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John Kerry's post-non-presidency


Since so much of the attention goes to the hostage-takers lately, I've been trying to highlight the quiet work of the folks who've been steadily, quietly improving the bill throughout the process, and who haven't done the screaming that would assure them recognition. My earlier post on prudential purchasing, and Gail Collins's column today, reminds me to add John Kerry to that roll call. Here's Collins:

I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He’s been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama’s early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.

The same goes for health care. The prudential purchasing, which may be the best thing about the exchanges, came from his shop. So too did the excise tax on high-value health insurance. Kerry has been very quiet on the politics of all this -- much more so than Rockefeller and Schumer and others -- but he's been very important to the policy. And while I'm on the subject of Collins's column, I liked this conclusion:

Let’s look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).

Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as “character” candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likeability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren’t all that popular in prep school, either.

I'd like a moratorium on efforts to explain presidential candidates through their high school experiences, but as a general point, I think Collins is onto something.

Photo credit: By Alex Wong/Getty Images

By Ezra Klein  |  December 17, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
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What about the 3rd failed-national-candidate model pioneered by John Edwards? You know, the one where you try to sabotage your party and betray your dying wife for a fling with a groupie, then shrug off your deep commitment to fighting poverty once you've realized you're a national joke?

Posted by: erh1103 | December 17, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"I'd like a moratorium on efforts to explain presidential candidates through their high school experiences"

Sounds like *someone* didn't have a very good time in high school (and proceeded to seek solace among the internets).

Posted by: eerac | December 17, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Which camp does Howard Dean fall into?

Posted by: jlk7e | December 17, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I am from hard to find species - Kerry supporter. There are some quirky personal reasons for that (I actively started to follow American Leaders when he was battling Swift Boating...); but let us keep aside those. Here are specific things Kerry has done lately:

1. Excise tax on insurers for Cadillac plans
2. Prudential purchasing in exchanges

B. Environmental Regulations
1. Kerry Boxer bill
2. Setting expectations right in Copenhagen yesterday (that he does not do legislation in a foreign country for USA Congress...)

C. AfPak Contributions
1. Making Karzai to accept second round
2. Kerry-Lugar law for Pakistan funding (by far the single most consequential contribution from Sen. Kerry)

I just wish he keeps on giving and hope all the recent publicity and praise does not take him on the wrong path. He just has to be 'so low key' to keep delivering.

As such our Senate is broken so any Senator who contributes positively; that is badly needed. I see your another post of 'missing Ted'. No one can replace Ted, but Kerry at least try to emulate the golden path of service laid by that old warrior. Warrior - doing your job relentlessly, that is the creed which fits Kerry best and he better continue that.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 17, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

John Kerry would have been a hell of a good President. So it doesn't surprise me that he's moved on and quietly become a very good Senator.

The wingnut noise machine painted a very misleading picture of Kerry in 2004. Then the mainstream media cheerfully reprinted it under their own imprimaturs, and too many people - even too many people who've read Somerby and know how this sort of noise works - bought into that picture. But it WAS a misleading picture.

Posted by: rt42 | December 18, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

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