The Kerry interview on today's "Meet the Press" is exactly what you would expect. There are many of the familiar lines from the campaign, including the repeated assertion that he had a better way to handle things in Iraq. Now, success in Iraq depends entirely on the "four-point plan," which he (he says) articulated precisely and clearly during the campaign and which still applies.
Tim Russert shows Kerry that devastating clip that will haunt him forever: he voted for funding the Iraq War before he voted against it. Kerry once again responds that he picked a bad way to express himself about the war, but Bush picked a bad way to conduct the war.
Kerry is trying to define a moderate Democratic position that is distinct enough from the Bush Adminstration and somewhat distant from the strong anti-war element of the party but that also avoids alienating the anti-war element. That's a difficult task, and there's no reason at all to think that Kerry will be any good at it. Kerry is displaying his most annoying tic: insisting that he's being clear and precise when he's fuzzing over everything. And I'm sympathetic to the problem of trying to explain and defend a moderate position! I'm a moderate!
Russert sadistically shows Kerry a photograph of himself sitting just behind Bush, who is giving his Inaugural Address. Russert asks what was going through his head at the time. Kerry says "respect for the process." What is he supposed to say? We're left to imagine what he was really thinking. It's got to be something like: I can't believe that little #@!* beat me!
Russert asks Kerry if the Osama bin Laden tape, released shortly before the election, caused him to lose. Kerry gives a classic Kerry answer where it seems as though he's saying yes and no at the same time. He'd been rising in the polls before the tape came out and after that he "flat-lined," but it was really 9/11 that determined the election. He essentially says that, given 9/11, Bush was destined to win, and he (Kerry) ought to be given credit for coming as close as he did. Of course, Kerry only got the nomination because he presented himself as the one candidate who could actually win (as opposed to express clear ideas about the party's values) -- which stuck Democrats with the double pain of listening to his uninspiring equivocating and losing.
But he's proud, he's proud of what we did, Tim. Kerry presents the facts about the number of voters in Ohio whose different vote would have swung the election his way. He uses the image of half the number of people at an Ohio State football game, and Russert comes back, saying half the people at a high school football game in New Hampshire would have swung the election back to Bush. Kerry can't really respond other that to note lamely that that is the system. (You know, the one he was contemplating with respect during Bush's Inauguration Speech.) Kerry tries to crowbar in the argument that Bush doesn't have a mandate other than a "mandate for unity," and Russert retaliates with Kerry's vote against Condoleezza Rice. His answer is something along the lines of: I was for her at the same time I was against her.
Remember when we had to listen to Kerry's tiresome explanations every day? What's the point of listening to him now? It's oh so dreary, and on a day when we should be feeling very happy about the Iraqi elections. I guess "Meet the Press" is a nice haven for anyone who doesn't want to have to see positive Bush-related news. Come on over here and wallow in despair. Gaze upon the haggard, hang-dog face that represents your dashed hopes!
But the great Tim Russert is making things hard to enjoy. Getting all Russert-y now, Russert shows Kerry the clip of Swift Boat Vet Steve Gardner in the Christmas in Cambodia -- "categorically a lie" -- commercial and then reads quotes from a lot of newspaper pieces. I lose count of the number of times Russert says the word "seared." The big question: "Were you in Cambodia, Christmas eve, 1968?" Kerry: "We were right on the border, Tim." And he's explained this already, "any number of times." Haven't you learned yet that if you think there's some question that Kerry hasn't already answered, it's always your problem -- you just haven't been listening properly?
Why hasn't he signed the form 180 and let people have access to his military records? You shouldn't be the "filter" for this information, Russert says. Kerry repeats that he released the information that he has received from the government, and Russert has to repeat the question: will you sign form 180? Kerry says a quick yes and goes on to a lot of other equivocation. So, yes! All right, let's see if we get it.
The unspent $14 million in the Kerry campaign fund: why didn't he spend it? The multipart answer: he did spend a lot of money, it was too hard to spend money, a reserve was needed, and -- most emphatically -- lack of spending was not the reason he lost. "A few more television ads in Ohio wouldn't have turned over those 70,000 voters?" Russert asks. Kerry: "There was no request for them." It's the staff's fault, as usual.
Kerry denounced Dean during the primaries, so can he support Dean for the Democratic Party chairmanship? Kerry says yes, and gives a long explanation that pushes me over the line and beyond my willingness to attempt to summarize blather. (Which I have a fair amount of -- have you noticed?)
After the break, the subject turns to the "moral values" angle of post-election analysis. Kerry speaks well about the need to include pro-life people in the Democratic Party. He clearly states, however, that he would vote against any Supreme Court nominee who is opposed to Roe v. Wade. He says he doesn't think that Bush wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned. He states that he would vote against Justice Scalia if he were nominated for Chief Justices, and says that he was wrong years ago when he voted to confirm Scalia.
Social security is next. He's opposed to Bush's plan and thinks Bush is "hyping a phony crisis." All that's needed to solve the problem is to roll back Bush's tax cuts. There is a tedious assertion about how "rolling back" the tax cuts ought not to be called "raising taxes."
Given a chance to end on a high note, Kerry says he learned a lot running for President and how great the people of the United States are.
Ah! It's over! What a relief!
UPDATE: I've added a link to the transcript and put in the "not" that was missing from that sentence about "rolling back" tax cuts.