John Kerry gets real

Something is happening with John Kerry. The state’s senior senator seems to be finding his real voice. He is coming across as authentic, not usually a word traditionally associated with him. Maybe losing the Presidency in 2004 has freed him to speak out without seeming to weigh the political consequences of each and every word and action.

Take today’s op ed piece in the Washington Post.  He blasts (2012) presidential candidate Mitt Romney for opposing the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. Kerry notes that, “Even in these polarized times, anyone seeking the presidency should know that the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing.” He cites strong Republican support from Richard Lugar, Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry chairs. He also notes Republican Henry Kissinger’s support of this new START treaty.

And then, with more than a little tongue in cheek, Kerry writes “I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president. But the world’s most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you’re in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation’s security is more important than scoring cheap political points.”

Kerry has forcefully defended the President’s recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head Medicare and Medicaid, calling out the Republicans’ hypocrisy and even standing up to his Finance Committee Chairman,  Max Baucus (D-MT).
E.J. Dionne also notes that Kerry has changed. Dionne wrote, “One of the strangest lead sentences I have ever encountered appeared in Politico last week.It read: “John Kerry has been the most aggressive advocate of climate change legislation in the Senate this year — so aggressive that it’s rubbed some of his colleagues the wrong way.” So there you have it: Once criticized for being too aloof and patrician, Kerry is now being assailed for daring to have passion for the cause of reducing the amount of carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere.

“Note that none of this is about the legislative merits. Kerry is being criticized for caring too much about an issue and not thinking enough about an election — for being insufficiently opportunistic and unprincipled.”

You gotta love it.       

I even am charmed by Kerry’s sending out a message to his email list (as reported in the Boston Globe to encourage their support of Kevin Youkilis for the all-star team. Once I would have found it totally contrived to be political. Now I just get a sense that Kerry is enjoying himself and comfortable enough in his skin to be playful. Besides, Youk certainly is worthy of that slot. And it does mean that Kerry isn’t afraid to alienate supporters of NY Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher.

Full disclosure: a lifetime ago, John Kerry was a panelist on Five on Five, a weekly public affairs discussion program I did for WCVB-TV,Channel 5. But, even after three years of working together, the connection, while cordial, has never been close. I often felt his every move was calculated to advance himself politically. Now I get the sense the John Kerry has hit his stride, and the result, (dare I say it?), is likable! You go, John.

– Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below

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