William Saletan at Slate has been turning out excellent commentary about the Democratic presidential contenders. Here, he describes “Howard Dean’s fatal echo chamber.” Saletan shows how Dean’s campaign is as much about his campaign as it is about anything else. How perfect, then, that the campaign’s defining moment, the point when it went entirely off the rails, occurred as Dean talked to his campaign about his campaign, while America listened. Dean has explained that he was just trying to mirror and affirm the enthusiasm of his supporters who were in that room in Iowa. But, Saletan retorts, “that’s the problem. Dean wasn’t talking to the country. He was talking to his movement.” A classic case of creating a monster and then being devoured by it.
Here Saletan turns to the subject of John Kerry, and finds that he too is existing inside a bubble, albeit of a different nature. Saletan considers Kerry to be an inferior campaigner “who is being propped up as a candidate” by those who campaign well (Ted Kennedy, Max Cleland, Jeanne Shaheen, etc.). Although I suspect that Saletan is overstating his case, his indictment is hardly without merit:
“Physically, Kerry’s repertoire is painfully limited. He thrusts his index finger at the audience in an overhead arc again and again, as though launching a projectile. He seems to be trying not to animate his thoughts but to expel them. Above the neck, nothing but his mouth moves. If you showed anyone a video of Kerry with his lips blacked out, they’d never know he was speaking. On television, it often seems as though Kerry is looking at you but not seeing you. In person, you realize he is looking at you but not seeing you. His words are even more stilted, particularly when he ruins a good line by adding prepositional phrases
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