Extended snark below the fold...
The Bruce Springsteen anthem, his theme song, was back -- ''No retreat, baby, no surrender" -- and people were on their feet before his speech began. Wading through the crowd as the music boomed, Senator John F. Kerry looked like a presidential candidate again: smiling, grasping for outstretched arms, and offering thumbs-up as he made his way to the stage.
Uh, don't fix what ain't broke?
But the attendance was a fraction of the mobs that the Massachusetts Democrat drew in his final campaign rallies last fall. Gone was his stump speech railing against President Bush's Iraq war policy, the sluggish economy, and the Republican agenda; even mentions of Kerry's Senate career and Vietnam War service had disappeared.
Lasting issues that resonated with ..., well ..., with Bob Shrum, I guess.
Instead, Kerry -- a veteran politician who has held office for 21 years -- took off his suit jacket and roamed a small stage in Louisiana's Old State Capitol to push a new message: Get angry at Washington.
Hey, he's like any other outsider who's been feeding at the Senatorial public trough in Washington for 21 years.
''Washington seems more and more out of touch with the difficulties the average family is facing," Kerry told the crowd of about 150 last week in Baton Rouge. ''Go out of here, take some anger and a little bit of outrage at the fact that Washington is not dealing with the real concerns of our country."
Senator Kerry then channelled the shade of Peter Finch and wowed the semi-massive "masses" with his common man vocabulary by saying, "I'm as mad as the domicile of Mephistopheles, and I'm not going to take this any more!"
Six months after his presidential bid ended in defeat, Kerry is on another cross-country campaign. This time, he is running against the political establishment.
He just woke up Tuesday morning and realized everything he thought was wrong. Imagine if he had been president now instead.
It is a striking transformation for someone who has been identified with that establishment for so long, but a change he and his aides insist is sincere.
Why would anyone suspect otherwise? Especially when we know that the stronger they insist upon it, the more true it must be.
And while Kerry has repeatedly pledged to remain relevant following his presidential campaign, the intensity of his efforts has been surprising, particularly because recent failed presidential nominees have entered reclusive periods after their campaigns ended.
Wasn't President Clinton the first to have to say, "I am too relevant"?
In essence, Kerry is trying to reignite a fire that never quite raged for his presidential bid on behalf of a domestic agenda he is pushing in Congress. He is shooting regular e-mail updates to his network of 3 million supporters. His new political action committee bought a large ad in tomorrow's USA Today that accuses Bush and GOP leaders of ignoring soaring gas prices, children without health insurance, and the lack of quality jobs with good wages.
Why, just imagine how many children without health insurance could have been provided for instead with this money? Or the money spent on Red Sox tickets, parking tickets, six SUVs, five houses, etc.
''They think it's all about them," the ad states above pictures of Bush, House majority leader Tom DeLay and Senate majority leader Bill Frist.
"When, natch, it is all about ME! When are you morons, uh, I mean, common people going to understand that?"
It may seem odd for a man who has been in the Senate for more than two decades -- and who has never been known for his common touch -- to rail against aloof politicians.
Odd? In what way?
Kerry insists that he simply wants to drum up support for his ''Kids First" bill, which would provide healthcare coverage to all children -- although Kerry acknowledges it is a long shot in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Maybe if he called it "Kids Frist" it would stand a better chance of passage. Or maybe it was a typo?
Just below the surface, though, Kerry is trying to rehabilitate his public image as an entrenched insider, in case another national campaign is in his future.
Just below the surface, where nuance festers and bides its time...
Donna Brazile, a Democratic consultant who was Vice President Al Gore's campaign manager when he ran for president in 2000, said it is a good move for Kerry to try to parlay his new profile as a former candidate for the White House into a signature issue.
When your losing, the house always suggests that you double your bets to try and make up for your losses.
He could bring more attention to an important policy issue, Brazile said, and expand the range of issues that voters identify with him.
Blah blah blah, tax cuts for the rich blah blah blah.
''He has enormous political capital with various groups and constituencies, and he's one of the most important leaders in our party," she said.
I guess we don't share a common definition for the word enormous.
''As John Kerry continues to reflect on 2004 -- and explore options for 2008 -- it's important that he understands that people didn't really know John Kerry in the last campaign."
And there's so much he'd have us know! Just as soon as he gets around to signing his SF 180 form.
But an image makeover figures to be difficult for a man who spent as much time in the public eye -- and in public office -- as Kerry has.
Not to mention someone who lacks a personality to begin with.
''He's the last politician that people are going to buy as an outsider. That dog won't hunt," said Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University.
Regional colloquialism frequently heard from the faculty at Tufts University, for those of you who are unfamiliar with such common man language.
''John Kerry ran for president, and he has a long record in politics. He just doesn't come across as an outsider."
Whoa, the endorsement of the Boston Globe might just be out of reach in 2008. Nah. Say, has Theresa stopped campaigning with John?