October 13, 2004 -- ON top of everything else, Sen. John F. Kerry is an out doorsman, although he wouldn't be so politically incorrect as to refer to himself in anything other than gender-neutral terms. So he's an "outdoorsperson."
At least, that's what he told Diane Sawyer on ABC a couple of weeks ago.
Kerry has been the butt of endless jokes over his Beautiful People leisure pursuits — windsurfing, hang-gliding, snowboarding, $8,000-bicycle riding, etc. And one of Bill Clinton's best-known post-mortems of the 2000 campaign was that Al Gore narrowly lost the pro-hunting states of Arkansas, Tennessee and West Virginia because he was seen as anti-gun.
There's not much Kerry can do about his 20-year anti-gun voting record. (Just last year, he supported a Ted Kennedy measure to tax ammunition.) And the National Rifle Association is already running ads showing that despite his windy rhetoric, in reality he is about as pro-Second Amendment as he is pro-life.
So when it comes to courting all those blue-collar outdoorspersons — those "regular folks," as he calls them — Kerry works the margins. All year he's been giving interviews that are, well, Kerry-esque, in their nuanced recollections of his days as a nimrod in the deep woods of Massachusetts.
In July, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that "I go out with my trusty 12-gauge double-barrel, crawl around on my stomach."
Crawling in the woods is tough, not to mention loud, work — which is why almost all hunters except Kerry prefer to either stand or climb up into tree stands.
"I track and move and decoy and play games and try to outsmart them."
He was presumably referring to deer, not voters. But Kerry, a "former law-enforcement person," as he is also wont to describe himself, seems to have forgotten that the use of decoys is forbidden under Massachusetts law. Just using a decoy deer can mean a fine of up to $100, 30 days in jail, and/or loss of hunting license.
In the current issue of Field & Stream, the outdoorsperson was asked about the biggest deer he'd ever killed — er, harvested.
"Probably an 8-pointer," Kerry replied, "something like that. Nothing terribly big." Actually, an 8-pointer would be a rather large kill to most hunters — the kill of a lifetime in fact.
But Bwana John wasn't done. "I once had an incredible encounter with the most enormous buck — I don't know, 16 points or something. It was just huge. And I failed to pull the trigger at the right moment. I was hunting down in Massachusetts, on the Cape."
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife doesn't keep such statistics, but an open invitation on the radio for calls from Cape hunters turned up no one who had ever glimpsed such a 16-pointer in Barnstable County.
Kerry, meanwhile, is now running behind in all of the swing hunting states Gore lost in 2000, so he's also trying to broaden his appeal to outdoorspersons who enjoy other sports.
For instance, he reminisced with ESPN about his career at Yale: "We had a great lacrosse team my senior year at college." According to the 1966 Yale yearbook, Kerry was indeed on the lacrosse team — the junior varsity.
Then there's marathon running. Kerry claims to have once run the Boston Marathon. This is proving as hard to verify as the 1968 Christmas in Cambodia that he said "seared, seared into my memory." So far, he has told more versions of his Marathon run than Rosie Ruiz:
ESPN last July: "I ran a marathon back in '80, something like that. Did the Boston Marathon."
Runner's World, November issue: "Ran the Boston Marathon in the '70s, but said he doesn't recalls his time, and no official record exists."
Boston University Daily Free Press, 2002: "Kerry, who fired the starter's pistol . . . lamented the fact that time constraints had made it impossible for him to run in the Marathon, which he participated in 20 years ago."
Most runners can remember every major marathon they've run, not just the year, but their time, and where they finished. But John Kerry doesn't even recall the decade in which he ran the biggest race of his life.
Maybe his memory has failed him because those were the same years in which he was busy tracking the biggest game of all — rich heiresses.
Howie Carr is a Boston Herald columnist and nationally syndicated talk-radio host.