romney emits.

      But yeah, the country doesn’t seem to like Massachusetts candidates these days–think not only Kerry and Romney, but also Dukakis (talk about lacking in charisma).

      • But see, I heard him talk and I did not feel that sense of smarminess. I get the feeling that maybe Americans want their candidates to appear a lot more self effacing (even though it takes an out-sized ego to even think that one is the best possible candidate for president)

        • “Where’d you get these cookies, 7-11?”
          Douchebag. Why piss off people and make the news about doing so, when you’re looking for votes?
          Why insult someone’s beloved bakery?

        • Neither Obama or Clinton are particularly self-effacing and yet they are, in different ways, effective politicians. I mostly prefer that candidates not come off as complete pricks which, to me, is how Romney came off.

      • This is what drives me insane about American politics. I never understood the whole pundit claim of “He seems like a guy you want to have a beer with.” That is not a quality I need in my Presidents.

        Keep in mind that Al Gore and John Kerry always seemed like people I’d rather hang out with than Bush II.

        The whole tarring of liberals as elitists is one of the great coups in right-wing politics.

        • Especially since I have some hope that Gore and Kerry drink decent beers. With Bush, it’d be Coors Light. (Or, actually, nothing, given the recovering alcoholic thing.)

          • Bush bought a fake ranch when he ran for President.

            That always struck me as the height of lameness. I was always shocked how many people ate that up, even in Texas where such stupidities are generally highly mocked.

            I liked his dad, mostly because his dad didn’t seem to feel the need to pretend to be a good ole’ boy. They’re a family of Connecticut blue-bloods, educated at the most elite schools and universities in the United States.

            Watching him moronically clear brush on his vacation ranch in August (which is a good way to get heat stroke and die, which is why most people wait until it’s cooler) and have the people fawn over it like he was John Wayne annoyed the snot out me.

            I’ve got nothing against liking to be out in the country, or liking a lot of land. Just expect me to roll my eyes if you wander around in spurs pretending you’re about to go rustle some cattle when i know you wouldn’t ride a horse even if someone else saddled the dang thing for you.

            Perhaps my roots are showing. I am related to a number of people who ride horses, who have done the work for real, and even a few who did rodeo. Including one whose years of such work have introduced him to a cracked hip and a missing finger joint (horses have quite strong bites). I’m still surprised by the one who used to do calf roping in the rodeo. Hard to imagine, even after I saw the video of him doing it in the 80s. Was apparently quite good. He’s just a lot more sedate now. 🙂

          • Bush I did get in similar trouble to Romney during the 1992 election. Not as badly but I remember he got mocked for not knowing the price of a gallon of milk and being amazed at the checkout scanners.

        • I’d much rather hang out with Gore or Kerry, too, but that’s hardly a fair metric. I’d rather slowly feed my fingers to snapping turtles than spend any length of time in W’s presence. He strikes me as exactly the kind of person I find most intensely unpleasant to be around.

  2. I think there’s a strong tendency to overrate the importance of individual candidates. We hear a lot about Obama’s “vulnerability” or whatever, but Romney was a pretty above-average candidate and there was no chance at any point that he was going to win. Listening to pundits instead of the Nate Silvers of the world is not a great choice. I said from the beginning that there was absolutely no way any Republican would beat Obama, and I was right so I get to pay myself on the back. I think the same thing ultimately applies to 2004. Democrats didn’t really lose because of Kerry; they lost because the economy was basically fine and Republicans hadn’t completely decimated their brand yet.

    That said, Marth Coakley is pretty compelling evidence that a terrible candidate from Massachusetts really can swamp the fundamentals.

    • Well, clearly I disagree a bit. I think both Kerry and Romney got nominated because of a notion of “electability.” I think neither of them had particularly attractive qualities, but rather seemed to be the least negative. And, while the economy was still basically (on the surface) OK in 2004, we were mired in an increasingly unpopular war.

      But you may be right. Lord knows, if Romney was the strongest player it speaks to a lack of willingness of others to take on Obama.

      I still think Kerry sucks as a presidential candidate, however.

      • My only rejoinder is that George W. Bush got *elected* president. Twice. In no way was he a better candidate than Mitt Romney, unless you think “inability to speak coherently” lends a folksy charm that fools voters.

        You might be right about that, but if you are, it just means I want to end democracy forever.

        • Bush never came off as if he was looking down his nose at most of the electorate. Despite his wealthy background, he came off as one of us. He seemed real, whereas Romney came off as faking it. Granted, Romney’s probably a whole lot smarter than Bush but Bush was, hands down, a far better politician than Romney.

          • This is what I mean. GWB was a dullard. Just an obviously stupid person who had never achieved anything at all with his own wits, of which he had vanishingly few. He was massively unqualified for every single thing he ever did, whether in business or politics. Because he was *stupid*.

