The Note: Budgeting Time

Some have argued convincingly that the reason John Kerry lost the election is that the Bush campaign, the Swift Boat Veterans for Whatever, and other opponents snatched Kerry's image from him and never let him have it back.

Since the election, Kerry and those advising him have clearly aimed to address that.

The Internet doesn't have enough space for us to analyze whether Kerry has made progress in that project in the last 24 hours -- with a major Boston Globe interview and an appearance on Imus so endless that the show's eponymous host made fun of one of the Bay Stater's long-winded answers.

Let's say this, though: the portrait of Kerry that emerged organically from those two sessions is one that Ken Mehlman would recognize.

Imus had the Senator talk about Form 180, the Newsweek portrait of Mrs. Heinz (Kerry), and whether the world is safer because of America's action in Iraq (surely by now one of Kerry's favorite topics).

In fact in Sunday's Globe interview -- which Peter Canellos wrote up for his colleagues Easton, Kranish, and Milligan -- Kerry comes up with another narrative tale of the famous Grand Canyon moment, which many Note readers will want to read in full themselves. LINK

During the interview, Kerry also mulled over the reasons his presidential campaign was unsuccessful, and said the lessons he learned could put him in a better place should he seek to be the party's standard-bearer in the future. Key among those lessons: a desire to lead the party in integrating religion into its message and to work with Howard Dean to improve its grassroots operations.

The Globe interview ends thusly:

"Asked what hurt him the most during the campaign, Kerry mused about how 'all of us are flawed as human beings' and 'I think I have a strong record' before raising his voice and declaring: 'One thing I know is that I didn't flip-flop on anything.'"

More:

"Despite the contentious nature of the campaign, Kerry expressed no resentment toward the president, but revealed a simmering bitterness toward some of the president's staunch backers. Kerry demanded that the swift boat veterans who had criticized his military record agree to open up their own files because he knows 'one guy was busted' and another 'has a letter of reprimand.'"

". . . The furor over military credentials hasn't ended with the campaign. Kerry pledged to sign Form 180, releasing all of his military records, but challenged his critics, including Bush, to do the same."

". . . Kerry's intentions to stay viable as a party leader and potential 2008 presidential candidate will be girded by a new political action committee that will be run by his longtime strategist John Giesser of Newton, who will also oversee a 3-million-person e-mail list at johnkerry.com. Meanwhile, Kerry said, he is working on a book, but will not reveal the subject. He said it is 'premature' to think of another presidential run but acknowledged that he believes he's become a much better politician over the past year."

Politics:

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney overviews the "largely uncoordinated campaigns stretching from California to Massachusetts [that] are pushing to end, or at least minimize, a time-honored staple of American politics: lawmakers drawing Congressional and legislative district maps in geographically convoluted ways to ensure the re-election of an incumbent or the dominance of a party." LINK

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