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Why Kerry Won't Debate

By Jon Keller

Here we go again with the familiar election-year ritual of entrenched incumbents ducking debates with their challengers. The Associated Press reports Sen. John Kerry is now saying that while he has instructed aide Roger Lau to "discuss the 'modalities' of a debate" with the campaign of Democratic challenger Ed O'Reilly,  he "just may not necessarily be able to" find time for one. 

Sure he can't. You know how grueling those modalities can be.

Anyway, predictably and justifiably, Kerry is taking his lumps for blowing off O'Reilly. The Globe editorial page spanked him this morning; op-ed columnist Joan Vennochi is said to be preparing her take, and knowing Joan, Kerry better have his asbestos suit on that day. But may I just say: why is anyone surprised? Kerry is simply demanding the same pass taken by Ted Kennedy in 2000 when he declined to debate GOP nominee Jack E. Robinson. In our one-party state, opinion-makers may find such disdain for the democratic process distasteful, but it seems few voters care. Up to a point, that is - while Ted got away with ignoring the hapless Robinson, a similar attempt to duck debates with Mitt Romney in 1994 was unsuccessful.

The funny thing is, with all due respect to O'Reilly, a debate with him offers little danger for Kerry, an accomplished debater. And by the way, WBZ's offer to host a televised debate still stands. But spare me hand-wringing from the political culture if Kerry's decides the modalities just aren't aligned. Why duck a debate? Because he can.

Jon Keller blogs regularly for WBZ-TV Boston at Keller @ Large