Sunday, October 10, 2004

The New York Times > National > The Candidates: So Alike, Rivals Make It Personal

The New York Times > National > The Candidates: So Alike, Rivals Make It Personal:
"Ticking off a list of other political rivalries, another Democratic operative who has advised Mr. Kerry noted what made this one unusual. 'Johnson and Kennedy, it was class,' he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the personal nature of the subject. 'Clinton and Bush - that was class. But these guys are the same class.'"

Yet, he continued, within their class, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry filled very different, even antagonistic roles growing up. "These are guys who sat at different tables of the lunchroom," he said.

Mr. Bush was the prodigal son, Mr. Kerry the dutiful one. Mr. Bush was a prankster and a mediocre student. Mr. Kerry was earnest, idealistic, and a little lonely, a striver whose palpable ambition alienated some.

At Andover, his boarding school in Massachusetts, Mr. Bush was head cheerleader. At St. Paul's, his boarding school in New Hampshire, Mr. Kerry helped found a political club to debate current events.

Both men are of aristocratic stock. But within the elite, where subtle gradations of background take on particular force, Mr. Kerry was an insider's outsider. Unlike the Bushes, who were Protestant, the Kerrys were Catholic and they were not wealthy.

It turns out that the boy is father not only to the man, but also to the debating tactic.

Whether he is attacking over Iraq or taxes, the common thread of Mr. Bush's critique is that Mr. Kerry has failed to make the grade in the prep-school ethos, drummed into generations of boys with Rudyard Kipling's poem "If": he lacks character. He is all ambition, no core.

"I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty if you change your mind because of politics," Mr. Bush said Friday night, as he did at the first debate, on Sept. 30 in Coral Gables, Fla.

And whether the subject is Iraq or taxes, Mr. Kerry's critique also boils down to a basic accusation that has dogged Mr. Bush since he was a young man: that he lacks judgment and wisdom - in a word, maturity. "I would have used that authority wisely," Mr. Kerry said Friday night, referring to the Senate's authorization of the use of force in Iraq.

In each debate, Mr. Kerry has twisted the knife by invoking Mr. Bush's father, the 41st president, implying that the son does not measure up. Call it the Oedipus hex: Mr. Kerry's aides regard it as their most effective way of undermining Mr. Bush on the subject of Iraq.

"The president's father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra," Mr. Kerry said in Coral Gables. "And the reason he didn't is he said, he wrote in his book because there was no viable exit strategy." In the same answer, Mr. Kerry noted that he had been in combat, an experience, he did not need to mention, shared by the 41st president but not his son.

"I know what it's like to go out on one of those missions where you don't know what's around the corner," Mr. Kerry said.

A.I., When I was at Andover, I met a lot of people like Bush, and a lot of people like Kerry.
There were two mottos, “Finis Origine Pendet” – the end depends on the beginning, and, “Non Sibi” – not for yourself. The people like Bush interpreted the first motto as justification of their priviledges. The people like Kerry thought it meant preparation and work determined your destiny.

The people like Bush, tended to avoid talking about the other motto. I'm not sure they really understood it. It's not hereditary, his father was the youngest navy pilot in WWII, and carried out his last bombing mission in a airplane on fire. He knew about duty, volunteering, and showing up.
con·cept: The New York Times > National > The Candidates: So Alike, Rivals Make It Personal