Politics & Policy

The Nomination, Explained

Making sense of the Kerry candidacy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the September 13, 2004, issue of National Review (the Kerry issue!).

“Is there any way,” we were once asked by a studio executive after he had read our latest script, “that you could show the main character doing something incredibly heroic and totally saving the day in a simple one-page scene we can slap on the top?”

We shook our heads.

“C’mon, guys,” the exec said, “a simple one-pager.

Boom, he does something heroic, everybody loves the guy, boom, back into the story.”

We explained again that this was really impossible. It would seem fake, tacked on, and in the end wouldn’t convince the audience that this guy was heroic in the least. And besides, this was a romantic comedy. It really wouldn’t fit with the general tone.

The executive was insistent. “I need to know why I’m supposed to love this guy!” he cried. “I’m not asking for much, here. Make it a flashback or something. You know, somewhere in the first act the guy’s walking around, suddenly he gets one of those–what do you call it–episodes, or whatever. He’s reliving when he ran into the burning orphanage or whatever–you guys will come up with something so much better–and when he snaps out of it, we’re all like, we love this guy. Love him. And after that, who cares what happens?”

I’m not sure where that executive is these days–he didn’t last long at the studio–but from the way things are going, I suspect he’s pretty high up in John Kerry’s campaign.

Watching Kerry move around the country, pumping the air with awkward jabs, trying to connect to people by occasionally droppin’ his g’s, it’s impossible not to imagine the minutes of a meeting of the Democratic party’s brain trust:

. . . Mr. McAuliffe reiterated the essence of the fall campaign: a simple one-pager, boom, we let everyone know he did something heroic, boom, they all love the guy, boom, he’s elected. Messrs. Ickes and Rattner concurred. Mr. Devine added that by slapping a simple one-pager at the top of the first act, everything else that follows will be of little importance. All present agreed, and congratulated themselves on finding a candidate with war experience to head the fall ticket. The meeting was adjourned. Respectfully submitted, John Podesta, Secretary.

Let’s assume, for the moment, that some portion of John Kerry’s Vietnam exploits actually unfolded the way he says they did. No, let’s be more generous: Let us stipulate that all of it happened just the way he describes. Whatever you say about the man after he returned from Vietnam–that he was a craven anti-war protester, an indifferent Massachusetts state electee, a nonentity senator–he went to Vietnam at a time when a lot of people his age didn’t, and didn’t have to. I missed being of draft age by roughly 20 years, but I’m pretty sure my response to receiving a draft notice would have been the same irrespective of my birth year: tears, a tantrum, and probably soiled under-things.

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