As Kerry solidifies his lead as the Democratic frontrunner, I decided it was time I learned something about who he is. Everyone knows some of the more widely publicized facts of his life: that he was a Vietnam war hero who then became a leading anti-war activist, that his paternal grandparents were Czech Jews who converted to Catholicism and adopted Irish-sounding names, that his second wife, the widow of Republican Senator Heinz, is one of the richest women in the country, that he rides a motorcycle, and that he voted in support of giving Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. But none of these things really give me a sense of what kind of a person he is, or what kind of a president (or Democratic presidential candidate) he might make.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of information on the web (see below for links). After slogging through a lot of it, I came away with the impression of a very ambitious man, who was something of a maverick” in the Senate. At various points in his career he has been passionate about a few key issues: the Vietnam war, Nuclear Disarmament, the Iran-Contra affair and, most recently, the environment. But he is not someone with a larger message or vision.”

A lot of discussion rests on his legislative record, in which he seems to have notoriously flip-flopped on a number of issues. His defenders say that his problem is that his policies are simply too fine-tuned” to reduce to a clear either-or position. Like I said — he isn’t someone with a message.”

That he doesn’t have a message is a mixed blessing. I personally feel that the Democrats need more of a message if they are going to swing this country away from GOP rule. On the other hand, that he is hard to pin down or caricature might make him more electable.”

There are certainly some things I’ve found that I quite like about Kerry: