Several bloggers here in Los Angeles had a chance to hear a speech by Sen. John Kerry (D-He Really Won) today, and then sit down with him for a private chat afterward.
Folks, I take back everything I ever said about him post 11/04. He completely understands what happened, how he was defeated, and how his legitimacy is still being questioned by the Swift Boat Bastards from hell. In fact, in direct response to my pointed comment about his current response to them, he looked me right in the eye and outlined exactly what his counterattacks had been, many of which I had forgotten. And then, rather than getting defensive, he simply said "I should have fought back harder." Word.
Pam & I were Kerry supporters in '04. Frankly, we would have supported Charlie the Chimp (don't ask) against GWBush, so that's no real praise. Kerry clearly was intelligent, but on the campaign trail, even at open town hall meetings, any question got a predictable answer: the question about Iraq gets answer 14B. But today was off the record, and as a result, unscripted.
Kerry did a better job of answering the blogger questions than he did the questions from the audience after his speech. He was impassioned, engaged, and not afraid of criticism. When asked why other Dem pols seem to be cowardly, he said that other members of the Dem caucus still didn't get it. And when asked about the ennui that seems to affect the Democratic party, his response was a challenge: we need to win elections. Then we can do work, with a majority in at least one house.
We both came away feeling that this guy really gets it, that he has the 'rock star' vibe that only Al Gore & the Clintons have today. He said he felt like he was in the unique position, having been to the 'mountain top', to make some waves, both in Washington DC and in the Democratic Party, by helping articulate a message as well as helping to support other national and local Democratic races.
Had I heard those words on TV, I might have said "Whatever." Hearing them to my face, I believed. This is a really smart guy, who has a real grip on international politics and issues, and who doesn't seem to rely on flacks and flunkys for data. He is in command of facts, figures, and statistics. Not because he reads them, but because he cares about them.
Dante Atkins has a really thorough piece up, as do Pamela Leavey and the Hollywood Liberal, who were also at the meeting today.
08 is a long way away, and Kerry says he's focused on 11/06, as we all should be. But Pam and I talked about how America would be today if he had actually won in '04. And clearly we would have been much better off.
And he plays guitar.
Update: added pic from The Democratic Daily (Thanks, Pamela.)