But Kerry had that thinking beat out of him. In the late 1980s, he got pummeled by the mainstream news media and the political establishment for exposing cocaine trafficking by Nicaraguan contra rebels and for embarrassing their Reagan-Bush patrons. Respectable Washington didnt want to believe the ugly reality.
Mocked by the big newspapers and branded a randy conspiracy buff by Newsweek, Kerry was persuaded by party insiders that his political future required him to trim his sails and dump his rebelliousness overboard. [See Consortiumnews.coms Kerrys Contra-Cocaine Chapter.]
So, by the time he ran for president in 2004, Kerry was silent about his heroic investigations of the 1980s. He presented himself instead as a careful politician who spoke in a fog of nuance. Whenever he seemed poised to crush the bumbling George W. Bush, Kerry retreated into poll-tested platitudes.
Now, to hear Kerry tell it, he has relearned the lesson that he once knew. He has vowed to fight with clarity and passion. But the tragedy of John Kerry like The Natural in Bernard Malamuds novel (not the movie) may be that opportunity missed is often a chance lost for good.
In life, you often dont get a second act. Except, of course, for Democratic strategists, who always seem to get a second act, even a third and a fourth, no matter how often they lose. Strategist Bob Shrum, for instance, has been a chronic loser in presidential races but is still sought out by Democratic hopefuls, including John Kerry in 2004.
That was the case when Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin, proposed censuring Bush for authorizing warrantless wiretaps of Americans outside the legal channels of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and thus in violation of the Fourth Amendments ban on searches and seizures without the government getting a courts approval.
While Feingolds proposal could be viewed as a moderate step expressing congressional disapproval short of impeachment Washington Post reporter Charles Babington searched out unnamed Democratic strategists to make Feingolds plan look both craven and crazy.
Some party strategists, Babington wrote, worried that voters will see the move as overreaching partisanship. Then, going in the opposite direction, Babington quoted the strategists worrying that the real problem with Feingolds initiative was that challenging Bush on abrogating the Fourth Amendment wasnt the smartest partisan move.
Several Democratic strategists said (illegal) surveillance issues are not Bushs most vulnerable spot, and they fear the party may appear extremist, Babington wrote.
The Clinton aide added, While some in the Democratic base want retribution for what happened to Clinton, I think there is a larger reluctance to try to remove people from office.
But the Clinton aides assessment of motivation that Democrats want retribution for the impeachment drive against Clinton seems to have little evidentiary support. The grassroots pressure for holding Bush accountable has sprung from outrage over his preemptive war in Iraq, his lies and his violations of the Constitution.