Years before Sen. John Kerry fell under the spell of national Democratic "strategists," he believed that a Democrat's best hope for winning the White House was to run as an insurgent. To overcome built-in Republican advantages, Kerry felt a Democrat had to show principle and challenge the status quo.
But Kerry had that thinking beat out of him. In the late 1980s, he got pummeled by the mainstream news media and the political establishment for exposing cocaine trafficking by Nicaraguan contra rebels and for embarrassing their Reagan-Bush patrons. Respectable Washington didn't want to believe the ugly reality.
Mocked by the big newspapers and branded a "randy conspiracy buff" by Newsweek, Kerry was persuaded by party insiders that his political future required him to trim his sails and dump his rebelliousness overboard. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Kerry's Contra-Cocaine Chapter."]
So, by the time he ran for president in 2004, Kerry was silent about his heroic investigations of the 1980s. He presented himself instead as a careful politician who spoke in a fog of nuance. Whenever he seemed poised to crush the bumbling George W. Bush, Kerry retreated into poll-tested platitudes.
As it turned out - as the younger Kerry would have understood - the greatest risk was to play it safe.
Now, to hear Kerry tell it, he has relearned the lesson that he once knew. He has vowed to fight with clarity and passion. But the tragedy of John Kerry - like "The Natural" in Bernard Malamud's novel (not the movie) - may be that opportunity missed is often a chance lost for good.
So here's what the "strategists" did to Feingold:
While Feingold's proposal could be viewed as a moderate step - expressing congressional disapproval short of impeachment - Washington Post reporter Charles Babington searched out unnamed "Democratic strategists" to make Feingold's plan look both craven and crazy.
"Some party strategists," Babington wrote, "worried that voters will see the move as overreaching partisanship." Then, going in the opposite direction, Babington quoted the strategists worrying that the real problem with Feingold's initiative was that challenging Bush on abrogating the Fourth Amendment wasn't the smartest partisan move."
Several Democratic strategists said (illegal) surveillance issues are not Bush's most vulnerable spot, and they fear the party may appear extremist," Babington wrote.
EXTREMIST???? You've got to be kidding me. And the Republican's are not? Oh please. Could we just take a look at who's winning these days? Playing it safe makes us losers over and over again. God, I'm getting tired of backing a losing team.