The Boston Tea Ceremony

Kerry's gambit: If you can't say anything nice

JohnKerry.com

For months now--since the Bush-bashing extravaganza in Iowa revealed the depth of popular animus toward the president, to be precise--the cable news savants have tended to fill the dead spots in their broadcasts with dutifully grave references to "this deeply divided country." For once they're right, even if they are no more illuminating on this subject than any other. So it did not seem inappropriate (unearned, yes; inapplicable, no) when Kerry and Bob Shrum dragooned Lincoln into the convention. He was there in Kerry's acceptance speech, and more eloquently in Teresa Kerry's address two nights earlier. It was a calculated effort to bestow upon Kerry the virtues of the picture-book Lincoln, a figure of enormous gravitas and responsibility who arose at a critical hour. The irony is that these times more closely resemble Lincoln's than anyone dares to say, except that the fissures have less to do with race and region now than with class and the naked exercise of power. It goes without saying that Kerry is no Lincoln. He is in fact a lot less than any nation with pretenses to democracy deserves at a time like this. But the more salient fact is that he's not George Bush. So let him trade on Lincoln if he can pull it off. He's got the stovepipe head for it. And if focus-group testing says that he'd benefit from growing chin whiskers for the duration of the campaign, he should do that too.

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