It ought to be a maxim of Democratic strategy: Never send your presidential candidate to San Francisco.
Walter Mondale floundered there in 1984. Now it might be Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's turn.
Nineteen years ago, San Francisco hosted the Democratic convention that nominated Mondale. His acceptance speech included a whining plea to replace President Reagan's policy of countering Soviet aggression with a renewed policy of appeasement.
"Every other president talked with the Soviets and negotiated arms control," Mondale told a crowd led by Mario Cuomo and Jesse Jackson. "Why has this administration failed? Why haven't they tried? Why can't they understand the cry of Americans and human beings for sense and sanity in control of these god-awful weapons? Why? Why?"
At the Republican convention in Dallas, U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, a Democratic hawk, gave Mondale what for. "When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues," said Kirkpatrick, "the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States. But then, they always blame America first."
"The San Francisco Democrats," she said, " . . . behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich -- convinced it could shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand."
Kirkpatrick's imagery stuck: San Francisco Democrats were the Party of Appeasement.
Kerry, the current Democratic frontrunner, had a San Francisco moment just before the war.
A decorated Vietnam veteran, Kerry had earlier adopted optimal positioning for a Democratic nominee. He blamed President Bush for failing to restore a boom economy, but voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq.
"By standing with the president," said Kerry, "Congress will demonstrate that our nation is united in its determination to take away Saddam Hussein's deadly arsenal, by peaceful means if we can, by force if we must."
But a room full of San Franciscans was too great a temptation for Kerry.
In a March 13 speech to the Commonwealth Club, he avoided direct discussion of the impending war. But while advocating alternative energy sources, he let loose this applause line: "In the decades to come we should not ever have to have young Americans sent to any part of the world to defend and die for America's gluttony on fossil fuel."
Excuse me? Was Kerry inferring the war he voted for was about oil?
In a question period, the moderator tried to pin him down: Did Kerry regret voting for war?