Tidbits from Peter Baker’s "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House", available on Tuesday from Doubleday:
On the electoral front, John Kerry had locked up the Democratic nomination, and the Bush team was feeling on the defensive. Bush tried to settle down his jittery staff during a meeting in the White House residence.
"Listen, I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns," he started, implicitly reminding his team that he had already seen five Presidential campaigns up close. "The accidental genius of the process in its length is it strips you bare. You’re totally revealed to the American people. You can’t hide who you are. It’s one of the reasons why people made fun of me with my pillow in 2000 and I wanted to get home. But you need your sleep. It’s exhausting." The bottom line this year, he added pointedly, was this: "We’re going to win because John Kerry is an asshole."
Yes, I do find them similar, but let me note — despite some of the things that I’ve said about Kerry and despite my vote for Obama over Romney — I do think that both Kerry and Romney are capable and neither would have been a terrible President. Are they kind of vanilla and do they have reputations for flip-flopping? Sure. But both have been successful in the offices that they have held and I wouldn’t have been terrified to see either of them living in the White House because I know that they could have done the job.
What would happen if we had Kerry vs. Romney? Well, it depends on what they were campaigning for. If they ran against each other for a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, I think Kerry wins. Romney DID run for the Senate in Massachusetts, but it was against Ted Kennedy, not John Kerry.
But if it were a race for the Presidency and you put Romney vs. Kerry to the nation’s voters, I think Romney wins that race. Romney was a much better campaigner than Kerry was, and I think it would be close in the Electoral College — like 2004 (Bush 286, Kerry 251) — but I definitely think Romney would pull it out.
I just looked back on my Smart-Ass Commentary from the final night of the 2012 Democratic Convention and I can understand why some might think I don’t like John Kerry, considering I started with this:
And proceeded to add comments such as:
•”Hey, fellow Democrats, remember when we nominated John Kerry to be President? Man, that sucked.”
•”This reminds me of 2004 when everything was really shitty and I looked at my ballot and said, ‘Well, I can’t vote for Bush, so…I guess it’s Kerry.’”
•”I have absolutely no interest in anything that John Kerry is saying and, as his speech goes on, my body is beginning to shut down in order to protect itself.”
•”Is John Kerry criticizing somebody for being a flip-flopper? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle ‘John Kerry’?”
•”Jesus, I can’t believe I voted for this man to be President of the United States.”
•”John Kerry just spoke for twelve-and-a-half minutes without saying a goddamn thing. That might be #2 on my list of ‘Biggest Wastes of My Life’. #1 is the entire year of 2004. Congratulations, Senator Kerry, you finally won something!”
I also called him a “fucking rock-headed bore.”
So, I guess I’m saying that I can understand the confusion about how I feel about John Kerry.
I don’t really dislike Senator Kerry. I never thought of him as an appealing Presidential candidate in 2004. I supported him because the alternative was four more years of George W. Bush, but I thought the Democrats pretty much handed a second term to W. by nominating Kerry. Kerry just wasn’t very inspirational. I mean, in 2004, I was in a real political mindset and wanted to be involved like I was for California Governor Gray Davis in 1998 and Obama in 2007-2008. But Kerry as the Democratic nominee in 2004 completely took me out of wanting to be active in the campaign that year.
But I appreciate his service to the country and think he got completely railroaded by the Swift Boaters during the campaign. And I think he’s been a great Senator and will be a solid Secretary of State.
I think Senator Kerry is an excellent choice. He has a wealth of experience in foreign relations due to his lengthy service on that committee in the Senate, is well-known around the world, and has built personal relationships with many international leaders that will serve him and the President well once he takes over at State. I think that Susan Rice got a raw deal over the Benghazi attacks and was unfairly made out to be the scapegoat, but I also think Kerry is a much more solid pick for Secretary of State than Rice would have been.
It’s the big night and I am back to bring you my Smart-Ass Commentary for the final night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention as President Obama and Vice President Biden prepare to accept their party’s nomination for a second term and this seemingly endless campaign cycle officially kicks in to gear with the stretch run to Election Day.
Listen, I have to be very honest. I’m having a much more difficult time coming up with Smart-Ass Commentary this week. I guess part of it is that I am a Democrat and I did work for Barack Obama in 2007/2008, but to be fair, I was able to be a smart-ass during the President’s State of the Union Address earlier this year. I think the bigger problem is that last night I was reminded why the 1990s were so awesome and why Bill Clinton should still be President, and instead of joking about it, I was just really sad. I’m going to try to do a better job tonight, but I must note that my love for Joe Biden is just a little below my love for Bill Clinton, so just know that I know that I might be disappointing in this role tonight.
