Editorial: John, we hardly know ye

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

John F. Kerry must think his Senate seat is a birthright.

We believe, though, if the junior senator continues to refuse to debate Gloucester attorney Ed O'Reilly, his Democratic opponent, before the Sept. 16 primary, he may be in for a real eye-opener about his stature in his adopted home state.

In 24 years, Kerry has some real accomplishments he can hang his hat on, including his rising profile and his work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his efforts to fight global warming and his support for the new G.I. Bill and education funding and reform.

But all of that has been achieved on the national stage. Kerry, like his colleague Sen. Edward Kennedy, has name recognition around the state from his time as lieutenant governor, congressman, four-term senator and presidential candidate.

But unlike Kennedy, Kerry does not have the gravitas here to assume his resume is sufficient to win another term without answering to Bay State voters. In a statement that emits a high level of hubris, Kerry said he would instruct his people to explore the "modalities" of a debate with O'Reilly but left open the door that he "may not be able to debate" his primary opponent.

We are of the mindset there are few more pressing needs for Kerry over the next few weeks than allowing Massachusetts voters the chance to examine their long-lost son.

Relying on staged packaging of the candidate and slick commercials with unchallenged assertions may not take the place of retail politicking this time around. Here's some issues Kerry could expect at a debate: After years of straddling the fence, Kerry needs to come up with an answer

on where he stands on the Cape Wind project.

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy, what is he doing to make sure workers can afford to retire? With funding for student loans drying up, what answers does he have to keep college affordable for families?

As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, does Kerry have or support a plan to reel in the record number of foreclosures in the state and offer some relief to cash-strapped homeowners?

There is a growing perception that Kerry is a hologram of a senator, more concerned with his national stature than his local constituency. Many wrongly claim Kerry's visits to Massachusetts come with six-year droughts sprinkled with press releases.

But the din gets louder as Kerry appears more aloof and elite. There are numerous issues beyond Iraq and Afghanistan that have direct bearing on the lives of Massachusetts' families and a free-flowing debate, especially with another Democrat, is the best way to get those answers.

Despite his world of accomplishments, Kerry is overlooking one essential element of a debate and one of the biggest reasons people pay attention: We want to be asked for our vote, not expect it to be handed over blindly.

The Patriot Ledger