            That he is considered a better politician than Mitt Romney is either wrong or a serious indictment of everything about democracy, America, or both.

          • weepin’ creepin’ jupiter! Santorum is a better politician than Romney. Romney never even tried to be a politician.

          • I’m gonna reiterate here: The man owned a dude ranch. It’s hard to be less “man of the people” than being so rich you can buy a fake ranch to show you’re just a regular working stiff.

            That was the stuff of jokes and cowboy villians not too long ago. (Seriously, wasn’t it almost always some rich northerner who bought up a nearby ranch and tried to drive good, honest working folks from their own land?)

          • Bush Jr wasn’t stupid, he was lazy and incurious, which is a different thing. And he had what they call ’emotional intelligence’. (moreso than either of Gore, Kerry, or Romney). (Clinton had both kinds in spades; Obama too, but less of the emotional intelligence, probably about tied with Bush Jr.)

          • I agree entirely with your assessment of W, Kolohe. I do not think he was a stupid man, but utterly lacking in interest in the world beyond a vary narrow spectrum, and unmotivated to become anything better than what had already been made for him.

          • I’m with Kolohe and the Doc. I have explained this distinction in the past to others. W did, for a time, fly fighter jets; you simply can’t be “stupid”, in the way that word is normally used, and do that. You have to have some processing power and some wits.

            But “incurious” is *exactly* the word I have used in its place.

          • If I recall, Bush’s estimated IQ is 125, lower than almost all recent presidents but as likelyas nnot higher than Kerry’s.

          • I think it’s a little to easy to dismiss GW Bush as “stupid,” when he was just really just incurious and morally retarded. While he was president, Bill Clinton repeatedly admiration for Bush’s political skills, which Clinton regarded as substantial.

            And by all evidence, they were. If you describe “potitical skill” as the ability to effect policies beyond those that the fundamentals would predict, GW Bush was frighteningly effective. He managed to parlay 9/11 into a six-year mandate for unpopular policies, including invading two companies, eviscerating civil rights, pursuing a rigidly polarized set of political policies with roughly balanced political parties.

            I’m hardly jumping to his defense here, but he was not a stupid man. Just an unwise one.

          • An IQ 125 is pretty good. That’s nearly two standard deviations above the mean, which would put Bush somewhere around the 90th percentile of intelligence. Impressive enough.

            As Snarky points out, there are other things to consider than intellectual power. But “dumb” is not an accurate way to describe GWB.

        • Oh, Lord. I’ve wanted to do away with democracy for ages.

          I just don’t have anything particularly compelling to suggest as an alternative.

          • epistocracy, technocracy or futuarchy all with some kind of effective constitutional mechanism of course.

          • 1) I do not actually think that “experts” are as good at making things Better in Real Life as they often think they are.

            2) I am not confident that technocrats are any less prone to the all-too-human desire for power than anyone else, and thus I am not confident that an epistocracy/technocracy has any better safeguards against devolving into an oligarchy than the more traditional aristocracy. Aristocrats at least had a sense of noblesse oblige. (What? You don’t watch that historical documentary “Downton Abbey”?)

          • May we be spared from the nostrums of the well-intentioned. Technocrats get things done. From whence did America’s disdain for expertise arise?

          • I don’t have disdain for experts, Blaise. Fool that I am, I consider myself one in certain areas.

            I just don’t know that expertise = ability to govern, nor that expertise = consistent knowledge of the best answer.

          • In practical terms, all leadership is by example. There is no other kind. The best leaders are magnets for talented subordinates. If this nation suffers from arrogant self-described experts who can’t make things any better, perhaps we should be looking to leadership with a track record of doing so.

            What we have at present is a variant of the old Roman pseudo-humility, telling us they’re gonna go to Washington and shake things up. I wish our presidential candidates went around with their declared Cabinet choices in tow. In this way, we’d get a better picture of how the candidate would govern on specifics.

          • Both France and Japan have a vast and talented technocratic class that actually, by just about any historical measure, does quite well by its respective country.

            I think the lack of said class in the United States is because of:
            1. A reflexive anti-elitism in the American character.
            2. A relative lack of prestige for “government work.”
            3. High levels of unionization and organizational rigidity in American bureacracies.

            Russell, you are right: bureaucrats are subject to the same temptations for power and money that capitalists are. But I really, truly, believe that it is possible to structure organizations so that incentives are much better aligned with core organizational goals than are current government agencies.

            There is good evidence that bureaucracy with a clear sense of Mission (think NASA, or AmeriCorps) are less corrupt than the norm…

    • “but Romney was a pretty above-average candidate and there was no chance at any point that he was going to win”

      With much respect, this is the most absolutely incorrect thing that has ever been written on this site.

      • He was smart, policy-educated, relatively moderate, had executive experience both within government and without. Did you see the first debate, in which he absolutely crushed Obama? Romney was a good candidate. I’m not sure why people feel the need to dispute this. I think it’s because they cling to the fiction that candidates matter in elections. They really don’t.

