John Kerry may have blown it already.  After an impressive come-from-behind nab of the Democratic nomination this winter, the Massachusetts senator seemed ready to offer a formidable threat to the bubblehead who currently takes up space in the White House.  Faced with economic erosion, the loss of American jobs to outsourcing, the disenchantment of his conservative base over amnesty, homosexual “marriage,” and budgetary deviations, and saddled with an increasingly bloody, costly, and unsuccessful war in Iraq as well as accusations of incompetence in anticipating the September 11 attacks, President Bush looked very much like a political sitting duck that would easily be knocked over by Mr. Kerry or any other presentable Democrat.

Yet, within a few weeks, Mr. Kerry was ceasing to look quite so presentable.  First, there was his . . . well . . . “personality.”  Mr. Kerry’s main achievement in the first few weeks after the end of the primaries was to establish that he had none.  He succeeded in turning the phrase “empty suit” into a cliché and (always a bad sign for presidential contenders) providing fodder for Jay Leno’s gagwriters.

Then there was the little matter of Mr. K’s dubious past.  The White House and its propagandists in the “conservative movement” brushed up on Mr. Kerry’s vacuous (and then-fashionable) anti-American blatherings from the Vietnam era and trotted out every photograph they could scrape from crumbling newspapers of Mr. Kerry with Jane Fonda anywhere within the radius of a football field.  All of that, of course, was fair game.  Miss Fonda’s own contribution to American history has been to make herself probably the most hated woman of the last century, and justifiably so.  Proximity to her, ever or anywhere, is more than enough to wreck any political career outside Massachusetts or California.

The final blow to the Kerry crusade, however, may have been his penchant for confirming what Republican propaganda insinuated—that, for all his Yalie smooths and chestful of medals, he was, at root, as alien to the real America as his porcine and oafish mentor Ted Kennedy.  Mr. Kerry’s dumb remarks about “Pope Pius XXIII” and his claims that foreign leaders had secretly endorsed him tended to verify suspicions that the man is simply as clueless about his own country, its people, their beliefs and values, as Teddy and Jane are.  The problem with the foreign-leaders claim is not that it was not true (it is almost certainly true that many foreign leaders would prefer someone other than Mr. Bush as president, but virtually none would be stupid enough to tell his chief political rival that) but that Mr. Kerry chose to say it at all.

Whatever Mr. Bush’s blunders in foreign affairs—and he has probably committed more than any other president since Jimmy Carter—they are our blunders and matters that we as Americans should deal with.  What “foreign leaders” think or say about them or U.S. foreign policy or the men who make it or possible alternatives to them has no more to do with which candidate Americans should vote for than does the color of the candidates’ socks.

The real problem with Mr. Kerry’s boast of foreign leaders’ support is that the remark shows he does not understand that; of course, his critics mainly did not get it, either.  The point was entirely missed during the ensuing controversy between Democrats and Republicans over whether the “foreign leaders” really said what Mr. Kerry claimed they said.

A John Kerry presidency is, to say the least, not an appetizing prospect and not one Chronicles or its readers or any other American should welcome, but the boondoggles of Bush II have been so serious that the election should have been Mr. Kerry’s to lose, regardless of our preferences.  The lackluster beginning of Mr. Kerry’s run for the White House may or may not have destroyed his opportunity to kick Mr. Bush out of it, but it does little to convince Americans that their nation’s political culture today is capable of offering up any decent, competent, and attractive alternative to the two characters aspiring to govern it.