Cooking His Own Goose

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

October 24, 2004

In yet another attempt to prove to George W. Bush that he is man enough to run this country, John Kerry made an animal sacrifice to the political gods in a cornfield in eastern Ohio last week.

Four dead geese are not too high a price to pay for a few rural, blue-collar votes in a swing state. As long as Mr. Kerry doesn't slip and ask Teresa to purée the carcasses into foie gras.

Tromping about in a camouflage costume and toting a 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun that shrieked "I am not a merlot-loving, brie-eating, chatelaine-marrying dilettante," the Democratic nominee emerged from his shooting spree with three fellow hunters proclaiming, "Everybody got one, everybody got one," showing off a hand stained with goose blood.

One of my first presidential trips was going to Texas one weekend to cover Ronald Reagan hunting with James Baker at Mr. Baker's ranch. President Reagan came back proudly empty-handed. He didn't want to shoot any small animals. He had his faults, but he never overcompensated on macho posturing, thinking that blowing away a flock of birds in borrowed camouflage for the cameras or bombing a weakened dictator and then sashaying in Top Gun gear for the cameras would give him more brass.

Just as W. needed to shock and awe to prove he was no wimp, Mr. Kerry needed to shoot and eat. As Jodi Wilgoren wrote in The Times, a Kerry aide assured reporters that "two of the birds would soon be sent back to Mr. Kerry for consumption."

The senator is desperately trying to prove his regular-guydom. He's using more contractions and dropping G's, T's and N's, as Ms. Wilgoren points out, and he drank Budweiser with his male aides while watching a Red Sox game, when you know he was dying for an imported beer.

Democrats have been panting to get a gun into their nominee's hands for a month now. Apparently three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star in Vietnam combat are not enough - even for Mr. Kerry, who seems to agree with the Vietnam-evading president and vice president that he has to prove he would be as tough on national security as they have been.

That wouldn't seem to be that hard, given that Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney were the guys who were in charge when the C.I.A. warnings came true and Bin Laden struck in the U.S.; given that they let Osama and his top deputies slip away at Tora Bora; given that they had a war in Iraq over imaginary weapons; and given that they still don't even admit that their belligerence and bullying have spawned a large insurgency movement in Iraq and caused a recruitment swell for Islamic terrorism.

W. and Dick Cheney like being seen as a huge beast throwing its weight around. That was the whole point of whacking Saddam. The pair immediately began their Beavis-and-Butthead snickering and sneering at the Democrat's camouflage costume.

The vice president is right that Mr. Kerry can't compete in the arena of power hunting. When Mr. Kerry goes, only the birds are in danger. When Mr. Cheney and his pal Antonin Scalia go duck hunting together, the Constitution is in danger.

Even as they mocked the Democrat for trying to be macho with a wildlife tableau, the Republicans were trying to be macho with a wildlife tableau.

The Bush-Cheney campaign began showing a new ad on Friday aimed at scaring up more votes. Meant to be a chilling cross between "The Wolfen" and "The Blair Witch Project," the ad plays more like a cross between a Sierra Club promotion and "Lassie."

The wolves stalking around the forest are not meant to evoke scary Paul Wolfowitz and the neocons stalking around the Pentagon, planning more mischief. They are supposed to be the Al Qaeda terrorists stalking America, even though they look too cuddly for the narration that ominously warns: "In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence operation by six billion dollars, cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."

One Kerry aide joked to a reporter that the Democrats should do a response ad where Mr. Kerry comes into the forest in a camouflage jacket and shoots the wolves.

Why not? A few more dead animals might do the trick for him.