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John Kerry had already been hurt by Rathergate even before the Lockhart-CBS connection occurred. The scandal has indeed hurt him – badly – and not just, as some talking heads suggested, by denying him even the possibility of traction with the electorate at a moment when his campaign is foundering.

The forged docs have hurt Rather and CBS because he and it ought to have seen through them. They shouldn’t have been fooled because the docs were so obviously inauthentic.

Which brings us to John Kerry, the candidate who is defined by his inauthenticity.

Kerry is one of the most liberal members of the United States Senate – the most liberal member if you believe the National Journal – but Kerry has tried to portray himself as a centrist.

At heart an opponent of the war in Iraq – openly in 1991, after the fact in 2003/4 – Kerry has tried repeatedly to protest his resolve in the war on terror and to avoid condemning his own vote to authorize the war while condemning the war that has actually been waged.

Kerry says he is against same-sex marriage, and that he would have voted for the Missouri initiative amending that state’s constitution to ban the change, but he was one of the few senators to vote against the federal Defense Of Marriage Act.

Kerry has said he believes life begins at conception, but he is an ardent supporter even of late-term abortions, also called partial-birth abortions.

He portrays himself as a regular guy /sports fan, but the undeniable humor in FootballFansforTruth flows from the absurdity of the claim.

The memories that were “seared, seared” into him of his Christmas Eve in Cambodia in 1968 were made up, and many suspect his tale of a magic hat from a CIA man he ferried into Cambodia, and of running guns into Cambodia, are also fables. Whether or not you believe the Swift Boat Vets’ entire indictment, they have been targeting Kerry’s truthfulness from the first day of their campaign.

The aroma of opportunism is all around Kerry’s anti-war activism, and all around his maneuvering these days when he discusses his statements from that era 30 years ago. Did he or did he not believe the things he said then? Has he or has he not released his entire military record? Will he or will he not attack the president’s national guard service? Does he or does he not keep company with Michael Moore and the fever swamp Democrats?

Is there anything real about this guy at all? Or is it just John Kerry 5.0?

A great national scandal involving forgery and blasting the folks who got fooled has had effect of alerting us all to the embarrassment of getting duped just as John Kerry’s “reporting for duty” convention was sinking into the collective consciousness as a giant head fake to get our eyes off his 20 years in the United States Senate. What was he hiding, anyway?

And then he drops from site of reporters asking questions, just like Bill Burkett, who is now speaking through a lawyer, but never on camera in response to questions. It has been 51 days since the cameras rolled with John Kerry taking a series of questions from a Russert or a Wallace or a Hume? Dr. Phil? You can throw in a Dr. Phil, but you can’t substitute Dr. Phil for Brokaw or Jennings or one of the heavies. Not, at least, if you are a real presidential candidate – an authentic candidate.

Authenticity is the precursor to trust, a necessary though certainly not sufficient condition to trust. Clinton was authentically an amusing rogue, a gifted political grifter; Carter a Sunday-school teacher; and Reagan an actor with an optimism as great as the West he came to represent. The first Bush was authentically a public servant of the old East, and his son a Texan tough guy with faith and charm. But Kerry … he’s a lot of things, and none of them appear to be authentic. Like Gore. Like the Rathergate docs. Manufactured, not created.

The blogosphere is hell on the inauthentic. It has been hell on the docs, on Christmas in Cambodia, on Jayson Blair and his mentors and on Trent Lott’s defenses of his remarks in honor of Strom. It would have been hell on Gore and the cost of his dog’s arthritis medicine, his trip to Texas with the FEMA director, etc. It is going to be hell on every answer Kerry gives to reporters next week and every phrase he uses in each debate. Kerry’s got to be looking at the burnt-out husk of Dan Rather’s reputation and wondering how the campaign gets through the next 30 days.

What he may not know is that it is already over. You can’t run for president as someone you are not, at least not anymore, and especially not in the wake of a forgery scandal. Daschle’s got the same problem in South Dakota, and Boxer and Murray may have the same problem in their states as well. You can’t pretend to be a centrist, or smart, when you are the spokesman for a party in the left ditch, or when you win, place or show in the dumb contest in the Washingtonian.

Rather’s pratfall didn’t create this new environment. He just added lighting. Very bright lighting, and John Kerry isn’t playing well under the glare.

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