April 20, 2004


Student Loaned: Kerry borrows youth voters for his campus Snoozefest (Anya Kamenetz, April 20th, 2004, Village Voice)

The first clue was the light jazz. Last week's "Change Starts With U: Kerry Campus Tour 2004" was billed as the unveiling of John Kerry's "Compact with the Next Generation," including tuition assistance and a national-service program. These five Northeastern college appearances were designed to inspire 30 million young adults to make the difference for Democrats in this presidential election. The press release promised "high-profile entertainment."

But on Wednesday at Harlem's City College, as hundreds of students and more than 50 members of the media waited over half an hour to hear Kerry, they listened to the cocktail-party stylings of a light jazz quartet. "It's all right," a slouching young man with a nose ring and ponytail commented. "It's keeping me awake." That was more than could be said for the rest of the program.

Judging from Wednesday's performance, John Kerry is not all that interested in playing to young voters. Senator Hillary Clinton, greeted with a standing ovation, introduced the presumptive Democratic nominee, ticking off a long list of his accomplishments in the Senate: the fight for Vietnam P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s, the investigations into Iran Contra and BCCI, and a crusade against irresponsible fiscal policies. All important, none relevant to a college student today.

Then Kerry gave 15 minutes of his standard stump speech: tax-code reform, outsourcing, Social Security, and Medicare. "Let's think about the worker who's 45 or 50 years old who's lost his job, lost his health insurance," he exhorted the crowd of twenty- somethings, many of whom work two or even three jobs to pay their way through school. The senator didn't talk about his proposed $4,000 tuition tax credit, maybe because it goes to parents who pay tuition, not students who shoulder the debt. And he didn't touch his complicated plan to cover increases in education funding by ending federal interest-rate guarantees on student loans. Not until the Q&A did Kerry mention his national-service plan, which promises a free college ride for up to 200,000 students willing to do two-year tours in service professions like teaching or law enforcement.

It's April and he's already making us nostalgic for a dynamic candidate like Al Gore or Michael Dukakis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2004 2:10 PM

Oh well, Hillary, Daschle, and Nancy Pelosi's appearance on WWE's "Smackdown" will energize the "young people of today."

See The Hill http://www.hillnews.com/news/042004/pelosi.aspx

Posted by: David Hill at April 20, 2004 2:34 PM

Expect him to start driving up onto the stage in front of future college audiences on a Harley (or if they're near an aquatic setting, riding into the area on a swiftboat) in order to generate some sort of pseudo-"Fear Factor" buzz to the campaign.

Posted by: John at April 20, 2004 2:56 PM

Is it too soon to describe his campaign as a "quagmire"?

Posted by: TM at April 20, 2004 3:59 PM

I am taking the last line, it's a goody.

Posted by: Sandy p. at April 20, 2004 5:34 PM