Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Joan Vennochi responds. The Boston Globe columnist sends along this e-mail to defend her February 4 column on John Kerry, which I criticized earlier today. Here it is, unedited. Try getting this kind of action from the Globe's letters-to-the-editor section!

Dan: Why hide behind to criticize my column?

However you want to do it, here is my response to you,, or anyone else:

There was nothing silly or frivolous about my column of Feb. 4.

From where I sit, the vehemence behind the effort to undercut it shows real nervousness from Kerry's campaign staff about what tough journalistic scrutiny will ultimately reveal about their candidate. As far as the Boston Globe's recent excellent reporting on Kerry's heritage, the campaign knows ethnicity isn't the real issue here: honesty is.

My column repeated what many others have observed. John Kerry is mysterious, aloof, hard to pin down, both politically and personally.

It spoke primarily from the local perspective: Sure, he may have mumbled something to John McLaughlin in 1993 about a grandmother who converted from Judaism to Catholicism, but that certainly has not been part of his local political persona.

In Massachusetts, we know him best, don't we? As it turns out, we really don't know him at all.

When you think of all the profiles that have been written about the man over the last 15 years, by local and national political reporters, it is quite obvious that he did not routinely present the full picture of who he is. Before you or anyone else starts accusing me of anti-Semitism, let me stress that I am not making any value judgment about the "full picture." I am simply saying that in the past, he made no real effort to set the record straight. Only now, as a presidential candidate, is he visiting synagogues in Florida.

Some may consider that political expediency; others might call it personal disingenuousness. Either way, it's fair game for commentary about a man who wants so badly to be president.

And by the way, if I were Joe Klein, I'd be feeling a little burned right now. Kerry unburdened himself about a lot - but obviously, not about everything.

Joan Vennochi

Just two clarifications for the record: (1) I'm not hiding behind Salon's Joe Conason. I think he makes some good points, but I am genuinely not as exercised by Vennochi's column as he was; (2) Kerry's campaign staff may indeed be nervous, but I've had no contact with the campaign.

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