Thursday, May 20, 2004

A hopeful sign?

Kerry has done something that Gore never did in 2000: met with Ralph Nader. Initial reports are that the results have been positive:

Mr. Kerry did not ask him to abandon the race, and Mr. Nader showed no signs of bowing out. But Mr. Kerry's wooing did seem to be having the desired effect already. In an interview immediately after what participants called a very friendly one-hour meeting at Mr. Kerry's headquarters, Mr. Nader called Mr. Kerry "very presidential," fondly recalled his antiwar leadership in the 1970's, praised his skills as a politician and quite favorably compared Mr. Kerry to Vice President Al Gore.

Hmm, maybe Nader really just needed someone to stroke his ego.

It doesn't sound like Nader will be dropping out, but he apparently said that he would be focusing his fire in this election on Bush and not on Kerry.

Of course, Nader went back on his promise in 2000 not to campaign in battleground states. But maybe that's because Gore never stroked Nader the way Kerry has.

...Norm Schreiber provides an interesting post-analysis of the meeting and what it tells us about Nader and Kerry: namely that Nader is an ego-maniac who can be appeased in large part by simply stroking that ego and that Kerry, unlike Gore, is more comfortable doing just that. Why? Because Kerry may just be more self-confident than Gore:

This brings us to a third point: I think the deeper difference between Kerry and Gore is that, on some level, Kerry is much more self-confident, or at least much less plagued with self-doubt, than Gore ever was. Whereas Gore's formative political experience was the crushing defeat of his father, then a Tennessee senator, in his 1970 reelection campaign, it just never occurs to Kerry that he's going to lose (even though he actually came up short in his first run for office). It didn't occur to him when his back was against the wall in his 1996 race against Bill Weld. It didn't occur to him when he was getting throttled by Howard Dean this winter. And it certainly didn't occur to him when the Bush campaign unleashed several weeks worth of negative ads this spring. As I've suggested before, this can be an exceedingly grating quality--if for no other reason than it betrays a general obliviousness to how close he's come to actually losing, and how lucky he's been not to. (It can be very satisfying when a person with this quality actually does lose.) But I also happen to think this imperviousness to self-doubt is what separates successful politicians--and athletes and battlefield commanders and explorers (anyone ever see the documentary "Shackleton"?)--from, well, hyper-self-conscious bloggers.

There is something to be said for the political appeal of someone who refuses to acknowledge that they might lose. I suspect that it is that quality that accounts for why George W. Bush has remained as "popular" as he has in spite of his obvious failures. Schreiber makes the point that Kerry's history demonstrates that he has a similar pig-headedness.

At least in Kerry's case, it is a confidence that is backed up with a modicum of skill.


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