It seems a day does not go by that newspapers don’t report on the growing doubts outside of the campaign about the candidacy of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. But now there appears to be growing doubt inside the Kerry camp.
First, there is word that his campaign plans to spend millions in media buys in supposedly safe states such as California, New York, and Massachusetts. “This early in the campaign, that just doesn’t make sense unless there is some insecurity in his standing there,” says a Democratic political consultant who is not working for Kerry. “It’s one thing to spend a little on image or message reinforcement, but some of the dollar amounts I’ve heard being budgeted in New York and elsewhere would indicate that the campaign thinks it has to do more than that.”
The Kerry camp is currently spending about $30 million in 20 states. Those ads are intended to “introduce” Kerry to voters in states that are up for grabs. The campaign, according to sources, intends to spend another $10 million to $15 million in other states once thought to be already in the Kerry side of the electoral ledger.
Then there is growing rift between Kerry and his policy and senior strategists. On at least two occasions in the past month, reporters have asked the candidate to defend remarks made on the stump, including positions and plans on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and corporate outsourcing. In each instance, Kerry defended his position by first trying to clarify it, then by running away from it by blaming his speechwriters.
Kerry claimed that his speechwriters snuck in references to “Benedict Arnold” corporate citizens when he had insisted that they not do it. Likewise, he claimed speechwriters, against his orders, placed references into a major policy speech on the Middle East about his desire to bring serious Middle East hands to the negotiating table. He mentioned by name former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker. Then he laid out why they would be strong additions.
Never mind that it is generally assumed that Kerry reads the material he utters before he takes a podium. And never mind that it is generally assumed that most of Kerry’s utterances are at least vetted if not written by senior strategist Bob Shrum. “The staff has become a convenient excuse for him on the record with reporters, kind of like his escape hatch,” says a campaign worker in Washington, D.C. “Perhaps Senator Kerry doesn’t think it gets noticed much, but it does. A lot of us aren’t here out of loyalty to him. We’re here out of loyalty to the Democratic Party. He shouldn’t confuse the two.”
The last person Kerry should be dumping on is Shrum. The man who engineered Al Gore‘s political message in 2000 has already positioned himself as the sole message maker and monitor for the Kerry campaign, having cashiered many of the other message folks that had surrounded the candidate early in the campaign.
“I’m sure Shrum doesn’t mind taking a hit for his guy,” says the political consultant. “But it has to be driving him nuts that his guy can’t even take a position on rhetoric like the Benedict Arnold line of attack. It’s not even a policy point.”
BUTTONS FOR BARBRA
Barbra Streisand has made up so much money and is so revered in Hollywood that she can pick and choose, and pick and choose again, whatever project to which she wishes to associate her vaunted, if grandly over-rated, reputation.
So while she waits for that “perfect” project, she spends her free time blogging about the evil of Republicans in general and President George W. Bush in particular, and fundraising for Democrats.
Sure, every once in a while she’ll sing a song or act a bit on screen, but even that has the tinge of politics.
Soon, she will perform for like-minded folk interested in giving wads of cash to presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. But before she does that, she is filming her first celluloid appearance in what seems like decades: playing the mother of the Ben Stiller character in the sequel to the successful Meet the Parents film.
Streisand is joined in the film by Academy Award-winning actors Dustin Hoffman, who plays her husband, and Robert De Niro, who reprises his role as the nutty CIA operative/father-in-law.
What does politics have to do with the film? Not much except that this dream cast was almost broken up before it could perform by the 2004 presidential election. Seems Hoffman was in the habit of needling Streisand at every turn, but went too far when he distributed about 25 “Bush/Cheney 2004” buttons to the camera crew and production team on the movie set. Streisand, upon seeing the buttons, flew into a rage and stormed off the set. Apparently only the entreaties of De Niro could get her to return to filming.
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