Sen. John Forbes Kerry of Massachusetts
has forged ahead of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates
after a come-from-behind victory in the Iowa caucuses, and a
resounding victory in last evenings New Hampshire Primaries. Well
established as a war hero and longtime senator, Kerry’s
pedigree is tailor-made for the office of president. There remain,
however, a number of unpleasant details that may spoil
Kerry’s bid for the office.

Mira Levitan

Kerry’s resumé is impressive. His military service
includes five years in the Navy and seven in the Naval Reserves.
After serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, he testified to the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the spokesman for Vietnam
Veterans Against the War. Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate in
1984 and has served for 18 years on the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee.

Kerry has formidable ideas on a number of issues, including the
environment and health care. He has a proposal to help employers
cover their employees’ catastrophic health care expenses and
has pledged to prevent cuts to Medicare. Kerry remains the only
candidate with formal plans to foster the creation of energy
alternatives, which include embarking on a crash course to
eliminate America’s dependence on the Middle East for oil in
10 years using ethanol and other alternative fuels. He has also
demonstrated a commitment to environmental preservation during his
career.

Kerry’s ideas on education reform, however, remain hardly
adequate to satisfy the needs of Americas youth. His plans to pour
$50 billion into the economy to help stop education cuts and the I
Have a Dream scholarship, to provide an additional $1,000 for
students to participate in a program that would help them prepare
for college, set the bar too low. Drastic steps are needed to
revitalize starving inner-city schools and prevent additional
tuition hikes at public universities.

Among other criticisms, Kerry is often disparaged by his
competition for failing to come down against the war in Iraq
sooner. Furthermore, despite having a long and prominent Senate
career, his legislative achievements are surprisingly few. Kerry
has the ability to deliver an inspiring speech, but then has a
tendency to allow the issue to fizzle without ever taking decisive
action.

Yet his biggest problem seems to be his own image. Regarded in
many circles as bland and uncharismatic, his campaign lacks the
electricity that will be necessary if he hopes to unseat a popular
president. His efforts to reform his image have been laughable,
especially his infamous Harley ride on “The Tonight Show with
Jay Leno.” At this point, however, he is nonetheless the man
to beat. With his victory in the New Hampshire primary, Kerry has
proven that his message can translate into success; whether or not
it has the staying power to keep Kerry a force in the coming months
remains in question.

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