Senator Kerry’s Problem: The Likability Gap

by | Apr 1, 2004

If Kerry goes down in the fall, trace the blame to . . . Butchy Cataldo. Kerry’s critics point to his shifting stands on NAFTA, the war in Iraq, the No Child Left Behind Act and the Patriot Act. Kerry detractors expect the public to catch on when Kerry — a fiscal liberal — attacks […]
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

If Kerry goes down in the fall, trace the blame to . . . Butchy Cataldo.

Kerry’s critics point to his shifting stands on NAFTA, the war in Iraq, the No Child Left Behind Act and the Patriot Act. Kerry detractors expect the public to catch on when Kerry — a fiscal liberal — attacks Bush for “fiscal irresponsibility.”

But, actually Kerry has a deeper problem — his lack of likability and the Butchy Cataldo Factor.

Butchy Cataldo?

Well, Sen. Kerry doesn’t know, either. Precisely the problem, according to a window-to-the-soul story in the New Republic.

The people who know Kerry best consider Kerry aloof, imperious and condescending. Even worse, Kerry can’t seem to retain their names. At a 1996 Massachusetts political affair, a Democratic Massachusetts State legislator said to his friends, “Watch this.”

He walked up to Kerry and said, “Hi, Senator — Representative Butchy Cataldo.” At this, Kerry smiled, slapped his back and exclaimed, “Butchy, so good to see you again!” One problem — the guy, the state rep — was not Butchy Cataldo. In fact, Butchy Cataldo ran and lost to this Kerry-greeting legislator whose name is Bill Reinstein, a man bearing no resemblance to the tall, dark-haired Cataldo.

Call this a likability gap — a problem for Kerry.

Presidential candidate George W. Bush, in 2000, unaware of an open mike looming nearby, whispered to his running mate, Dick Cheney, and said, “There’s Adam Clymer, a major league a–hole from the New York Times.” Liberal columnist Maureen Dowd took Bush to task for his profanity, reminding Bush that he now, in fact, plays in the “major leagues.” But Sen. Kerry, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine — not during a perceived, private, off-the-record conversation — said that he voted for the Iraq war resolution without realizing that Bush would “‘F’ it up.” Only Sen. Kerry didn’t really say, “F.” Major leagues, Senator.


At a campaign stop in Chicago before an AFL-CIO leadership group, a supporter urged Kerry to fight hard. Kerry, unaware that his microphone could pick up his conversation, said this about the Bush administration: “We’re going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I’ve ever seen. It’s scary.” The Kerry campaign insisted that the senator referred only to his “Republican critics,” not the Bush administration or the president himself. (Believe that one when Osama bin Laden converts to Judaism.) Republicans equal: crooks-liars-warmongers-environmental-rapists and protectors-of-friends-in-high-places.


On the eve of the first anniversary of the war in Iraq with the Democratic nomination cinched, Kerry jetted to Idaho to go skiing. As Kerry snowboarded down a hill, a Secret Service agent inadvertently found himself in the senator’s path. Kerry took a header. When reporters later asked Kerry about his fall, he snapped, “I don’t fall down.” Kerry blamed this tumble on his “son-of-a-b-tch” Secret Service agent. Son-of-a-b-tch Secret Service agent? The agent complained about Kerry’s treatment and remark.

(Maybe the agent feels miffed since his job description requires him to take a bullet, if necessary, for Sen. Kerry. A little gratitude might be appreciated.) A spokesperson for the Secret Service said, “Obviously, the complications and burden of being monitored 24 hours a day is not just a simple inconvenience. But Sen. Kerry should understand agents are working for his safety and well-being.” (According to the Drudge Report, reporters observed Kerry falling at least six times.)


Kerry faults Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, accusing the president of “unilateralism” based on “arrogance.” For, as president and commander-in-chief, Kerry expects to be able to bring to the table all parties interested in forging multilateral approaches to worldwide issues. In other words, Kerry expects to use his diplomatic flair and non-arrogant personality to convince the French, Germans and Russians — all of whom did business with Saddam Hussein and lost money and influence after his fall. Does Kerry expect the governments of the Middle East to come to the table and agree on encouraging the spread of democracy while it threatens to destroy the leaderships’ power? Presumably, Kerry expects to use his warm, persuasive personality to cobble together a coalition that the war-mongering, arrogant President Bush could only dream about.


Kerry reminds me of a story I once read about the San Francisco Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds. Mired in a batting slump, Bonds sat in the locker room and complained about his uncharacteristic struggle to get his offense going. I can’t put my finger on the problem, said Barry aloud. I’m struggling. Can’t buy a hit. Bonds then looked up and noticed a chronically poor-hitting teammate nearby. Bonds turned to him and said something like — you must feel like this all the time.

So, how could the often tone-deaf Kerry work on his likability? He could drop the approach — sincere or contrived — that Bush equals Satan. Or maybe he should ask Butchy Cataldo.

This editorial is made available through Creator's Syndicate. Best-selling author, radio and TV talk show host, Larry Elder has a take-no-prisoners style, using such old-fashioned things as evidence and logic. His books include: The 10 Things You Can’t Say in America, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America, and What’s Race Got to Do with It? Why it’s Time to Stop the Stupidest Argument in America,.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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