Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2004 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Collin Levey

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It's about terrorism, John, not testosterone levels | John Kerry is spending the campaign's homestretch looking for some conservative voters. He has been talking more about his faith, dusting off the shotgun and associating himself as much as possible with the Red Sox victory over the Yankees. Campaign spokesman Mike McCurry called it all part of an effort to introduce voters to Kerry as "a guy."

That is, he's hoping to look more like a "guy's guy" — the kind who would reach for a brewskie before a glass of chardonnay. The point, of course, is to attract the men who believe in America as a force for good in the world. Instead, the only men Kerry seems to be attracting are Yasser Arafat and Kofi Annan.

The campaign has seen the same numbers we have, indicating that President Bush holds a significant margin among American male voters — from the touted NASCAR dads right on down the line. And the Massachusetts senator is proceeding as he has since early in the campaign — aiming to remedy the situation by showing manly qualities, like athleticism (windsurfing) and toughness (duck hunting).

Problem is, the strategy has never gotten much traction, and won't now for a simple reason: Those male voters are drawn not to Bush's cowboy boots but to his policies — his strong stance on terrorism and his tax policies. They tell pollsters so again and again. Kerry would have to decimate the world's duck population to compensate for what men fear are his wobbly knees on the world stage and his plan to raise taxes on the earnings they provide for their families.

If we must dither in the realm of manly intangibles, it's the Bush impression — metaphorically speaking — that he will stand on the front porch and put himself between criminals and the people he is sworn to protect. Men respond to that. They get it.

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It's hard enough to imagine Kerry in that role and the recent headlines of foreign support for Kerry have only made the problem worse. Not long after the primaries, you'll recall, he boasted that he'd been talking to certain "world leaders" who were secretly hoping he would win the presidency.

Republicans and critics pounced on the story, digging through the archives to see which world leaders the senator had been hobnobbing with or whether he was making it up. Now, perhaps, some of the mysterious supporters are coming out of the shadows. And they only deepen concerns about Kerry's perceived attempts to win a global popularity contest.

Let's start with Arafat. He, of course, is the Nobel Peace Prize winner also known for his bloody leadership of the Palestinian Authority, his sponsorship of terrorism in the form of suicide bombings in Israel, and so on. Earlier this week, an Arafat aide was quoted as saying that Arafat "thinks Kerry will be much better for the Palestinian cause and for the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Meanwhile at the U.N., Secretary General Kofi Annan has spent recent days railing against President Bush's policies in Iraq in a way designed to make headlines during the presidential election. While he stopped short of an outright endorsement, voters were meant to get the message, and they did: The man now embroiled in charges that opposition to the war in Iraq was tainted by dirty dealings in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program would like some less-independent U.S. leadership.

And that's not even getting into Europe. There, sentiment on the street overwhelmingly supports Kerry. If the French got to choose our president, Kerry would run away with it 72 percent to 16 percent, according to one French poll. Ditto Spain, Greece and Germany. Oxford historian Timothy Garten Ash recently called November "a world election in which the world has no vote."

He's right, of course, thank heavens. But in the spirit of transparency, it's also good for Americans to hear what foreign leaders think. Above all, it provides a window into what they expect from each candidate were he to serve the next four years. Americans can use that prism to inform their own decisions at the ballot box. Despite his non-participation in Iraq, Russia's Vladimir Putin offered thinly veiled support for Bush this week. The message? Deep down, those countries worried about terrorism agree with Bush's agenda.

All of this resonates deeply with the conservative and male voters Kerry is trying to win over in the final days. The senator has put intense effort into convincing the country that he would not weigh foreign sentiment or a "global test" in his judgments on how best to protect the country. But, by their tacit endorsements, foreign leaders clearly believe otherwise.

So, we say, let all the foreign leaders of the world speak their minds and let's see what the preference is in Syria or Sudan or Saudia Arabia. Then, when it comes to protecting the country and crafting foreign policy, Americans can decide whether "it takes a village."

JWR contributor Collin Levey is a weekly op-ed columnist at the Seattle Times. Before joining the Times in September 2003, she was an editorial writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Collin Levey