George Will

     Last December, when Howard Dean was rampant and Kerry was mortgaging his house to keep his campaign afloat, the conservative National Review's cover featured a photograph of Dean and these words: ``Please nominate this man.'' Democrats' didn't, but they did nominate a casualty of the Dean Effect.

     Kerry also is a casualty of nuance-itis, which is a kind of house mold prevalent in the north wing of the Capitol. Senators -- unlike governors, who often sharpen issues -- are forever blurring things to manufacture legislative majorities. Partly for that reason, senators rarely become presidents.

     Regarding Kerry's reticence about his Senate years, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and a colonel in conservatism's infantry, has a theory. It is that Kerry is crippled by having spent his Senate years as a moon orbiting Ted Kennedy's sun.

     Until his 1980 failure to wrest the presidential nomination from Jimmy Carter, Kennedy, says Norquist, tacked occasionally toward the center to protect his national ambitions. But when 1980 permanently dashed those ambitions, he decided to become the Democrats' version of Ohio's Robert Taft, who in 14 years in the Senate (1939-53) became ``Mr. Republican,'' the standard by which conservatism was measured. Five years after Kennedy embarked on becoming the standard of liberalism, Kerry became Massachusetts' junior senator and essentially followed Kennedy's footsteps.

     Hence Kerry's incentive to urge the country to focus not on his 20 years of Senate service but on his four months in Vietnam. This urging elicited the Swift boaters' attacks and Kerry's lost August.

     Perhaps they provoked the counterattack -- the episode's origins, if not its nature, remain murky -- that was aimed at George W. Bush but hit CBS News broadside. About Bush's alleged dereliction of duties in the National Guard, Dan Rather is, as this is written, unmoved by the evident fraudulence of the documents that were supposed to support the allegations. And from Jonah Goldberg of National Review comes this perhaps germane observation:

On the second night of the Republican convention, Rather, perhaps determined to use some canned ad libs no matter how inapposite reality made them, declared that Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech had ``slapped (Bush's) opponent, Sen. John Kerry, around like a hockey puck." The number of times Schwarzenegger mentioned Kerry: zero.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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