Yes, Vietnam service gives Kerry a credential for high office. But beyond that, what is there? His biography, as presented to the world, was this: He was born, went to Vietnam, and is now running for president. Just about his entire adult life is a 30-year void. The hagiographic film at the convention omitted his first entry into politics (his failed run for Congress in 1972, an attempt to cash in immediately on his Vietnam/antiwar service). There was no mention of the fact that his first elected office was as Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor. And practically nothing was said about his 20 years of deeply unmemorable service in the Senate.
The convention gave no bounce because it consisted of but two elements: Vietnam, plus attacks on the president. The press swallowed the claim that the convention, following a directive from on high, was not negative. In fact, that meant simply that Al Gore was not to repeat his charge that the Bush administration is allied with ``digital brown shirts'' and running a ``gulag.'' And that Bush was not to be attacked by name.
But the themes were transparently negative: We are not the party that misleads you into war. We are not the party that trashes the Constitution. We are not the party that acts unilaterally. And my favorite, because of its Escher-like yogiism: We are not the party that divides the country -- as opposed to those lying, Constitution-trashing, unilateralist Republican cowboys.
None of this is out of bounds, mind you. It is simply politically stupid. It does not work. Why? Because the political market has, as they say on Wall Street, already discounted these negatives. The people have already registered all the bad news of the last six months that has sent Bush's approval ratings plummeting.
Four days wasted -- spent on redundant attacks on a president who has already paid politically for his sins, real and imagined. And the rest of the time spent on an excruciating selective biography, which, although centered on one truly honorable episode, tells us absolutely nothing about how President Kerry would deal with al Qaeda casing buildings in Manhattan and Washington or with the bad guys now congregated in Fallujah.
In other words, nothing about the future. Which is what elections are about.
Hence, no bounce.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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