With the Democratic presidential nomination already boxed, John Kerry - or someone on his staff - is wrapping it up and topping it off with a pretty bow.
His competitors and the Democrats' special-interest felines, seemingly so hard to herd, are falling in behind, as Democratic constituencies so often do so much better than their Republican counterparts.
Howard Dean, an also-ran everywhere and sounding ever more desperate, at last has folded his quixotic enterprise. Clark himself has left the field, taking a seat with Richard Gephardt on the Kerry bench. Joe Lieberman is in the showers.
The party's extremists and ideologues and single-issuists and lobbies of various stripe are overriding whatever misgivings they may have about Kerry to back him in their ultimate cause of turning out the dreaded George Bush: unions, pro taxers, environmentalists, gun-controllers and anti-globalists, pro-abortionists, those of conflicted gender identity - the full posse. You name 'em, they're there for Massachusetts' newest JFK.
This likely will prove the ideological election to beat all ideological elections. To go all the way with this JFK, if you're an independent or moderate or centrist, you have to fall for the ol' razzle-dazzle - remember the marvelous song from "Chicago"?
Leftists don't have to fall for anything: They know.
They know Kerry, a protege of Ted Kennedy, is but a seemingly sophisticated Dean. Kerry's lifetime Senate voting record, according to the compilation of the leftie Americans for Democratic Action, is five points more liberal than Ted's; Kerry has voted with Ted 96 percent of the time, and on most of the remaining 4 percent of the votes has isolated Ted as the conservative Massachusetts senator.
They know "Hanoi" Jane Fonda, with whom Kerry toiled in the early 1970s to force an American withdrawal from Vietnam (there are pictures of the two at peacenik rallies), has lately been back on the ramparts with pro-Kerry coos.
They know their Kerry is right on the issues, and forgive whatever his apparent tergiversation. And they understand, with CNN's Bruce Morton, that Kerry's military service in Vietnam and his coterie of veterans from the Vietnam era serve as his patriotic armor: "If the Republicans had any hope of casting Kerry as some Michael Dukakis-style effete Eastern liberal, that's over. The band of brothers stands in his way."
Those less ideologized should begin asking, regarding Kerry's record and rhetoric, why there is so much explaining to do. They should ask why, as John Edwards put it in a recent debate, Kerry goes through so many convolutions and employs so much explanatory razzle-dazzle in responding to yes-or-no questions. When a questioner is more confused after the answer than before the question, it is either because of his own mental shortcomings, or those of the answerer, or because the answerer wants to leave the questioner confused.
On numerous issues, Kerry has been both pro and con. Take military intervention. He didn't want the United States in Vietnam; his 1971 view, in congressional testimony, was that American servicemen in Vietnam were murderers. Yet he presents himself as a Vietnam war hero. He voted against the 1991 Gulf War, and a year later said American servicemen there were no better or worse than anyone else. Then he voted for going into Iraq a year ago to remove Saddam, though he subsequently voted against an $87-billion appropriation for Iraq's reconstruction. Now he spends a good deal of the time on the campaign trail rationalizing those inconsistencies.
It's similar with other issues: NAFTA, tax cuts, the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind: pro Kerry votes that Kerry now seeks to explain away. Declamations against Washington insiders and patrician plutocrats - in both of whose ranks he long has been enlisted. Railings against many of the precise "special interests" that have so extensively financed his campaigns.
As Kerry told Congress in 1971 that America's role in Vietnam had nothing to do with the preservation of liberty, so he says now America's role in Iraq has nothing to do with liberty's expansion. Today, regarding terror, he uses words similar to those of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) - the group in which he was a key player a quarter-century ago. In South Carolina, Kerry said President Bush "exaggerate(s) the terrorist threat." Likewise, the VVAW opposes the war on terrorism. It blamed the United States for provoking 9/11 and said shortly thereafter that rather than responding with "massive military power (that) will only escalate the cycle of violence," the United States "must address the reasons behind the (American-caused) violence that has now come to our shores."
From Kerry, we hear no repudiation of the 27-year-old sophomorisms contained in his anti-American congressional testimony of April 23, 1971. Nor do we hear from him any repudiation of current VVAW positions, let alone any disagreement with them. Rather, (1) with many running like scalded dogs from the liberal label, we see Kerry campaigning unabashedly with today's Old Left caricature - Ted Kennedy; (2) we hear Kerry defending his own most indefensible votes; and (3) we are targets of his ol' razzle-dazzle to obfuscate and confuse on those positions and votes containing a semblance of right reason and common sense.
And that's no razzle-dazzle but the real deal.