John Kerry spent the day in Massachusetts yesterday, talking to constituents on a variety of issues. In the morning he met a group of North Shore business and political leaders at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. Kerry told the group, “There is an absence of leadership that I have never seen. “(There is a) complete and total abdication of responsibility of serious engagement in issues that affect every single one of you here. It is driven by ideology, partisanship.”
In an hour long talk ranging on issues from vocational education to the war in Iraq, Kerry “sounded every bit like a man still running for president.” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, asked the question on everyone’s mind: Will you run again in 2008?
“The short answer is, I’m thinking very seriously about it,” Kerry said. “I know what it takes. I know how to do it, I know the mistakes we made, and we did make some mistakes.”
That — and the rest of Kerry’s speech — sounded a lot like a “yes” to many in attendance.
“Whether or not he’s made the decision yet, he certainly sounds like a candidate,” state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, said after the breakfast. “My unofficial estimation is he sounded like somebody who’s running.”
Kerry spent a considerable amount of time wooing the business crowd, which often even in liberal Massachusetts, leans Republican.
…The audience at yesterday’s breakfast was not Kerry’s core group of supporters, and he spent much of his talk trying to appeal to the business-oriented crowd. He said he wants to reduce the deficit, open up trade with China and support research in coal, oil and nuclear power, as well as alternative energy sources.
Kerry didn’t hold back his punches when it came to the subject of Bush’s tax cuts, which have been popular with many in the business community.
“There’s nothing conservative about what they’re doing,” Kerry said. “Warren Buffet, the second-richest man in America, said that he thought the tax cut was absurd and that he, as an investment adviser, said, ‘Don’t do the tax cut. Put the money into these other kinds of efforts, because I’ll make more money in an economy that is moving.'”
Robert Lutts, president of Cabot Money Management, said he was impressed by Kerry’s candor.
“He knew the audience he was talking to, but he’s a pretty straight shooter,” Lutts said. “I think he calls them the way he sees them, more or less.”
The Salem News provided a synopisis of other quotes from Kerry’s meeting with members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce:
Running for president in 2008: “I’m thinking very seriously about it. … I know what it takes. I know how to do it. I know the mistakes we made.”
Iraq: “I think we have to get out of Iraq as fast as we can. … Our guys are in the middle of a civil war. Who’s kidding who?”
Immigration: “You have to have comprehensive reform. … To just do enforcement is to invite a continued problem. … We’re going to have to have some people come in to do the jobs nobody wants to do.”
The role of government: “‘It’s not the government’s money, it’s your money’ … (is) a very difficult proposition to defend against. The problem is, it’s also your pothole and somebody’s got to fill it. It’s your school and somebody’s got to manage it. It’s your bridge and somebody’s got to fix it.”
Partisanship: “I have never seen the United States Senate and House as partisan as they are today. … You don’t have the kind of compromise that we used to have, where we used to look for 80 votes, 90 votes, instead of 51 votes.”
The public’s interest in government: “The attention span of Americans has changed. … The people who don’t want to listen to the president go to ‘American Idol,’ or they go to the game.”
March Madness: “You can ask me any questions you want except what happened to Connecticut. … I don’t know what’s happened with your office pools, but mine was shredded weeks ago.”