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John Kerry: The New Al Gore

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This column was written by Daniel McKivergan.
It's not easy for Senator John Kerry these days. Having failed to capture the White House and facing the likely prospect of getting steamrolled by Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nod, Kerry has been doing all he can to stay on the national radar screen. His latest tact, on display at a town hall meeting in Massachusetts on June 2 and eventually reported on by the national media, has been to suggest that he lost the presidential election because too many voters were, basically, ignoramuses and that the major media should now seek his guidance on which issues are worthy of extensive coverage.

According to the New Bedford Standard Times, Kerry launched the usual partisan attack on Bush administration domestic policies. But he didn't stop there. He also drew on one of the themes put forth in the paperback edition of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s book, Crimes Against Nature, recently excerpted in Vanity Fair. In it and in speeches and interviews, RFK, Jr. has claimed that lots of Bush voters actually agreed with Democrats on many issues but "due to an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media" they entered the polling booth deeply misinformed, including on the topic of Iraq. Of course, many would argue the opposite: that the national media stacked the deck heavily against Bush; but that's a debate for another day.

To make his point, Kerry cited exit poll numbers that he claimed showed just how clueless Bush voters were on the facts of Iraq though he himself frequently spouted misinformation on Iraq to voters while campaigning. He also scolded Americans for not paying sufficient attention to the war today and for failing to recognize the administration's "bait-and-switch" on Iraq.

He then wandered into cuckoo clock territory by bringing up the latest effort of administration critics to prove the president -- and presumably the British prime minister -- lied about Iraq. Kerry told the audience he was puzzled as to why Americans and the major news media aren't more interested in the "Downing Street Memo," the leaked minutes from a July 23, 2002 cabinet meeting of Prime Minister Blair published in the Sunday Times of London shortly before British voters reelected him last month. A few days before Kerry's town hall comments, Hollywood activist Tim Robbins wondered the same thing on Chris Matthews's MSNBC show. Without the prompting of the host, he brought up the memo, saying, "there should be more discussion about the Downing Street memo and less about Newsweek."

The document in question was drafted by a Blair policy aide, who summarized his interpretation of the discussion of the July 23 meeting -- a meeting which took place in the same month during which there were more incidents of coalition jets being fired on in the no-fly zone and another Iraqi rejection of U.N. efforts to renew inspections after a five-year absence. One particular reference recapped what the chief of British intelligence told the group regarding his impressions from his latest talks with Washington officials: "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." (For an excellent review of the entire memo, see James Robbins' article Causing a Commotion.)