Someone once suggested that a good indicator of character is when those who know you best respect you most.
Of course it works the other way, too.
Al Gore is still trying to assess blame for his nail-biting loss to George W. Bush a dozen years ago, when the latter edged him by five Electoral College votes.
What Gore never seems willing to acknowledge is that if his friends and neighbors back in Tennessee, with its 11 electoral votes, had supported him, he’d have occupied the White House.
Instead, those who knew him the best gave him the boot.
Now John Kerry, who also was KO’d by Bush, returns to center stage in the American political theater, this time cast in the role of a would-be statesman, a globe-trotting emissary of the USA, wrapped in the trappings of secretary of state.
It’s a highfalutin gig and Kerry certainly looks the part with his angular features and perfected accent; indeed, in the eyes of the world beyond Massachusetts he could surely pass as a figure of towering substance.
But here we know him. Here we have an institutional memory of what an empty suit is: impeccably tailored, but empty nonetheless.
We remember him trying to be witty on Don Imus’ show, suggesting Bill Weld “takes more vacations than people on welfare.”
We remember his putdown of the Iraqi army, declaring, “It’s in such bad shape now, even the Italians could kick their butts.”
We remember him urging students at Pasadena City College to embrace their education, telling them, “Make the most of it. Study hard. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
That must have gone over big with our soldiers who volunteered to serve.
Kerry got his start in public life by telling of the “atrocities” committed by American troops in Vietnam. Now he calls them all his brothers.
This is who he is.
When he ran against Bush in 2004 his wife, Teresa, said of Laura Bush, “I don’t know that she’s ever had a real job,” apparently unimpressed that Mrs. Bush had been a teacher and a librarian.
When you live a life of privilege, it’s easy to lose touch with reality.
It’s even easy to think no one will raise an eyebrow when you’re caught trying to duck $500,000 in taxes on your $7 million yacht.
Most Americans don’t have these memories, making it easy for them to cling to an image that’s been carefully crafted.
It’s harder to embrace it here, however