Bad Blood

On one of the talk shows recently, a Boston reporter said that President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry truly, seriously, personally and intensely dislike each other. No partisan show necessary. Each despises the other.

That could mean, for the first time in modern history, a series of truly lively presidential debates. No congenial exchanges. We might hear one or the other say something like, "There he goes again — the no-good (expletive deleted)!" Then the other might reply, "Listen, you brainless moron …"

No, seriously, I don’t think either man will resort to profanity, at least as long as he thinks the microphones are turned on. But if it’s really true that they don’t like each other, that should add some passion to the campaign, and it will remind us that we are dealing with two human beings.

It’s easy to forget the humanity of celebrities, because in most cases we know them only from images flashed to us via the media. We see them in their positions of fame or power, usually immaculately or at least fashionably dressed, with their hair done just right. It’s easy to forget that except for their position and appearance, they are just like us.

They have to sleep, brush their teeth, get dressed, take care of bodily functions and worry about the same things most people worry about — health, their children, personal relationships, getting old and so forth. Most of them have fears and prejudices. They were, at various times, babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and youths, and, if they live long enough, they will grow old and die. All the fame, money and power in the world cannot protect us from the cold winds of mortality or the storms that can darken the sunniest of lives.

I have wondered sometimes — since we are all of the same species and all share this one planet, apparently alone in the dark vastness of the universe — why we humans don’t feel a greater sense of kinship and affection for each other. We don’t, though. Even people who claim to love mankind are just kidding themselves. They love an idea. It’s impossible to love somebody you don’t know.

Nevertheless, as this political season gets stormier, let us remember that both of these men are doing what they believe is the right thing to do under the circumstances. Neither one is Superman. Neither one is a genius. Neither one was handpicked by God. They are just folks like us who find themselves in an extraordinary position.

I’ve learned to be humble in my expectations. No matter which man wins, no great and sudden miracles will occur. We should be careful not to get carried away with our fervor and imagine that the fate of mankind depends on us. Experience has taught me not to expect great things from presidents, but rather to hope they will avoid a blunder that will get a lot of people killed or plunge a lot of people into poverty. An uneventful next four years would suit me just fine.

As for why the two men don’t like each other, I haven’t the foggiest notion. They are both upper-class, both Yale graduates. Surely the values of the upper class in Texas cannot be that different from the upper class in Massachusetts. It could be each thinks the other is a snob. Or maybe it’s just bad chemistry.

Whatever, it’s only March, and already the words "liar" and "crooks" are flying about. Neither party has even had its convention. When these two guys make their acceptance speeches, we might get a really whang-bang of a speech out of one or both of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a good crowd-rouser.

Besides, anything that can get Kerry excited is bound to be beneficial. Whenever he’s calm, he’s too calm and tends to look a little bit pompous. So much the better if the Bush people needle him. And we all know that Bush is no slacker when it comes to the wisecrack. What was he called that New York Times reporter? Oh, yes, a world-class horse’s behind, or words to that effect.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.