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April 1, 2004

A President You Could Vote For

John Kerry had some surprising comments on MTV, and to be honest, somebody who would say such things — to that audience, especially — goes up a few notches in my estimation:

I think that serious politics is best left to those who have the temperament and personality for the real world of governance. You can't sum up the farm bill in a five-stanza song. You can trot out Woody Guthrie to get the audience to believe you're for the guy who's got 40 acres and a mountain of debt, but Woody isn't much use when you have to balance the needs of the domestic sugar-beet industry against foreign competition.

It's not an insult to say that musicians don't belong in politics, any more than it's an insult to say that Supreme Court judges shouldn't tour with Phish, or golf pros shouldn't start writing articles for medical journals.

And...

I never saw a single episode of "Friends," because what happens on "Friends" just doesn’t come up on the floor of the Senate that often, and I have to keep up to speed on the requirements of my job. But as far as I know it's about a bunch of good-looking kids who have amusing problems. That's fine, but America has some serious problems, and it's my job to address those. ...

Popular music, the stuff you have here on MTV, won't be so important to you as you get older. You'll still love it, and the old songs will still sound great, but when you're young it occupies an oversized place in your life. Sometimes I think people of my generation were more upset by the breakup of the Beatles than the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Well, okay, okay, you probably already know that these quotations are just Lileks dreaming about what a politician could say on MTV. In reality, Kerry spoke about as you'd expect Kerry to speak. For example, Jeff Miller notes Kerry's response to the question, "I heard you were really inspired by John F. Kennedy. Who do you think is an inspirational figure for my generation?" Spoketh JF Kerry:

Boy, that's a good question. You know, it's just a different time right now. As I talk to my daughters, who are recent graduates of college and out there, they tell me that a lot of young people just don't have that kind of feeling right now. Certainly not about politics. And I regret that. That's one of the things that I would like to change. I mean, Howard Dean and I just did a rally here at George Washington University, talking to young people about making politics relevant again. And a lot of what I would like to achieve in this race comes out of the inspiration of my own experience when a candidate for president, and then a president, challenged us to become involved and change the system. You know, young people have so much more power than they tend to think to be able to affect politics. And if people will organize and get involved and go out and knock on doors and hand out leaflets and make a change, then they can determine the future. And that's what I think is at stake in this race. I hope I can inspire young people to care about the system in this race, certainly in terms of politics. I know there are a lot of musicians and a lot of artists and there are a lot of writers and other people who inspire young people, but I'd like to see somebody in political life be able to connect and make these choices that we need to make in Washington real in terms of people's lives.

Understandably, given that ponderous paragraph, Jeff's conclusion that Kerry's had been one of those flub answers to avoid admitting that he had no clue who would be relevant to the young lady asking the question is only half correct. There was an answer of the sort that politicians are rightly inclined to step around. Did you catch it?

I hope I can inspire young people to care about the system in this race, certainly in terms of politics.

Note that a few sentences before he expressed this hope, Kerry suggested that Kennedy — the context of the question — had done the same for his generation. So. Kerry's answer to the question about who could inspire the younger generation? "Me."

Don't let this guy anywhere near the Oval Office. Please.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 1, 2004 7:54 PM
Politics