What to make of John Forbes Kerry, he of the face that hangs to his knees, and the hair that threatens to mount its own presidential bid? I don't much like him, this Senator Windbag from Massachusetts. He's calculating and self-conscious--you can see the gears turning--a pompous Brahmin elitist, and a bit of a bore.

On the other hand, meet John Fucking Kerry, who bitch-slaps Bush like he's channeling Howard Dean--albeit with the volume turned down a notch. Fucking's the tough-talking testosterone-fueled sonuvabitch who volunteered for service in Vietnam, forged himself into a war hero, and then had the guts to come back and lead the crusade against a misbegotten war. John Fucking Kerry I really like: He's loose, authentic, decisive, and pretty funny. Get this guy alone with the tape recorder off and he'll regale you with hilariously filthy stories, say vets who know him.

I spent a day on the campaign trail with Kerry in June and met both John Forbes Kerry and John Fucking Kerry: Forbes delivered cautious, bland responses to my questions; Fucking, in a series of self-depreciating asides, revealed his sense of fun and toughness.

For most of this campaign, however, Forbes dominated on the trail. The results were predictable. By last November, things were so bad that, preceding an appearance on Jay Leno, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog mercilessly lampooned him: "The poop I made in the dressing room has more heat than John Kerry." In December, his press slipping from bad to wretched and his fundraising kaput, Forbes was reduced to the ignominy of mortgaging his Boston townhouse to dump a few more millions into his flailing campaign. Just three weeks ago he was written off as political roadkill by the Beltway idiocracy.

In this case--unlike what they're now doing to Howard Dean--the pundits had reason for their pile-on. Forbes was too cautious, too establishment, political to the core. While his war vote was consistent with his record--he's been an Iraq hawk since the mid-'90s--he tied himself into a rhetorical pretzel trying to explain it. He voted for the war, then blasted it, then blasted Dean for blasting it. He was inconsistent and unbelievable.

But a funny thing happened in the frozen, stubbled cornfields of Iowa. Fucking punji-sticked Forbes--and took over. The Midwestern heartland responded and Fucking won big.

Washington State is ground zero of the Starbucks ghetto, supposedly hard-core Dean country. Except John Fucking Kerry does not have much truck with the conventional wisdom these days. He is organizing for Washington's February 7 caucuses, tripling his local staff post-Iowa. Ali Wade, Kerry's state director, says that the campaign still considers itself an underdog, but is gunning for 35 to 40 percent of Washington's delegates.

Of course, Forbes isn't dead yet; he may be making a comeback in New Hampshire. If he moves back into the ascendancy, Kerry will flop again. Bostonian Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote 160 years ago that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but he was another pompous, annoying Brahmin. It's time for Fucking to kill Forbes for good. Another lesson from Emerson: "Trust thyself."

sandeep@thestranger.com

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