in a December 2002 interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, Mr. Kerry managed to work Vietnam into an answer about the death penalty. Robert Sam Anson, a Kerry friend who first met him during that same antiwar protest at which Mr. Kerry burst onto the national scene in 1971, concludes that Mr. Kerry is suffering from a desire to “explain away, deny, revise, trim or flat-out lie about all past events, beliefs and statements that got you the Democratic nomination in the first place. It happened to another friend of mine in 1972. His name was George McGovern. . . . See what happens when you ignore what Mother said about fibbing? No one’s saying that Mr. Kerry’s cooked. But McGovern parallels give him a toasted look he didn’t get skiing in Sun Valley.”
Liberals know they are stuck with Mr. Kerry, but that’s not preventing them from worrying about his tendency to appear to take both sides of an issue. The irony is that Mr. Kerry has wanted the White House so badly, and for so long, that he has become almost a caricature of an opportunistic, programmed candidate. The resulting image turns off many voters who sense that not much is motivating him beyond blind ambition. For example, many voters may not feel comfortable with Mr. Bush’s religious impulses and motivations, but they highlight the image he conveys of a sincere, committed leader.
It is traditional for party activists to grumble about their prospective nominee between the time he wraps up the primaries and when he is actually nominated. But the doubts about Mr. Kerry go beyond campaign kvetching. At times, they seem to verge on quiet panic.