If there is a clear lesson from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination to date, it is that it’s unwise to predict a final winner until the process is finally done — but hold on.
There is someone who has the look of a formidable front-runner, namely, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and what’s needed is not just observations of his strategy and stage appeal. What’s needed is some attention to his stances on issues.
Here, then, is a quick look at a few key areas:
• Kerry voted to support the war in Iraq, but has since seemed uncomfortable with that position, saying, for instance, that he did not want President Bush to proceed without more international support. Reprehensibly, he voted against the $87 billion needed to continue troop support and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he wanted legislation less open-ended, but sometimes in politics your only choice is between "yes" and "no." His decision was "no" in staying the course.
• A Bush vulnerability is his runaway spending, but if Kerry’s rhetoric is to be believed, he would spend still more, especially in such areas as health and education. Like Bush, he speaks of cutting the budget in half. Words won’t do the deed. It takes policies of a kind that he has yet to enunciate.
• Kerry wants to keep Bush’s middle-class tax cuts intact, but he also wants to restore the taxes paid by wealthier groups. While you might be able to make demagogic hay with that stance in Democratic primaries, it is dangerous to our democracy and economically wrongheaded to go in the direction of creating a small class of citizens who foot most of the bill while others get all the breaks.
• While Kerry is critical of Bush on education, he voted for Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act to achieve educational accountability. It is reported that he has favored charter-school experiments and been critical of some teacher-union positions.
• Kerry, viewed as a strong environmentalist, favors the Kyoto protocol as a means of combating human-induced global warming. The protocol would be expensive for the United States, put us at an economic disadvantage with the European nations that would have to do less to comply, could cause a recession and would do next to nothing over the next 100 years to reduce warming.
• Kerry is for increased gun control.
• He is against use of the death penalty with the exception of terrorists.
We Americans often use shorthand to sum up someone’s politics — libertarian, conservative, moderate, liberal — and if you were to join Kerry with one of those designations, it would be "liberal."
What’s more meaningful, though, is to look at specifics, which is what the voters ought to do regarding both him and the other candidates in tomorrow’s Democratic primary and others to come.