International Papers

Bush and the Nine Dwarves

John Kerry’s official announcement Monday that he is running for the presidency provided the British and Canadian press with an opportunity to poke fun at the hapless candidates. A commentator in the London Times observed that a recent survey showed that “[d]espite nearly eight months of campaigning, two thirds of voters were unable to name a single one of the nine presidential contenders,” a “bracing reminder,” he claimed, “of how far the [Democratic] party’s eventual candidate has to go to capture sufficient public imagination for a successful bid for the White House.” An op-ed in Canada’s Globe and Mail looked forward to the November 2004 contest: “It will be President George W. Bush next fall against … fill in the blank. Blank is a good way to describe not only the eventual Democratic nominee, but the entire field of would-be Democratic candidates.” The Independent agreed that the options were uninspiring: “[The Democrats] have a colourless, conventional, north-easterly bunch of contenders. The party may have to settle on a single candidate early or look further afield if it is to have the slightest chance of beating even a wounded George Bush.”

The Financial Times was unimpressed by Kerry’s campaign kickoff: “As a piece of opportunistic political theatre it was unedifying.” Kerry’s problem, the paper said, was shared by rivals John Edwards, Richard Gephardt, and Joseph Lieberman: They supported policies—especially over Iraq—that have left the United States isolated “when they seemed popular. They may quibble over the diplomacy but they voted to authorise war last October. Only [Howard] Dean has the credibility to attack a policy that now looks less appealing.” The Times warned that Kerry’s “repeated references to his Vietnam past carries risks. The monotony may tarnish a unique selling point.”

Elsewhere, the Times declared, “It is startling what silly things a seasoned politician will do to become President of the United States.” Among the “tacky” signs of “increasing desperation” identified by the author: the Great Gephardt Iowa Pie Challenge, “a call to Iowans to find him the ‘tastiest, flakiest, fruitiest, creamiest most scrumptious slice of pie in Iowa’ “; a Lieberman team contest that offers New Hampshire voters who spot one of his campaign vehicles a chance to score tickets to a Red Sox game; and Kerry raffling off the opportunity to spend a day on the campaign trail with him. President Bush, in contrast, has no rivals for the Republican nomination: “He regularly turns up at a campaign event, delivers the same speech with the same jokes, and walks away with another $4 million. No gimmicks needed.”