Washington Prowler

A Mighty Wind

Kerry hits the air currents, high above the struggling middle class. Plus: Newspeak in New Mexico. Also: A New Jersey comeback?

By 8.16.04

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NOSE IN THE AIR
John Kerry doesn't believe he's an elitist. In fact, he thinks he's a pretty regular guy. And he's gone out of his way to prove it. He hunts deer by stalking them on his belly, in what many "regular guy" hunters think is one of the oddest methods they have ever heard of (most hunters either use tree stands or remain immobile, or move stealthily through the hunting grounds). "His approach is definitely something most hunters I know would never do," says a hunter hobbyist in Idaho. "Maybe that's what they do in Massachusetts."

And of course, Kerry does other "regular guy" stuff like pheasant shooting, speeding around in a $200,000 cigarette boat, or on a $2,500 racing bike, or a $10,000 motorcycle, or wind or kite surfing. That was what Kerry planned to do on Saturday in Oregon on the Columbia River Gorge. But low winds and a vacation schedule in Idaho threw those plans off. But not to worry. Kerry intends to fly back to Oregon on Monday for his windsurfing expedition.

The cost? Kerry told reporters on the plane that any shlub would pay the $250 air fare to travel from one state to another to windsurf. Never mind that Kerry's trip will probably run around $50,000, not counting the costs to the American taxpayer for security and preparations by the U.S. Forest Service. Kerry seemed to realize what he was telling reporters, because he quickly added, "Look, the guys who do this [i.e., windsurf or hunt pheasant] are local guys, like plumbers, construction workers."

Aides aboard the plane immediately sensed a gaffe coming and eased in around Kerry as if to remind him that he might be stepping into touchy territory. Although no cameras were running, print reporters were taking notes from the on-the-record conversation.

"With this kind of stuff, we're in a no win situation," says a Kerry staffer. "Every candidate, especially a Democrat, feels the need to pass the 'guy' test. We have him throw a football around, or play softball. The hitch with our guy is that he likes to do stuff that most blue collar guys just don't do. He really thinks windsurfing is a regular Joe kind of thing. He thinks pheasant hunting is a regular joe kind of thing. Cheney pheasant hunts with Supreme Court justices who are considering a case involving him -- is that what 'normal' people do?"

According to another Kerry staffer, advisers sought to tweak Kerry's schedule so that he wouldn't be able to go back to Oregon. But Kerry insisted, saying that if he only gets to do one or two fun things in the coming months, this is one he wants to do.

ANCHORS IN THE TANK
Any evidence to the lengths the mainstream media will go to help Democrats was on exhibition in Albuquerque last week. There, at the Border Governors' conference, three local TV news readers made speeches in which they touted Gov. Bill Richardson's leadership and vision for the state. In order, Monica Armenta, Nelson Martinez, and Cynthia Izaguirre, all local news anchors, spoke about Richardson's career as governor.

"Gov. Richardson has done more for New Mexico in two legislative sessions than any previous governor accomplished in decades," Armenta told the crowd while introducing Richardson. "He cut personal income taxes and capital gains taxes nearly in half, and led New Mexico to one of the most dramatic economic turnarounds in U.S. history."

Never mind that the tax cuts were an idea hatched by Republicans in the legislature. Or that increased federal funding budgeted by the Bush Administration helped with the economic turnaround.

According to someone present for the speeches, who works for another border state governor, the other two newspeople gave similar remarks about Richardson. "It was almost like a cult," says the gubernatorial aide. More than you know. Turns out all three speeches were written by Richardson's staff and read verbatim by the news anchors.

To be fair, they weren't paid for the remarks.

SIGN OF GOP LIFE
In New Jersey, the state Republican Party has already begun organizing grassroots protests against Gov. Jim McGreevey's decision not to immediately step down from office in the wake of his apparent graft and abuse-of-office scandal. The protests are expected to begin today in Trenton. To that end, the party has also had some initial discussions with both Bret Schundler and Forbes editor Steve Forbes about their interest in running for the office. Schundler, who lost to McGreevey in 2001, is said to have been more receptive.

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