One of the more accurate and fair criticisms of John Kerry was spoken yesterday on MSNBC's "Countdown": "He's a sixty second guy in a thirty second world."
The discussion was, of course, about Kerry's sense of the nuances of public policy and the feeling that the public "doesn't do nuance." The result is that Kerry is likely to speak in longer sentences that contain multiple clauses separated by "buts" and "howevers". Quoted out of context, with the "buts" removed, the loose clauses can sound un-informed and foolish, rather than serving to explain the complexities of the world. The smarter, 60-second guy end up looking like an idiot in the 30-second world.
Yesterday's example came out of Kerry's longer discussion of our nation's challenges and our current fixation on terrorism as the only issue that matters. The out-of-context quote was, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance."
The President's campaign, of course, pounced on that. Terrorism as a nuisance? Outlandish! Out of touch! We gotta crush 'em! Go on the offensive; kill 'em where ever they may be!
Except that Bush himself has said that the War on Terror is actually unwinnable. That it's the reality of the 21st century that we will always have to be on guard, vigilant against potential attacks. I think that's probably correct. And, as Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Poppy Bush said, the United States can break the back of terrorism "so that it is a horrible nuisance, and not a paralyzing influence."
I believe that's what Kerry what getting at. Yes, we cannot declare victory against terrorism and think we'll be safe. There will be inconveniences - nuisances, if you will - such as airport screenings and the like, but we can get to a place where they don't need to be the focus of our lives. That's the kind of optimistic message that Presidential candidates are supposed to give.
But, in a thirty second world, it doesn't always come across that way. With the polls once again tied up, Kerry gets one more ninety minute opportunity to make his case. See you in Arizona tomorrow night.