        • I did see the first debate, holding my newborn daughter while shrieking imprecations at the television in our hospital room.

          But, while I would agree that Romney “won,” it’s not because he was so good. Rather, it’s because Obama allowed himself to be totally steamrolled, and was (foolishly) unprepared for (yet another) reversal of position on Romney’s part. Had he simply called Romney on his prevarications, he would have won handily.

        • Romney was an immensely qualified, but he was the Lovie Smith of candidates – he lacked effective strategic vision, was severely deficient in operational execution, and underperformed with what resources were available to him.

          It is not enough to have a resume and give a good speech from time to time.

          The 2008 election was overdetermined toward a Democratic win. But no other election since 1984 (save maybe 1996) had been similarly lined up for a slam dunk irrespective of candidate performance.

          • Romney’s problem was his base.

            He could appeal to them, or he could appeal to the on the fence voters, but not both. Any “vision” he might have had was massively limited, when it wasn’t flat out dictated to him by the GOP base.

            Having said that — his Presidency run did have more than a bit of a resume move on it. More about adding “President” to his list of titles than any change, progress, or service to America. Possibly an unfair reading, since as I said — he wasn’t exactly able to be himself.

          • “He could appeal to them, or he could appeal to the on the fence voters, but not both.”

            The good ones though, are able to do this. Reagan was able to do this, ditto Bush Jr. (good at politics, that is)

          • Romney didn’t have the…personal charisma, I guess…to basically pull that off. Still, he tried quite hard.

            You can look back over the League posts here and find a number of people whose position on Romney was “Yeah, he’s lying to the rubes/crazies/other people, but I totally know he secretly agrees with me”.

            Which is not a particularly logical belief, but when you have a man who had to change positions so many times over the course of just a few years on so many subjects, it’s probably the only trick you can try.

            Some of the best cons rely on the mark thinking he’s smarter than and has fooled the con-man — Romney tapped into that. Nobody knows what he really believes or would really do. But it’s human nature to like to think you’re smarter than the masses, and you see the truth underneath.

            Which happens to be what you wanted to see. If you wanted to see a moderate Romney, it was just as easy as seeing one that had bowed to the worst impulses of the right.

            Problem, I guess, is that he couldn’t pull the con off totally. Most of the moderates stayed too worried about his gestures towards the base, and the base remained worried about his dedication to the cause. (Not that it stopped them from coming out to vote, but it wasn’t like they had much of a choice. they weren’t gonna vote for Obama).

        • Whether Romney is an intelligent person, I cannot know.

          But his statements and policy prescriptions throughout his six-year presidential campaign – “I would double Guantanamo”, arguing we should deliberately seek to alienate nations like Russia rather than endeavouring to work with them, calling for bombing Iran, claiming he could improve the fiscal situation while cutting taxes and increasing military spending – were neither intelligent nor remotely sensible from a policy perspective. Nor were they moderate. People say he was moderate because he didn’t govern from the far-right in Massachusetts, while disregarding the fact that he didn’t have the option of doing so due to there being a liberal Democratic legislature. His actual policy positions in both 2008 and 2012 were far from moderate.

          In addition to that, he was incredibly poor at connecting with people, which is an important skill for a politician on the campaign trail, and his multitudinous about-faces in his positions on issues led him to be almost universally perceived as inauthentic. And not only is he a plutocrat, he acts like a plutocrat, which hurt him when it came to engaging voters.

          That does not a strong candidate make.

  3. For a while there, the country had a “Democrats will win the Legislative Branches, Republicans will win the White House” narrative. Like, for a *LOOOOONG* time.

    As it turns out, it might have been nothing more than a Republican ability to defeat Northeastern Liberal Democrats without indicating anything more than that about the country at large.

    In any case, if John Kerry really wanted to be President, he should have run in 2008.

    • Agreed. Kerry’s window of opportunity is closed. So will be Secretary Clinton’s. Neither have anything to be ashamed of; both will be able to look back on their careers with pride.

      Interesting that SecState is the capstone now rather than the launching pad it used to be. Who was the last Secretary of State to later become President?

      • Clinton and Biden are both going to throw in for 2016, unless they make a gentlepersons’ agreement for one or the other to bow out. And if they do that, whoever actually runs has a lock on the nomination. (and better than a 50/50 chance of being President)

        • I don’t see Biden having any chances – people don’t take him seriously.

          Clinton has a decent shot if nothing goes badly wrong for the Democrats in the next four years, and if people are confident in four years that her health is still good. Which I’m not sure it is even now.

