|In the 2004 campaign, by contrast, three odd moments captured the attention of values voters. All three made Kerry seem like an out-of-sync and out-of-touch candidate. Each of these three snapshots underscored a man who seemed to live apart from most of the rest of the country and especially from many values voters.|
The first snapshot was when Kerry visited a famous cheesesteak restaurant in Philadelphia. Part of the buzz in the air during the campaign was that Kerry was a little stuffy, and so his campaign wanted to put him in situations to show him as more of an everyman. The cheesesteak locale, in theory, should have been the perfect opportunity to mix with the average Joe and Joesephine, to order a sandwich, sit down, and have a Coke. But when Kerry materialized in the line, asking for Swiss cheese on his cheesesteak, it was like watching the curtain come down. Swiss cheese on his cheesesteak sandwich, in Philly? It was, as they say in Hollywood, "a moment."
The second moment was in the summer of 2004, when many Americans were vacationing in national parks, at a local lake, at Disney World, or at some other amusement park or campground. This is where President Clinton sometimes got it right: He chose to vacation in the national parks because he knew it was reflective of the average American experience, at least in the main. But not Kerry. During an exhausting otherwise crazy-busy time on the campaign trail, he decided to take a little time off but not to go to a park or a lake or a campground but rather for an afternoon of windsurfing—back and forth, hither and yon—providing an image for the ages. Again, the wrong note was hit.
The third moment, and perhaps the most damaging, came when John Kerry gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004. There are a few actually painful moments during almost any acceptance speech in the whole of contemporary presidential politics, but Kerry provided one. Even now I wince when I think of it. Much of the buzz dominating the campaign was that Kerry, upon returning to America after Vietnam, was somewhat cavalier about his service. The contrast between that era of his life and his present desire to become commander in chief of the most powerful military in the history of the world was a little breathtaking. The patriotic undertow of values voters was keenly attenuated on this particular issue. So when Kerry stepped up to the podium to deliver his speech, put his fingers to his eyebrows with a quick-snap salute, and said, "John Kerry reporting for duty," values voters did not know what to think. My own dad, a veteran, turned to me and said, "Did he really say what we think he just said?" This seemed to capture cynicism.
From: The Man in the Middle: An Inside Account of Faith and Politics in the George W. Bush Era — By Timothy S. Goeglein
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