James Joyner gets Kerry's problem right:
Clinton has shrewdly focused on her Senate duties first, not only building chits within her party but demonstrating that she was more than a show pony. Kerry would be wise to do the same if he wants another shot at the brass ring.
Kerry's problems, unfortunately, are innate. His every action comes across as that of a striver, a comer, an opportunist. It's not just that he lacks the effortless ascendence of yesteryear's wasp's and aristocrats, but he's also missing the self-evident social consciousness that distinguishes do-gooders. So when our inboxes fill up with his proposals to extend health care to the young or increase military pay, they seem less the ideas of a committed reformer and more a pre-plotted path Kerry's hoping will lead him to the White House. That's not his fault, at least in a conscious sense. I've no doubt Kerry does care for children, veterans, and society's least and needy, but his pre-2004 lack of distinguishing domestic initiatives makes the sudden swarm of Ted Kennedy-esque programs seem more than inauthentic, it makes them appear calculated.
I like John Kerry. I think he would've been a great president. But he was never a very good campaigner. Triumphing in Massachusetts doesn't quite transfer to other areas of the country, and his efforts during the presidential campaign, aside from the debates, were more competent than inspiring. But his new strategy, campaign straight from one election to the next, is actually making him look worse, not better. If he wants to stand out, he's going to have to pass some legislation, take some brave but unpopular stands, or dominate a pressing issue. The constant e-mails and ADD-fueled policy shop, however, are actually hurting his chances.
Update: Hiya Slate/Note folks. Beer's in the fridge, chips are on the table.