I think the presidential election will ultimately turn on which of the candidates the public trusts more, particularly because we are at war. For any number of reasons, that does not bode well for Sen. Kerry.
It's not just that President Bush is more of a people person and down to earth, or that John Kerry is an out-of-touch elitist. President Bush is also far more comfortable in his own skin than Kerry, which was most obvious in their respective answers to the spiritual question in the second debate.
President Bush fully embraced the loaded question "What part does your faith play on your policy decisions?" (The mainstream media, indeed the entire secular culture, has been on Bush's case over his faith since before he was elected.) The question was designed to make him squirm for having made his guiding faith a matter of public record.
Instead, he admitted that "faith plays a big part in (his) life," that he "prays a lot" for strength, wisdom, comfort and calm, and that he loves that others pray for him and his family. But he said he never wants to impose his religion on anyone else.
This is hardly the testimony of an arrogant man, but a God-fearing, humble servant. I guarantee you that many people can relate to his touching answer and will appreciate his candor. They'll find reassurance in his reliance on God for strength in these difficult times. But others will not be threatened.
Not once did he say or imply that he has a mainline to God or that God put him where he is. He pledged to protect the right of people of all faiths to worship as they please. And as a Christian, he means every word of that.
John Kerry, on the other hand, flinched nervously at the question and then offered an answer that seemed more calculated than heartfelt. After a forced, token response, he shifted into a John Edwardsesque two-Americas rant.
But it's not just the faith issue that unveils Kerry's counterfeit character. His whole persona reeks of stiffness and a choreographed artificiality. And his positions on most other issues reveal him as a bundle of contradictions, a walking paradox, a human oxymoron, a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
Whereas George Bush is steady and consistent on almost every issue, consider the agony John Kerry must experience trying to reconcile his positions.
He claims to be a fiscal hawk, but he lacks the courage to tackle entitlements, and his spending proposals on health care and education alone would send the deficit into the stratosphere. He says life begins at conception but opposes restrictions on abortion. He pretends to be a friend to gays, but opposes gay marriage -- sort of -- and rudely invokes Mary Cheney's homosexuality.
Kerry decries dirty campaigning, while fraudulently calling President Bush a liar daily. He says he would cut taxes, but his record shows he's a consistent tax raiser. He says he favors tort reform, while his running mate and many of his biggest supporters are trial lawyers. He says he'll be tough on terror when he's been antiwar all his life. He swears he'll be tough in Iraq, while insisting it's the wrong war. He complains that Iraq is an unworthy cause and slanders our existing coalition partners, yet wants us to believe -- mystifyingly -- that he can build a bigger coalition.
He's a proud liberal, but acts ashamed of it, even denies it. He panders to gun owners while championing gun control. He extols multilateralism but rejects it for North Korea. He boasts sophistication but has a myopically simplistic perspective on the War on Terror, thinking it's about Osama only.
He holds himself out as a strong leader, but his Senate record exposes him as a cipher. He's a champion of the poor, but as rich as Croesus. All of a sudden he denounces judicial activism, though he's been applying a disqualifying litmus test to all constitutionalist judicial nominees. He promises a brighter future, while painting a picture of irreparable doom and gloom. He says he cares about race relations, yet manufactures vicious, despicable stories that Republicans plan to suppress black votes. He is a proud military hero, but won't release his records.
Unlike President Bush, John Kerry is conflicted about who he is and on the scores of issues on which he is campaigning. The public, I trust, will finally pick up on this (because "he can run, but he can't hide") and send him back to Massachusetts.