Why John Kerry MattersHe's been discounted by the pundits, eclipsed in early New Hampshire and Iowa polls by Howard Dean, and now finds what he thought as his trump card, his distinguished military service, overshadowed by the entry of Wesley Clark into the Presidential race. His controversial vote to give President Bush the authority to use the threat of force in Iraq continues to haunt him with angry, anti-war activist Democrats. His rationale for both that vote, and his eventual break with the President's policy, is simultaneously misrepresented by his primary opponents or spun against him by Republicans operatives with good reason to fear his emergence as the ultimate Democratic nominee. Nine months after surgery for prostate cancer, he endures the bone-tiring marathon that constitutes running for President in America. But throughout the trials of 2003, John Forbes Kerry continues to hone his message, articulate his vision, and demonstrate, day-in and day-out, the breath of understanding and strength of character that make him the person most suited to become President on January 20, 2005.
A Practical, Disciplined Idealist
John Kerry's psycho-spiritual dynamics, like those of all of us, represent the amalgamation of sometimes contradictory, potentially warring impulses. For instance, with the Sun in Sagittarius, and Sagittarius rising, one expects a man or woman of expansive vision, of wide perspective, of fiery, inspirational rhetoric, and of high ideals. These traits are easily identified in any examination of Kerry's history. But, as the neo-conservatives in and around the Bush Administration have demonstrated, rhetoric and idealism isn't everything it's cracked up to be – especially if your grasp of the fundamentals of effective action, and your ability to appreciate current reality, aren't well developed. In comparison, John Kerry is what I would describe as a practical, disciplined idealist – which in my book is the very best kind.
A Multi-Faceted, Flexible Defender and Guardian
We also need to incorporate into any psycho-spiritual portrait the influence of Kerry's strongly Geminian nature. Kerry's chart features what astrologers would describe as a Gemini stellium. That is, he has four planets in the tropical sign of Gemini: Moon, Mars, Uranus and Saturn. Geminian candidates are extremely prominent this Presidential season, with Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Kerry each having either the Sun or Moon in that sign. Having a chart rich in Gemini symbolism would tend to produce a person who is emotionally multi-faceted, more cerebral than overtly emotional, and someone who can be extraordinarily flexible, but who sometimes might appear inconsistent to others – even if they are actually quite consistent if viewed from within their “internal” frame of reference. To understand this seemingly contradictory phenomenon, we only need examine the example provided by Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, or Kerry's so-called “nuanced” position on the Iraq War Resolution. Governor Dean, for instance, has been accused of re-inventing himself in order to win the nomination, and of massaging various stances on issues so that they better reflect the sentiments of the most motivated voters in the 2004 primaries. Dean's “flip-flops” may reflect a deliberate attempt to court opinion in order to capture the nomination, but they may also reflect a very typical Geminian duality of perspective – which will often involve an innate ability to see both sides of an issue, and to come down on different sides of that issue at different times. In the context of a political career, and a hard-fought campaign, that may be judged as a liability. In the context of governing, it could very definitely be a strength.
In the context of Kerry's chart, there is a much greater tendency towards internal consistency than is typical of someone with so many planets in Gemini. Phrased in astrological terms, with Saturn making a powerful aspect to both his Sun and Moon, this tendency to altering opinions is minimized – and replaced with an inclination towards very specific, very detailed, but nuanced views across the board. This kind of person is one who has carefully considered all the possible scenarios, and could commandingly argue either side if required – and very definitely understands that, as they say, the devil is in the details.
The rationale for his vote on the Iraq War Resolution is a perfect illustration of this tendency. In his remarks on the Senate Floor during the debate, he lays out specifics steps that he expects President Bush to pursue – steps, one could argue, that were entirely sensible, and framed within the reasonable expectations set by 60 years of American foreign policy, not to mention the example set by the President's father. We can debate whether Kerry was right or wrong in voting as he did. What is unassailable in my view is that Kerry's approach reflects a comprehensive worldview. His remarks reflect his synthesis of history's lessons with regard to the risks of not holding a tyrant, with the potential to acquire a fearsome military arsenal, accountable, versus the risks of either unnecessarily inflaming anti-Americanism around the world, or rashly placing United States military forces in harm's way. He continues to be assailed by critics on both ends of the political spectrum for that vote. But, do either of these more extreme positions reflect the same breath of perspective? Or, are they merely reflective of either an ideological or emotionally-based approach to American foreign policy? And when, I ask you, in American history has either untested ideology or raw emotion provided a credible foundation for enduring national policy?
