The Corner

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New Hampshire Surprise


For the record, led only in part by the Zogby poll, I smell something turbulent and upsetting in the New Hampshire results. Watching the candidates under pressure this week–catching more than I have before on C-Span and elsewhere–I have noted the fire, mischief, and spirit in the eyes of Howard Dean. Demagogue that he can be, careless of mind and tongue, he shows a lively spirit, a slightly ironic fun-laden turn of mind, and a reckless abandon that is somehow classic to the American story. Is it Huck Finn? Is it the American flirtation with the outlaw and the bad boy? There is something alive there.

By contrast, I find John Kerry very impressive, but only at times, and especially when he is telling war stories-about anybody else but himself. His strongest card is his experience of war, the aura of heroism past; and second is his almost-presidential sonorous seriousness….But then there is also something dullingly boring about him, grinding, distant, self-serving. Does one really want to listen to him for four years? He has a way of sounding impressively presidential, but then he goes ponderous, and then the drone turns on, and then…

A full week of Kerry just might have bored New Hampshire to death, dampened the romance, made heart and eyes restless….

The devil in the heart may conclude that, what the h—, a night’s date with Howard sure would be fun, no matter the electability thing, let that take care of itself. If being serious means having to listen to Kerry over and over again, being serious can wait.

This is just a feeling, not very rational. Some polls say that Kerry is far, far ahead. So what do I know? … Only, I won’t be surprised by a surprise. Maybe a lot of people feel that way.