Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Kerry Yucks It Up

For weeks pundits and bloggers have been imploring John Kerry to take the gloves off and hit back hard against Bush and his minions from Hell. Well, as we’ve seen in the last week, he’s beginning to take that advice. But he’s also beginning to show some life on another front: he’s got the audience laughing.

Not only is the sometimes aloof senator from Massachusetts dropping an occasional laugh-line into his stump speech, his audiences are chuckling. This heartens campaign aides who think his message is extraordinary but worry that the delivery is often ordinary.

Even while speaking on the very serious topic of Iraq last week at New York University, Kerry made the audience laugh six times at President Bush’s expense. Most of the guffaws came when Kerry stated Bush administration positions in a tone that suggested they were the height of ridiculousness.

Kerry said the occupation of Iraq is riddled with problems, “yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way.” Kerry paused for affect before asking sarcastically, “How can he possibly be serious?”

Sarcasm is a change for a man whose political career has been dominated by nearly 20 years in the Senate – the country’s oldest deliberative body – with stern rules and mores for speaking that can make the people who work there unintelligible in heartland America. He has acknowledged that he has struggled not to fall into inside-the-Beltway language, and often his Capitol Hill training has won out.

But there are signs that Kerry is improving in the crucial closing weeks of the campaign. Like on Monday, when he predicted the president would continue to paint a rosy picture of the ailing economy, Kerry used an idiom likely to be heard among teenagers in a shopping mall, but not on the Senate floor.

“You’re going to hear all this talk, `Oh, we’ve turned the corner, we’re doing better, blah, blah,'” he said, running on the phrase as his Wisconsin audience erupted in laughter. “You know, blah and blah and blah.”


Kerry was cracking up his partisan crowd by telling Wisconsin voters they shouldn’t be wary of changing horses midstream when the horse is drowning. He tied the metaphor to reports that the Bush campaign insisted that podiums in Thursday’s debate be set relatively far apart to obscure Kerry’s five-inch height advantage.

“May I also suggest that we need a taller horse?” he said. “You can get through deeper waters that way.” (AP)

One of the greatest comic geniuses of all time, Mel Brooks, notes that the best way to destroy an enemy is to make fun of him. Nothing deflates a pompous ass more than finding them funny. And while Kerry will never be the opening act at the Palace – “I just flew in from the coast – and boy are my arms tired!” (rimshot) – it’s about time that he picked up on what has been stock in trade for the rest of us.