          • Yeah all indications are the Obama has promised to support the her if H decides to run. Remember that Hillary did a pretty good job for him as Sec of State, handled a couple nasty potshots and her husband was a massive asset in the Obama re-election campaign. Remembering how Bill mercilessly eviscerated Romney and the entire right wing during the Dem convention all the while keeping a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye makes me feel warm all over just in the remembering and I’ll bet Obama feels the same way. Obama owes em and the Clintons are the kind of bunch who like racking up and cashing in their IOU’s.

  4. Pretty much everything wrong with John Kerry was wrong with Dubyah. If Kerry was a glory hound, and he was, Dubyah’s military record stunk to high heaven. That didn’t stop Dubyah from getting elected and re-elected to POTUS — with the help of the GOP power brokers.

    Kerry’s getting older. I don’t like the idea of old presidents. Reminds me of all those old Soviet premiers tottering up to the Kremlin to die. There’s little innovative thinking in old men and far less stamina. Old men make wonderful advisors but younger men make better leaders. Kerry as SecState is a great idea, a fine terminus for him as a politician.

    The Democratic power brokers won’t back Kerry. They shouldn’t back Joe Biden either. Too much baggage. And too damned old, the both of them. Biden was born in 1942. Same for Hillary Clinton, born 1947. The Democratic power brokers have a large enough stable to run younger, better horses in the next race.

    • If they don’t run a younger crew… one that they start putting up there, right now, as contenders… I’m not thinking that they’ll do well in 2016.

      Unless the economy has really turned around gangbusters. Then they could probably nominate Mondale and get a win against whoever the GOP is going to front, if the Rand Paul schtick of the last two weeks is any indication of what the GOP is going to sound like in the next four years.

      • There’s going to be one more field of primarily retreads – too many people (obvious names) facing the this-is-it-now-or-never moment. Considering that the primary young-boomer/X candidate that will dominate the rest of that cohort is the terrifying Andrew Cuomo, I don’t think that’s the worst thing for Dems in 2016. No guarantee they’ll win – Joe Biden is certainly more beatable by a sane Republican than HIllary Clinton – but I’m not sure that the worst thing for Dems’ 2016 hopes is to have a kind of a victory lap/nostalgia tour primary. This is coming from someone who desperately wants both the parties to make the generational turn you’re talking about. I’m just not sure I see the younger-gen pol who doesn’t suffer pretty mightily trying to follow directly on BHO yet.

        • As the US presidency evolves, the vice president has assumed a much larger role. If the Democrats run a New Fresh Arthur with an Avuncular Merlin for vice president, they could win again, exactly as they won with Obama/Biden.

          The US economy won’t be going gangbusters during this decade. That’s probably true for most of the developed world. China and the EU are in enough trouble. China’s corruption and lack of regulations will catch up with them in the next few years. The EU is coming unravelled. And more importantly, on a global scope, improvements in medicine and nutrition after WW2 mean we’re faced with a tsunami of old people. Who’s going to care for them? I’ll tell you who: lots of cheap immigrant labour willing to change oldsters’ diapers.

          Faced with the massive increases in social spending on the oldsters, the developed world will simply hunker down and change those diapers. Young people are already bearing the brunt of their elders’ insatiable demands. Go to Japan to see how that’s been working out, yesterday Taro Aso told Japan’s elderly to “hurry up and die” because they’re burdening the country. China, too, now making it mandatory for children to visit their parents, a not-so-subtle hint the PRC can’t handle the load.

          The oldsters burned up the gasoline, built all those suburban houses on the best farmland in the world, consumed and consumed and consumed. Resentment will build up. It will become a driving force in future politics.

          • Thing about Fresh Young Arthurs, they only appear after the Sword in the Stone appears.

            And whan it was fynisshed they assembled aboute the ston, bothe oon and other who that myght take oute this swerde firste. And than thei seiden and acorded alle that thei sholde assaien it as the mynistres of Holy Cherche wolde assigne. To this ther was grete discorde amonge the higheste men and moste puyssaunt. And thei that hadde force seide they wolden asseyen firste. So ther were many wordes that ought not to be rehersed. The archebisshop spake that alle myght heren and seide, “Sirs, ye ne be not so wise ne so wele avised men as I wende. And I will wele that ye alle wite that oure Lorde hath oon ichosen, but I knowe not whom. And thus moche may I say to yow, that gentilnesse ne richesse shall have no power agein the wille of Jhesu Criste, but truste so moche in Hym that yef he that is therto chosen were yet unbore, it shall never be taken oute of the ston till he come that it is ordeyned the honour.”

          • Are you talking more long-term then? Cuz I’m with you there. The issue is 2016. You expect a someone to pull the swerde out in the next two years?

          • What about Cory Booker? That guy seems to have a good head on his shoulders and his heart seems to be in the right place too. Unless he’s got some skeleton in his closet that I don’t know about.

          • Ecch, we haven’t even gotten to the part where ther was grete discorde amonge the higheste men and moste puyssaunt.. If the Hildebeest decides to run, she’ll probably get out in front of the race pretty quickly but she’s looking really old and tired and that latest fall doesn’t make her look so robust. Biden, well, we’ve seen his toothy grin too many times already. If either was ten years younger, maybe.

