Richard Reeves

To Begin With, the President Is a Fool

NEW YORK -- John Kerry is winning the presidential election -- as far as I can tell. I have already voted absentee and I voted for the Democrat. I voted for him because I have children and grandchildren, too, and I love my country too much to watch George W. Bush try to figure it out for four more years.

Biased? Of course. That's why I write this column: to share my bias. I am always amazed when I get letters, many of them, accusing me of being a "liberal" or, a lot worse, an "elitist." Yes, I am. Hello!

I also think that being president of the United States is an elite job. Don't you? What are we talking about here?

Yes, I am disappointed with the way Sen. Kerry has presented himself and his bias. But I am frightened by the thought of a Bush second term. I'll stick with my analysis of the man from Massachusetts as a rather humorless straight-A student. If you teach (and I do), Kerry is of a type, a smart guy who gets it all down, synthesizes it beautifully, and then tries to give you back what he thinks you want. The defining moment of his campaign, I thought, was his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. It was an A paper without a single original thought. I counted 15 lifts from archived presidential speeches, most of them by John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

My gripe with President Bush, who has risen above his Yale, Harvard and oil resume to become a man of the people, is that he is an incompetent man of the people. He's smart enough for an elite job, but he has lousy judgment, no sense of history and the dogmatic ways of the insecure. He is a fool, quoting Webster's first definition: "A person lacking judgment and prudence."

I find myself in absolute agreement with Kimberly Parmer, a lady from western Michigan presented in The New York Times last week as the last undecided voter, who said it was hard to make up her mind because "One is too polished; the other one, I think to be honest, I don't know how he ever got to be president."

Well, the Supreme Court picked him. Maybe they thought he was his father.

Kimberly Parmer then went on to say something both silly and profound: "If you actually look at him, and he stands next to Kerry, you kind of just feel sorry for him."

I can see that, though I tend to feel sorry for the rest of us. There are two Americas facing off against each other in this election, not rich and poor, but past and future.

A lot of Americans, mostly white males of a certain age, look to this George Bush and see themselves. This campaign, I would argue, is one of the last convulsions of angry, real American men, who fear losing the country they know (or imagine), fighting to hold back the time and tide of the new, the un-white and un-Christian, and those girlie men, too, who sooner or later will make a different America. Bush has the "Father Knows Best" vote, from men who have lost their personal power and hate what they see happening all around them. Kerry, often blowing in the wind, is "the times they are a-changin'" candidate.

Which one will prevail? I think Kerry will hold the one-vote lead I gave him. But this is a wild-card election. For the first time in a while no one is quite sure who will actually come out and vote this Tuesday. It would do wonders for the tired blood of American politics if there was a big turnout, but that could help or destroy either side. It could also shake up the Congress, which could use some shaking. The narrowly partisan and ideological meanness some Republican leaders have brought to the debate in Washington -- I'm really thinking of that other angry Texan, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- is about the worst I've ever seen.

So the last question is, "Who votes?" I already have. You should too. Perhaps you will feel driven to neutralize my vote. Good luck. I certainly hope the best man wins.

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