John Kerry Sounds Like a 2020 Candidate

John Kerry Sounds Like a 2020 Candidate

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Despite the chatter, John Kerry probably isn’t running for president again—though he says he wants to be part of the future of the Democratic Party, and the country, no matter what.

He’s sticking to his insistence that any White House talk distracts from 2018. But there’s clearly still an ember of desire to run again. “I’ve only done it once, unlike a lot of people who’ve been out there, and came pretty close,” he told me in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. It was a conversation he ended with a standard-politician four-point list of priorities, some 40 minutes after delivering a standard-politician evasive answer about a 2020 candidacy: “I haven’t eliminated anything in my life, period, anything—except perhaps running a sub-four [minute] mile.”

But that is not the point for Kerry, whose public life stretches across modern political history, from the day in 1971 when, as a young Vietnam veteran, he testified before the Senate in opposition to the Vietnam War, to walking out of the State Department for the last time in 2017. He’s already done fundraising, and endorsed several Democratic candidates in 2018—including a few of his former State Department aides running for House seats. He says he’ll be out campaigning for the midterms. And he says he’ll keep proselytizing in speeches on college campuses from the example of his own life, about how activated young people have always been the ones to change the course of political history.

“I’m engaged, man, I’ve done this my whole life. I’m not going to suddenly stop and say I’m not going to be involved in these choices, you know,” Kerry said. “You know that old question that sometimes was asked [after] World War II or Korea: ‘Daddy, what did you do in the war?’ Well, people are going to ask, ‘Daddy, Mommy, kid, what did you do in this moment in our history, where our democracy is threatened, where the challenges are as great as they’ve ever been, and where the world is not coordinating very effectively?’ That’s a big challenge.”