The most recent polls produced by CNN-Gallup and ABC-Washington Post had the pundits scratching their heads. How could President Bush be opening his biggest lead on Sen. John Kerry when his primetime press conference had been – in their eyes – “a dismal failure,” and the issues in Iraq had raged on?

We voters were told Bush had “bumbled his way across our TV screens.” We were told Iraq had become “a bogged down disaster.” Michael Moore even wrote on his website that the contractors doing the rebuilding in Iraq were “mercenaries,” and the terrorist insurgents killing our kids weren’t terrorists, but “The REVOLUTION,” “that their numbers were growing” and that “they would win.”

So what gives?

My observation is simple: As the American people are getting to know John Kerry, they just don’t like him. And as Kerry – who Peggy Noonan referred to this week “a sad, hollow tree” – runs headlong through his campaign schedule, I believe he hits on all the wrong buttons. The American people aren’t stupid, yet we feel John Kerry treats us as though we are.

Some examples …

Early on in his campaign, John Kerry granted an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. Using the “F” word with all the grace and dignity the American listener can stomach, Kerry repeatedly cursed the very policy of holding Iraq accountable – that he had voted for. This flip-floppery continues to this day as is so well captured by Bush campaign commercials.

But the nation was patient and generous. Perhaps after we got to see his “softer side,” we would be able to like him personally.

Then he went on his ski vacation and so memorably cursed out the Secret Service agent who was there to take a bullet on his behalf. The reason? Simply because the senator ran into him and got a bit of snow on himself. OK … scratch personal likeability off the list.

This was followed by his invention of a group of international leaders who looked him in the imaginary eye and told him in his imaginary ear that he “must win this thing.” An easily provable false claim that he continues to repeat even as recently as this past Sunday.

But add to that list the fact he told members of a labor union (when he believed his microphone to be off) that this administration was the biggest bunch of crooks and liars he’d ever seen.

Sen. Kerry – the “sad, hollow tree” of honesty – also questioned President Bush’s well documented time in the National Guard and demanded the 30-year-old service records of the president be made public. However, when he was asked if his service records would be madepublic, first he claimed they already were, and now his campaign says that only portions of them can be released.

But this last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press” might have taken the cake for why people don’t care for John Kerry. He’s arrogant.

Tim Russert pulled out a video clip of John Kerry admitting he had committed atrocities in Vietnam. He claimed in the clip he had burned villages to the ground, conducted search and destroy missions, and using his 50-caliber machine gun killed innocents in the process.

It astounds me that someone who can even admit doing such things can make a serious run for president. Though Kerry says in the clip that “thousands of other Vietnam veterans did the same exact things.” (Thousands committed atrocities?)

The answer to Tim Russert’s question should have given insight into a serious and reflective and compassionate man. Russert asked, “YOU … committed atrocities?”

Kerry’s response was a knee-slapping joke, “Where did all of that dark hair go, Tim, that’s the important question for me … (laughter trails off).” With behavior like this, it’s easy to understand why people might see Kerry as more arrogant than President Bush.

And according to this week’s ABC News-Washington Post poll, they do.

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