You know, if only there was something to help bring out the inner cynic within me. If only there was a ghost from campaigns of the past. If only there was some sort of a specter to remind me and my fellow Democrats of how far we’ve come and how low we once were. If only there was a speed bump placed in between the utter awesomeness of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden in order to keep the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte from exploding due to the fact that Clinton and Biden are the coolest fucking Democrats alive. If only we could be interrupted by the political personification of a vacuum…
…YES! Now, THIS is something I can be a Smart-Ass about. Let’s kick the night off with the only man who was less popular than George W. Bush in 2004 — Senator John Forbes Kerry of Massachusetts!
•It’s nice to see that Senator Kerry could take time off from being on the $20 bill to speak to us.
•If he salutes and says he’s “reporting for duty” like he did at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I’m voting for Mitt Romney.
•Hey, fellow Democrats, remember when we nominated John Kerry to be President? Man, that sucked.
•Let’s be straight here — John Kerry and Mitt Romney are pretty much interchangeable.
•What a weird speech. It’s like Kerry started up from the middle of the speech.
•This reminds me of 2004 when everything was really shitty and I looked at my ballot and said, “Well, I can’t vote for Bush, so…I guess it’s Kerry.”
•Oh…another memory…remember when he picked John Edwards as Vice President? That guy turned out to be a star.
•I have absolutely no interest in anything that John Kerry is saying and, as his speech goes on, my body is beginning to shut down in order to protect itself.
•John Kerry had everything backwards — your human form is not supposed to look like a Mount Rushmore sculpture.
•In case you don’t understand, I’m insinuating that John Kerry is a fucking rock-headed bore.
•I do like the fact that Kerry’s talking about Osama bin Laden’s death. As I’ve mentioned, if I were President Obama, I’d just have a photo of bin Laden’s body on the stage at every campaign stop.
•Kerry says that Romney/Ryan are the most inexperienced foreign policy two-some to run in decades. Or, since that goofy Kerry/Edwards ticket.
•Is John Kerry criticizing somebody for being a flip-flopper? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle “John Kerry”?
•Just think, if John Kerry had his way, this speech would be capping off his second term as President and he’d probably be nominating husband-of-the-year John Edwards as POTUS.
•”Let me say something else. Let me say something else.” — YOU HAVE THE MICROPHONE AND THE STAGE, STONEHENGE FACE, GO AHEAD AND TALK.
•Jesus, I can’t believe I voted for this man to be President of the United States.
•John Kerry just spoke for twelve-and-a-half minutes without saying a goddamn thing. •That might be #2 on my list of “Biggest Wastes of My Life”. #1 is the entire year of 2004. Congratulations, Senator Kerry, you finally won something!
I feel like we need to start a new post in order to cleanse ourselves after that reminder of the political abyss that John Kerry and John Edwards dragged us down into in 2004. The good news: Joe Biden is next!
Well, there have only been three Catholic nominees: Al Smith in 1928, JFK in 1960, and John Kerry in 2004. It’s tough to get elected if you can’t get nominated.
Why haven’t more Catholics been nominated? The United States had a strong anti-Catholic attitude in the 18th, 19th, and early-20th Centuries. Many Americans distrusted Catholics because they felt that Catholics were loyal first to the Church and the Pope, and then to their country. Even when JFK was running for President, there was a real fear that the Catholic belief in Papal infallibility would lead Kennedy to take marching orders from the Vatican.
Even with the anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant tendencies of the 19th Century, it is odd that we’ve had so few Catholic nominees and only one Catholic President. Since JFK’s the only Catholic President, that means of the 38 Presidents who have been elected to terms in the White House, just 2.6% have been Catholic despite the fact that 22% of Americans are Catholic.
An even stranger fact: although the first Catholic President wasn’t elected until 1960, the first Catholic Vice President wasn’t elected until 2008 as Joe Biden is the first Catholic elected to the Vice Presidency.
Thanks for the comment and for passing along the photo.
FYI: Other Presidents who were members of Skull & Bones at Yale include William Howard Taft (whose father was one of the founders of the secret society) and George W. Bush. Also, the 2004 Presidential election was contested between two Bonesmen, Bush 43 and John Kerry.