            Cory Booker looks interesting. He’ll appeal to the Oprah crowd. I don’t see him as quite ready for prime time just yet: the other Dems will surely pour boiling tar on him for saying kind things about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. Kristen Gillibrand would make a dandy substitute for Hillary, I do hope the Clintons will throw their support behind her. I could vote for Gillibrand.

            No president has enjoyed a good second term in donkey’s years. Obama, despite all the high-minded liberal rhetoric in his second inaugural, won’t get bupkis out of Congress. The swamp is full of pesky alligators: they will distract him from draining the swamp. Some horrid scandal might crop up, that’s usually the case. The economy might get bad again. Employment numbers are still awful: no telling what’s going to happen. I’ve been holding my water, trying to write something about the fallout from the Mali situation, that situation will get worse before it gets better. Algeria’s gerontocratic military regime will figure as large in the FP of the next four years as Pakistan is at present.

            These are safe predictions, by my lights. Put it this way, the campaign issues of 2016 will be of two sorts: domestic problems Obama couldn’t solve and FP problems he couldn’t foresee.

          • Booker would have another problem – in 2016, he’ll presumably have been in the Senate for a year at the time of the Iowa caucuses. That’s not a lot of time to build a national campaign. Worse, to get that Senate seat, he is having to infuriate his own NJ Dem power base by pushing an incumbent Dem out the door before he’s willing to retire – seriously, a huge chunk of the Dem machine here is furious with CB over his announcement that he’s running for Senate, especially coming on the heels of him declining to run for governor when he was the party’s only hope to seriously challenge Christie. He has to consolidate that power base in his own state before he can even think about putting together a national campaign.

          • I’m holding out for a Klobuchar-Baldwin ticket, myself…

          • Amy Klobuchar has That Thing. Far more than Hillary, and Obama as well. You don’t want to lift that out of popular politics; I don’t get the sense she wants to be lifted out either. Tammy Baldwin has a judicial temperament, I could see that.

            Besides, as much as we should maybe wish otherwise, I think the convention of appointing career judges to the high court is too entrenched to expect departures any time soon. I think either party might well opportunistically rebel, though I can also see picking a current or former Senator as an antidote to that. Still, I don’t expect a career legislator to be named to SCOTUS any time soon.

            In any case, Klobuchar has It. If you’re a political party, you don’t really want your Its in lifetime seats on the bench.

    • There’s a farm team that can be groomed.

      Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland seems to be generating some early buzz on the strength of his record.

      Jay Nixon, governor of Missouri, has some problems but they could be dealt with by a skilled staff.

      Michael Bennett, Senator from Colorado is photogenic, has strong fundraising potential, and is from a critical swing state.

      Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio also has strong swing-state machinery and the ability to tap into the BigBucks necessary. I’m not as confident in his charisma but again, the professionals can help out with that.

      Something I can’t quite mentally seize makes me not want to let go of Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary as a possibility, although I realize that she’s a bit long in the tooth for this list. She seems to be an ideal choice to pick up the flag for the incumbent’s signature legislative accomplishment, and was Governor of her state, which is the best experiential qualification for President that I can think of.

      And let me suggest a perhaps not-so-dark horse: Jon Tester, Senator from Montana. Readily paintable as a centrist Democrat and a specimen of “real” America, a good campaigner, and a well-balanced set of committee assignments to establish credibility on all significant policy fronts.

      I’m not so much interested in either Senator from Virginia or Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, but they’ll be in the mix somehow too, I’m quite sure.

        • Good point. It might not be good to be a front-runner too early and for too long. Just ask Rudy! Giuliani.

          • I know that I’m in a small minority around here with all my “just look at the stats”, but Rudy’s problem was that he was fundamentally incompatible with his own party base. Chris Christie has the exact same problem.

          • Agreed that Rudy! being pro choice was a big problem and his campaign made a serious error in not contesting New Hampshire. But he also made a big target for the social conservatives by being or at least trying to be the front runner during the jockeying-for-pole-position phase.

          • I think Christie is exactly what the Republicans need. So of course they will not choose him.

          • Christie’s far too liberal for the Republican base. Is only vaguely pro-life. Doesn’t hate the gays. Pro- or relatively pro-marijuana legalization. Pro-campaign finance reform. Not reflexively a gun nut. Once said it’s “not a crime” to be an undocumented immigrant. Said nice things about Obama during Hurricane Sandy, for which a fair number of conservatives blame him for Romney’s loss.

            I’m sure he could try to walk some of these back. If Romney could do it, anyone probably can. But Christie doesn’t seem like he’d even bother to try.

          • Any number of people are still substituting their hope that Republicans will stop being fucking lunatics for the fact that Republicans just are fucking lunatics.

