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Choose to Lose

Cool John Kerry hip hops MTV’s kids. "My daughter would probably tell you I’m a freak at times."

By 4.1.04

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Even after watching John Kerry stumble through the Democratic debates last fall, I still expected him to be able to hold his own with Generation X. Alas, the would be leader of the free world proved in his recent sit-down with MTV's Gideon Yago that, as Ma the sheep once told a young pig in the film Babe, "we shouldn't hope for too much."

Even the simplest questions provoked agonized hedging by Kerry. Consider the following answer to one student's query as to whether Kerry was "cool."

"Well, if I were cool and told you I was cool, I wouldn't be cool," he replied, adjusting his horrendous pink and blue polka-dotted tie. "It's up to you and other people to judge if anything I do today is cool. My daughter would probably tell you I'm a freak at times."

Luckily, the crack team at MTV News tracked down Vanessa Kerry to clarify her father's actual level of coolness. Kerry, his daughter said, is "the guy who comes out in a full-piece wetsuit and Hawaiian shorts in the summer and thinks he's cool," which she initially blanched at. However, the odd ensemble eventually grew on her and overwhelmed any residual fashion sense.

The 26-year-old told Yago she went to work for her father's campaign because she was "pissed off" at George W. Bush and wanted to "go kick some ass." Perhaps she was the adviser who suggested he drop the F-bomb in the now infamous Rolling Stone interview a few months back.

IT ONLY GOT WORSE. Kerry confided to Yago that he was "never into heavy metal" but was "fascinated" by the "poetry," "anger," and "social energy" of rap and hip hop. As with everything else, Kerry then took the other side of the issue, leaving people with the impression that you should and should not listen to violent gangster rap.

"I think when you start talking about killing cops or something like that, it bothers me," Kerry said. "But understand, I'm still listening, because I know it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life."

Occasionally a real issue came up. Kerry defended his vote on the Iraq resolution, saying the Bush Administration had tricked him with intelligence that was "not real." After considering for a moment whether he had admitted he could be tricked by a Texas cowboy, Kerry added, "You are not duped when somebody misleads you and in effect lies to you or doesn't tell you the truth."

MTV'S "CHOOSE OR LOSE" threatens to "mobilize more than 20 million young adults aged 18 to 30 to vote in the 2004 election." Ostensibly, this is a non-partisan effort, but a glance at the groups partnering with MTV to "educate" the youth vote suggests otherwise. The Hip-Hop Team Vote, the National Council of La Raza, the Black Youth Vote, the NAACP, and Harvard University's Institute of Politics are among the chief partners listed.

"Everyday our government makes all kinds of decisions that affect me," one young man says in a recent "Choose or Lose" commercial. "They decide if my older brother goes to war. They decide how much my grandmother gets in her Social Security check. They even decide who I'm allowed to marry."

Watching the "Choose or Lose" special, I wanted to feel like the network was giving kids the short shrift. The program, with sporadic exceptions, was devoid of any sort of substance. But then none of the potential voters interviewed for the program seemed to mind.

Over and over interviewees praised Kerry's charisma (???) and damned the national press for "distorting" the truth about him. And if the film crews were able to find a single college student with a positive view of Republicans, he was left on the cutting room floor. Yago thrice praised the junior senator from Massachusetts as a "war hero."

That Kerry came off as a meandering dud in this love fest shows just how much work he's going to have to do if he wants to win over the votes of the adult voters who make up the electorate. Kerry should ask his new pal Howie Dean how reliable the MTV generation is.

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