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Definition by mirror

This Washington Post piece by Dan Balz is called “Bush Scores Points By Defining Kerry.” It’s a worthwhile discussion of how Kerry’s popularity has eroded somewhat in the face of the Bush campaign’s “aggressive plan to define the senator before he could define himself.” I must say, though, that I have a problem with the notion that Bush has won a race to “define” Kerry, as though the Senator were a blank slate, the meaning of whose candidacy was ever realistically up for grabs. Kerry has been defining himself through his liberal, dovish public record for a period of 35 years. His Senate voting record, among the most leftist of his peers, encompasses nearly 20 years. His failure to take consistent foreign policy positions, though more recent, is incontestable. And anyone who thinks that a new and different Kerry has emerged this political season does not need the Bush campaign to dispel that notion — it is enough to have heard Kerry’s own pronouncements during his year-long campaign for the Democratic nomination. So if the Post is correct that, following the Bush ads, “more voters see Kerry as ‘too liberal’ and a solid majority says he is someone who has changed his positions on issues for political reasons,” it is more accurate to say that the Bush campaign has “exposed” Kerry than to say that it has defined him.

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