          • Ryan,
            “Hope” is a fancy way of saying opportunity. I’m hoping we can get enough people on the bandwagon to reform the Republicans (or run a Libertarian party, or do something that isn’t one party democrat).

          • Ryan: In all honesty, Christie’s ideologically a lot closer to McCain than to Giuliani, though even that’s not quite correct since he’s got other differences with both of them. Regardless, I’m starting to think that nomination battles in the GOP come down to whether the so-called “moderate” wing of the party or the movement conservative/evangelical wing of the party is first to unite behind a single candidate. In 2000, the evangelical wing very quickly united behind GWB- as I recall, as early as the summer of ’98, GWB had already made big steps towards shoring up the evangelical vote, while the “moderate” wing didn’t really start to coalesce around McCain until after the NH primary.

            In 2008, Giuliani and McCain were the primary rivals for the “moderate” wing’s vote, but Giuliani (and, for that matter, Fred Thompson) made the massive strategic error to basically sit out until Florida, effectively ceding all of the momentum for that wing’s support to McCain. Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that Romney in 2008 was the guy that a lot of conservative leaders had tapped to play the “anyone but McCain” role – at the time, outside of NH (where other factors were at play in Romney’s favor) made relatively little effort to attract folks from the “moderate” wing. The problem Romney had was that Huckabee was out there and split the movement conservative and evangelical votes.

            Last year, Romney realized very quickly that, despite his 2008 campaign, outside of Huntsman, whose campaign never had a chance of taking off, he was the least conservative guy in the race. The “moderate” wing, despite probably being smaller than it had been in 2008, was basically his and his alone from the moment he declared his candidacy. Meanwhile, by the time the movement conservative/evangelical wing had coalesced around Santorum, it was too late to overcome Romney’s advantages.

          • That’s a very nice story, but it’s far too complicated for my tastes. Politics is extremely simple and doesn’t require a ton of nuance. That’s why Nate Silver is running rings around everyone right now.

          • In the general election, absolutely. But the primaries are all about building a coalition of competing factions within your party – unlike the general election, primaries are battles that involve more than two legitimate candidates, the ideological differences between the candidates are much more subtle or at least gradual, and the campaign is not decided with a single vote. On top of that, there’s huge differences between the different types of primaries – you’ve got caucuses and primaries, open primaries and closed primaries (so different electorates even in otherwise similar states), and a boatload of volatility – look at where Huckabee or Santorum was polling nationally before the Iowa caucuses versus where they were polling thereafter. And so on.

            I suspect, if asked, Silver himself would acknowledge that there is a lot of volatility in primary campaigns that doesn’t exist in general elections – indeed, compare his first forecast of the 2012 Iowa caucuses with the eventual results just 3 weeks later:

            Notice that not only did Silver have Santorum at less than a 2% chance of winning the caucuses, Santorum’s eventual performance was 5 points higher (effectively 25% higher) than the top end of Silver’s projected range for his performance, which was itself extremely broad to begin with (meaning that Silver was already building an extraodinary amount of volatility into his model).

          • One more thing to add: Silver’s initial reputation was largely built on his 2008 prediction of the Dem Super Tuesday outcomes. Looking back on that, though, the interesting thing is that the way he made those predictions was by literally treating it as a two-horse race between HRC and BHO. And he was right to do so- by that point it had become amply clear that they were the only two candidates with a legitimate chance, so Silver was able to effectively treat the others as he would treat a small third party candidate in the general election (which is to say, not at all). But this proves my point here – at that stage, the various factions of the Dem Party had each coalesced around one particular candidate, and once that happened, the race essentially became stable and thus much more capable of reliable prognostication.

      • I agree on Sebelius. She’s very presidential. I just don’t think she has the national wattage to stand out if the field includes Clinton and/or Biden. If it doesn’t, well then anything can happen. But generally, I’m not sure that any of the Cabinet members other than Clinton from this presidency is going to pass an implicit “Well we don’t immediately want just a straight-up extension of the Obama years. I might be wrong that that bar will exist, but I think it will. I think Biden and Clinton both have enough of an independent national profile that they won’t be perceived that way (certainly not Clinton; probably not Biden just because of the outsized personality), I think someone like Kathleen Sebelius.

      • My one wee quibble with your list is that I doubt the Democrats would ever float someone who has zero chance of carrying his home state, which puts a line through Nixon.

      • Jon Tester is not the Montanan the Democrats should look at if they want to go the red state route. They want the former governor who left office with +42 approval (and Dave Barry’s endorsement). Dude could win 40 states.

  5. John,
    Seriously. Nobody liked you. Your wife may be sweet and all, but nobody liked you.
    Gore, people liked. Sure he was a stiff shirt, but he seemed a good deal more forthright than you.

    Ya ought not to run again unless the people who voted for ya the last time will crawl through glass to vote for ya again.

