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Maybe there’s more to Kerry 

Jim Moore, whose judgment I respect, has a different take on Kerry to my disappointment following the debate:

  I have met with John Kerry and talked with him directly about difficult issues, including his support for the Iraq war, with which I strongly disagreed. On the other hand, we have talked about intellectual property rights and innovation policy, about bridging the global digital divide and supporting human rights, and about helping the capital markets correctly evaluate environmental risks facing companies and thus reward good stewardship. On these issues we largely agreed–yet because John is smart and honest he carefully explored the places where we differed. This is a man who is willing to ask tough questions, who is willing to challenge his allies, and who tries to be guided by facts and reflection.
  The John Kerry I know is lightning smart, courageous, and creative. For example, John Kerry called me one day in 2001 and asked, “What would it take to buy out the coal industry?” This was a serious question. Sometimes it is in the national interest to have a particular industry slow down or shut down, and in a capitalist society the way to do that is by buying out the companies and the jobs involved. For example, this year the US quietly and for billions of dollars, bought out the tobacco industry. Sweden bought out shipbuilding many years ago, and retained the jobs in the auto industry¬Ö
  Now I want emphasize that John Kerry in 2001 was not yet anywhere near proposing buying out the coal industry as policy. He was exploring options, he was testing visions. What is terrific is that John was doing a bit of creative big thinking, and asking friends for their help in fleshing out the idea to the point where it might be serously considered. And overall, what he was mulling about was how to save the environment and establish long-term conditions for American leadership.
  This is the kind of creative long-range thinking that our country needs on a whole range of issues. We need thinking that is bold and fact-based, and non-ideological. John Kerry is a person who could lead the nation on such a course. We are blessed with some of the most advanced thinking in the world on a range of questions — and we need to engage our best resources on our major problems. As Kerry said at the Democratic Convention, we need a president “who believes in science.” I thought this was Kerry’s best line.

Now what is it about the presidential campaign — or perhaps Kerry as a campaigner — that has completely prevented this “smart, courageous and creative” mind from coming through to voters? There’s still time.

First reactions to the debate 

I didn’t hang on to find out what Spin Alley had to say, but I’d be surprised if that debate changed anyone’s mind. Kerry did okay, but nowhere near as well as I’d have liked him to do. Bush gave a professional performance, confidently sticking to his well-ground lines about remaining steady and sure.

It may have been the late hour here (although I don’t think so), but my overwhelming feeling about the debate is terrible sadness that the US, a country with such immense reserves of creativity and talent, can end up with two mediocre people running for the most powerful office in the world.

I think the world will be a better place with a president Kerry, and I worry greatly about the course of the world over the next four years with a second term president Bush. But surely the US should do better. What’s it going to take to attract the country’s greatest talents into politics? Because of one thing I’m certain. We really need great talents in roles of political leadership.

British political news 

On a global scale, last night’s UK politics might seem a bit unimportant. But while announcing he was going into hospital for a low-risk, routine heart procedure, Tony Blair also said that, if elected, he will serve a “full” third term and has no interest in a fourth term. I don’t think a prime minister has ever named such a definitive end to a premiership this far in advance.

To show what a great pundit I am, I said to a friend at lunch today that I thought Blair would serve about two years of his next term, and then bow out after 10 years in office. If Blair goes to the true end of his third term, it would be more like 12 years in office. There’s still a prospect that a “full” term could mean something roughly like 10 years, as Labour will need to go through its formal procedures to pick a successor in good time for the (possibly) 2009 election.

And on a very cheery note, Labour won the Hartlepool byelection. What makes the news so fantastically cheery is that the Conservatives, who were second in Hartlepool at the 2001 general election, ended up in fourth, behind the LibDems in second and the UK Independence Party (!) in third. Apparently in the 200-odd years of the Conservative party, it’s never gone from second to fourth in any seat.

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