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Kerry co-opting Clinton and Reagan

Illustration by Holly Randall
By Laura Keslar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
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Recently, a list of the schools most nostalgic about the Clinton and Reagan administrations was released in a copy of "The Best 357 Colleges," which indicated that Bard College and, not surprisingly, Texas A&M were among the top five in yearning for Clinton and Reagan, respectively.

While the UA did not appear within the top rankings, it would not be surprising to find that many students here reminisce about either Clinton or Reagan.

During this election season, John Kerry has capitalized on that nostalgia for both previous presidents by transforming into a chimera of the Gipper and Slick Willie.

Clinton created an image for himself during his election campaign - a hip, suave image.

He played the saxophone, talked about his underwear preference on MTV (he wears "mostly briefs," in case you are wondering) and made all the single women swoon over his charming good looks. And his effort worked: He was one of two two-term presidents in the last half of the century.

So it is no wonder Kerry has tried to emulate his success.

From selecting the attractive John Edwards as his running mate, to snowboarding, to appearing in Rolling Stone amongst a flurry of four-letter words, John Kerry has done his best to copy Clinton's persona and package himself as the cool, relatively young politician that Clinton was.

But with the exception of Edwards, the Kerry campaign has about as much pizzazz as the bearded Al Gore.

Laura Keslar

Kerry has even tried to mimic the previous president's sensitivity when it comes to animals, which becomes evident whenever anyone on the campaign trail mentions anything cute or fluffy.

Ever since Mr. Clinton was gifted with the chocolate lab Buddy, the two seemed inseparable - and the Clintons were saints once the world knew that Socks the cat had been rescued from an animal shelter.

It is not as though people haven't cooed over Mr. Kerry's own relationship with animals, which range from the daring hamster rescue story his daughter told at the Democratic National Convention to the picture of a young Kerry holding a cute puppy.

Not only has Kerry tried to reproduce Bill Clinton's coolness factor, but he has also marketed himself using many of Clinton's best-loved policies.

Because the threat of the Cold War had ended, President Clinton focused his public policies and campaigning on areas of more sensitivity so he could "feel your pain."

Under Clinton's direction, education and healthcare (among other social issues) took center stage, and Kerry hasn't been far behind in promising affordable healthcare.

John Kerry has even tackled the daunting task of taking the federal government out of the red and into the black. How he plans to do this while increasing government spending to fuel his programs is beyond me, but if Clinton could do it, surely Kerry can.


Well, he will not be able to if he wants to fulfill his many campaign promises. But if elected, he might further imitate Clinton by being less than faithful on most promises (as are so many politicians) and sticking with his plans to reduce the budget deficit by increasing taxes and decreasing some spending, la Clinton.

But in a world post-Sept. 11, in which national defense has become a focal point, Kerry must be more than just a Clinton look-alike.

In fact, his campaign has recognized this factor and he has been marketed as a more liberal Ronald Reagan - strong on national defense and big on social programs.

But here he fails: He cannot be "slash-the-military-budget Clinton" while simultaneously aping the Gipper's enthusiasm for defense.

In fact, John Kerry has indicated that he would like to eradicate several missile-defense and other similar weapons programs ... how very Clintonian of him.

In spite of his efforts to be all things to all people by wrapping himself in a strong national defense and a sensitive public policy, Kerry has been only mildly successful at mimicking Clinton and even worse at replicating Reagan.

So for those of us who yearn for the return of our political icons, John Kerry, though he tries to be the universal candidate, cannot fulfill those desires.

After all, he is just another imitation of the real thing.

Laura Keslar is a pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at

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