    And you ain’t got that.

  6. Re the P.S:

    Hillary was pretty awesome too:

    “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

    While Rand Paul was, well, a Republican:

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tore into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on Wednesday, saying that her planned departure indicates that she accepts “culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11.”

    Unless, of course, he means that she’s admitting shooting up that elementary school.

    • Rand Paul’s insane shift to foreign policy lunacy is extremely dispiriting for those of us who saw in him a slight glimmer of hope.

      • You did actually read his budget, right? The magic math was strong in that one.

        It was a deeply unserious document.

      • I’ve basically soured on Rand Paul myself, but I don’t think it’s quite right to say that this is a shift into foreign policy lunacy. Why? HRC’s “what’s the difference” comment perfectly hits the nail on the head about the incoherency of the GOP’s outrage over the whole affair. GOP outrage on this has nothing whatsoever to do with policy; it has everything to do with being a cheap, high-profile, and substance-free way of throwing red meat to the base.

        Rand Paul has his eyes on the 2016 nomination, and he’s learned from both his father’s successes and failures. His father effectively bought a seat in Congress and seed money for his first GOP nomination campaign by throwing red meat devoid of policy implications to conspiracy theorists and white supremacists – that, after all, is what the infamous newsletters were all about. The problem was that Ron Paul’s nomination campaign had a low ceiling because of his terrible relationship with both the base and the party establishment (which in part was due to the fact that, to win that Congressional seat and get the seed money in the first place, he needed to throw the red meat to conspiracy theorists and white supremacists who themselves had an antagonistic relationship with the GOP – Alex Jones was too important to Paul’s ability to succeed politically to throw him under the bus, but too much of an albatross to allow Paul’s ceiling to get very high).

        It’s the same reason he just very publicly went after Chris Christie for Christie’s criticism of that NRA ad, which had nothing to do with the substance of gun policy (Christie actually makes a point of saying that the NRA has good arguments to make), and everything to do with the propriety of the ad’s (dishonest) use of the President’s daughters.

        It allows Rand Paul to look like a loyal conservative soldier who is fighting hard for conservative causes, regardless of the extent that is true of his actual voting record.

        • I suppose if his voting record doesn’t change, then this is so much sound and fury, signifying nothing. But his whole “I would have fired you!” thing with Clinton was… exhausting. At the very least, this does not sound like the guy I was hoping would provide cover on the right for a dial-down of our military madness.

          • In order for him to provide cover, he has to build it first. My problem is that this strategy, while a useful shortcut for building Rand’s own power within the party, does nothing to change the base’s actual policy preferences (in fact, it probably reinforces them) while alienating liberal colleagues in the Senate such that they’ll be less willing to cooperate with him on issues of limited agreement.

          • In other words, it’s a recipe for being an ineffective legislator, and the only payoff is if he can somehow parlay it not only into the nomination (still a longshot) but also the Presidency itself (a significantly longer shot, only made more so by the fact that the nomination will have been obtained by alienating everyone to the left of Newt Gingrich).

          • Do you guys have any sense of where the conspiracy-seeking hive-mind, which I suspect Rand Paul was more giving voice to than really expressing as his own earnest concern, was trying to go with the question about arms out of Syria to Turkey? Presumably these kinds of things are done – but what’s the particular concern there? Or was it just a heads up to the world that, hey, Rand Paul’s not dumb, he knows the U.S. does covert action, and he even thinks he knows what some of it might be? Or — was this something the committee’s been briefed about privately, or that he’d caught wind of separately, which he somehow thought Clinton would have thought it hadn’t been (or he couldn’t have), so he was trying to show that they couldn’t just assume he was always in the dark?

            But mainly just: is there some very particular concern in the Rand-Paul part of the political world if in fact the U.S. is moving weapons from Syria to Turkey, that would indicate something they’d regard as particularly perfidious over and above whatever their views of other covert actions might be going on?

  7. Meh. I really like John Kerry. I was neighbors with his brother and family; our (brother’s) kids were the same ages; did some b-day parties, etc. together. His sister-in-law is one of the most amazing and awesome people I’ve ever met. And the values they hold, politically, are values I hold.

    He’s a good man, and he’d make a fine president. I do not think another run a bad option. With the potential of a Clinton run, it’s putting the best experience and wisdom the Democratic Party has to offer out there for Democratic voters to choose from in their primary. Opting not to run now, because it seems like a joke, has very little to do with what we’ll think in three years.

    Recall the future imagined for Hillary at the height of the White Water investigations, impeachment proceedings, and Limbaugh’s “feminazi” harpoons. And look at her now.

    • The difference between Hillary (or, if you’d prefer, our incumbent POTUS) is not that she wasn’t attacked, and attacked viciously. It’s that she managed to ascend to her office in spite of those attacks. Kerry never recovered from, or even effectively countered, the Swift Boat attacks.

