Before the Big Dog and Biden get going, I want to return briefly to Kerry at today’s New America panel.
In short, he was outstanding. He’s incredibly effective in this type of format — far more than he ever was on the campaign trail. He moved effortlessly from complex issue to complex issue, drawing upon both personal experience and deep knowledge of the region. I was surprised how much I enjoyed listening to him. (And yes, I know he’s angling for Secretary of State, but he sure sounded like he’d be a good one).
The whole thing re-emphasized the absurdity of the surface-obsessed modern presidential campaign. Kerry — whose experience and knowledge trumped Bush’s many times over — was simply unable to navigate the requirements of the modern campaign. It was impossible for him — or any candidate — to demonstrate their knowledge in sound bites or in ways that don’t sound eggheady. But once freed from the limitations of the campaign, Kerry could really show off his knowledge.
The panel also drove home the absurdity of focusing on personalities rather than on institutional differences. The presidential race is not about individuals, but about the institutional composition of the executive branch. If Obama (or any Democrat wins), it means that the foreign policy wing of the executive branch will be filled with the smart, sane people that I heard this morning — people like Kerry, people like Anne Marie Slaughter.