John Kerry announced yesterday that he’s not running for president in 2008.As a from-the-beginning Kerry supporter in 2004, and as someone who’s been doing some writing work for him more recently, I think it was the right decision, painful as it was for a guy who clearly wishes he could re-do the last presidential election and get it right (not to mention a guy who was told he had won early on Election Night, based on what appeared to be clear evidence from unusually flawed exit polls). JK is especially haunted by the Swift Boat smears, which he views not only as a key turning point in the campaign, but as a dangerous precedent for blatant character assassination working at the highest levels of American politics. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like (for Al Gore, as well as for John Kerry) to wake up every day thinking how the course of world and national events might be very different had a handful of votes gone the other way in 2000 and 2004. It doesn’t help that under our winner-take-all system, that handful of votes (in the case of Al Gore, a couple of votes on the Supreme Court) meant the difference between being Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World, and having, well, no real power at all.Anyone who’s spent any time around John Kerry knows he is a tireless, endlessly energetic man. He will remain very active in the Senate and in Democratic politics. And even if he never gets to enter a room to the strains of “Hail to the Chief,” he can now say what he thinks and get a hearing for the content of his words, not for the political motives others are so quick to ascribe.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.