      Do I think he’d make a fine president? I do. I voted for the man, after all. But I think he was a total non-starter as a candidate.

      • I think my point isn’t so much about Kerry (or Clinton), really. It’s about holding a mirror-image primary from that held by Republicans last time about. They moved into some weird, wild, and wacky place, so far to the right that it absolutely crippled their candidate, cost them some Senate seats, and left them with a very fringey House. They moved so far out that Obama could propose their policies from just a year or two before and they were suddenly liberal.

        That’s a wide ground for sane, sound Democratic candidates to debate how to move our country forward. I’d like, in the primary process, to let those candidates hold that debate, and instead of having them go to the whacky left, have them really explore that range of ground from the center-right to the left that Republicans have totally abdicated.

        Dissing Kerry this early on is, to my mind, functioning on the level of popularity contest. Yeah, we’ll get there. And I doubt he stands a chance of winning the nomination; Democratic voters tend not to like already-ran candidates, after all. But, and this is the crucial thing, if he did run, he’s got a lot to add to the debate about our future already, and he’ll have more after time at State. That’s a worthy contribution to the conversation.

        • My main beef with him remains his utterly inept handling of the Swift Boat attacks.

          I think he is almost certainly a man of intelligence and integrity. I don’t think he’s an effective candidate at a national level, and (from a purely political POV, which is where this entire post came from) I don’t want ineffective candidates heading the ticket.

          Plus, y’know, John Edwards.

          • Yeah. John Edwards.

            On the Swift Boat Attacks, I have some forgiveness. (But I wouldn’t again.) The man is a bonafide hero — a war hero, an anti-war protestor, and a legislator who worked on behalf of veterans. It’s surreal that such propaganda would stick, and politically, until his experience, I think people thought the best way to rebut such nonsense was to not give it credence by ignoring it.

            Where I cannot fathom is actions actually comes to the authorization to take troops into Iraq, should Saddam fail to cooperate with weapons inspectors. He was privy to the classified information on Iraq, and probably knew the case made to the public was cherry-picked, massaged, and questionable. But I have the same concerns for Clinton, who had access to Bill for an assessment of the veracity of the Bush admins claims. That, more than anything, is the thing I hold against each of them.

    • On 1/20/2017, Hillary will be 69 and Kerry 73. They’ve had their chances.

      • Plus, no more dynasties!!! I like Hillary quite a bit. But I don’t want her, or Jeb (“the smart Bush brother”, supposedly).

        Too royalty-like.

          • Groovy.

            Totally OT, but as he has copped to being someone with more than a passing interest in synth-pop, I do hope the Doc checked out my Wed. music post yesterday at MD.

            It’s not Pet Shop Boys, but it’s good all the same (still, Millicent might not care for it).

      • It’s different for women, who (among things) statistically live longer, and Reagan was also about 2 weeks shy of 70 when he became president.

        Biden’s already 70, and it looks like (from his actions over the last few months) that he’s gearing up for a run in ’16.

          • Life expectancy keeps rising, but I’m not so sure about energy and cognitive ability keeping up.

          • I imagine that most 69 year-old wealthy white American women have four-year durations ahead of them that are less stressful than that of the average presidency (no offense intended to 69 year-old wealthy white American women, of course).

    • Let me be clear — I have nothing but respect for the man as a statesman, and think he will make a fantastic Secretary of State. I voted for him because I thought he would make a fine President.

      But I will never understand his flaccid, ineffectual response to the Swift Boat attacks. Perhaps he would have lost anyway, but I can’t grasp why he did not counter such rank and patently baseless attacks more forcefully.

      • Here’s why Kerry lost the Swift Boat fight:

        I’ve known guys in the military who were inordinately drawn to combat roles from a thirst for glory. They were called Medal Detectors or Glory Hounds, there were other far more disparaging terms for them. They would go out looking for trouble and got people killed unnecessarily, when they weren’t killing people unnecessarily.

        Napoleon Bonaparte once said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon.” Some people want to fill in their medal rack and lard up their uniform with decorations. They’re dangerous people. Good soldiers don’t fight for fame and glory. They fight for each other. Every serviceman I’ve known who received a Bit of Coloured Ribbon knew it wasn’t about him. It was about the people around him.

        And that’s what disturbs me about John Kerry. When he was in the blue water Navy, he was all spit and polish. But when he saw those Swift Boats, he knew he had to get aboard one: that’s where the glory was. There he was, out there with his little movie camera, recreating his exploits, slogging around in the Mekong mud, the better to cover himself in glory. Kerry was an ambitious man and such men were called Medal Detectors back in those days.

        Hamlet. Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

        Rosencrantz. Why, then your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow for your mind.

        Hamlet. O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

        Guildenstern. Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

        Hamlet. A dream itself is but a shadow.

        Rosencrantz. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.

        Hamlet. Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretch’d heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we to th’ court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.

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