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Live From The Kerry Chili Feed



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John Kerry has made a practice of ladling out chili at events around New Hampshire. The firefighters, who have endorsed Kerry, make the chili, and Kerry dons a white apron to dish it out to potential voters. Today, he is at a senior citizens’ center in Claremont, New Hampshire. The crowd is medium-sized – not overflowing by any means, but not embarrassing either. After feeding everyone with Teresa at his side (she told me she likes chili, so long as it is not too “oily”), Kerry gives a stump speech. He lets his wife start things off, and she turns in a typically strange performance. She starts by saying what a great man her late husband was, and exhorts the crowd: “The woman has a right to have opinions without being called opinionated.” Okay. Kerry himself takes a cheap shot at Al Gore, saying “if there should be anyone who has respect for having all the votes counted, it’s Al Gore,” as though it’s an undemocratic act to endorse someone while it still matters. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard issue presentation, although reporters who have seen Kerry a lot say it is better than he usually he, a little tighter and sharper. He takes an implicit shot at Dean at the beginning by saying the country can’t afford an inexperienced commander-in-chief at a time like this, and he explicitly takes shots at Dean over taxes, criticizing the former Vermont governor for wanting to repeal Bush’s middle-class tax cut. He is fairly impassioned and gets off some pretty good anti-Bush zingers. But it’s still somehow underwhelming. For whatever reason, Kerry just doesn’t have “it.” He says a woman in the chili line told him that she shook John Kennedy’s hand before he became President, and according to Kerry, “she said to me, ‘you are next.’” That has certainly been Kerry’s expectation for a long time, but so far, he’s a long way from living up to it.



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