The cosmic principle that Saturn represents is inescapably involved with lessons, and the cultivation of historical memory as a tool to guiding future actions. John Kerry afforded us a window into how he saw the threat Saddam Hussein represented during an Democratic candidates' forum in September 2002. When asked about why he would likely vote yes on the IWR, Kerry was emphatic that he was not willing to allow Hussein to develop a nuclear program, even if that program might not yield a weapon until 2008 or 2010. He was clearly looking to apply preventive measures at that moment that might save American servicemen from having to risk their lives in a much more dangerous scenario later. As Winston Churchill, another Sagittarian with a healthy Saturn, emphasized in “The Gathering Storm”, the kinds of relatively modest military measures that might, through early application, prevent a future aggression are rarely effective once the threat is allowed to grow. I suspect that Kerry would be quite comfortable arguing that, as in 1936, all that may have necessary was a credible threat of force, and not an actual invasion. Again, you don't have to agree with his position to accept the obvious evidence that his approach in 2002 was pragmatic and protective – and hence, thoroughly representative of the archetype of Saturn, and unlike the Bush Administration's, neither blindly ideological nor rashly aggressive.
Thus, in my view, Kerry can be described as healthily Saturnian. What else does this tell us about him, and people like him. To reiterate, they are, first and foremost, pragmatists. On a deeper level, this same type is someone who feels a instinctive need to get to the heart of any subject or area of interest they might be exploring – in very much the same way that a scientist would. They are eminently responsible people, and, metaphorically speaking, can be said to have extremely broad shoulders – with which they can more easily carry the weight of the family, the world, or perhaps in Kerry's case, the weight of the nation. While this essential gravity can be pervasive, and color everything it touches, this isn't to suggest that they don't have a lighter side. Depending on other dynamics contained within their chart, they often do. In fact, Saturnian people often become more emotionally buoyant as they age – since they were typically compelled by circumstance to grow up much sooner than their contemporaries, and hence spend the second half of their lives growing emotionally lighter. Saturn types are very often driven to achieve – initially using an external reference point, like a strong parental figure, as a role model – and, later in life, becoming more driven by the challenge of exceeding their own expectations, and becoming the very best men or women they have it in them to be.
Character in Action
Saturn's influence is perhaps most positively illuminated in Kerry's character through his decidedly old-fashioned but authentic commitment to service, and a belief that sacrifice for the good of the whole is a virtue, and not merely a slogan to be trotted out in speeches. Kerry's biography demonstrates this trait in living color.
Different people had different reactions to the possibility of serving in Vietnam. Some men went to prison, on principle, rather than be inducted into military service. Other men availed themselves of entirely legal deferments, as was their right. Others left the country or enrolled in a branch of the services where they would be unlikely to be sent overseas – like the National Guard. Curiously, some of these men who deliberately avoided military service now portray themselves as super patriots, and peerless defenders of American values, even if their body bears no scars from battle, or their name cannot be credibly linked with tales of courage under fire. The facts are that John Kerry enlisted in the United States Navy after graduating from Yale, and served two tours in Vietnam. Let me submit that regardless of whether we agree about the virtues of the Vietnam War, or how it was fought, Kerry's actions tells us a tremendous amount about what motivates him. It demonstrates his core commitment to national service, and his clear understanding that credible moral leadership is based in action, and not in words and platitudes.
For me, what is even more impressive about Kerry's Vietnam experience is not the 3 Purple Hearts, or the Silver or Bronze Stars, but the risks he took to protect his comrades after leaving the military. In contrast to the 42nd President of the United States, who strove to “retain his political viability” at all costs, while opposing the war from afar, John Kerry very much risked his future to turn the tide here in America, and bring that war to an end – in the process, earning an honored spot on Richard Nixon's enemies list. But even more than courage and conviction, by his actions after his distinguished service in Vietnam, Kerry demonstrated what I hold to be the single most important insight that any man or woman who would choose to lead this nation at this moment must know – the knowledge that some wars must be won with bullets, some wars with words, and some wars through understanding. The importance of this insight cannot be overstated in the context of the current war against Islamic extremism – which, in my humble opinion, will never be won through force of arms alone.
Several final points with regard to this theme bear noting. First off, John Kerry's fundamental commitment to the virtues of service and shared sacrifice is today reflected in his proposal for a mandatory national service requirement for high-school students. Secondly, a positive Saturn is, above all things, healthily conservative, defensive and protective. Accordingly, the virtues demonstrated though Kerry's military service dovetail with those of his tenure in the United States Senate. For instance, Kerry has long been a powerful advocate for conservation of our natural environment, and a defender of the Bill of Rights and Americans' civil liberties, and a protector of the national trust – as witnessed by his role during the Iran-Contra or BCCI investigations. Call John Kerry old fashioned, call him a policy wonk, but don't call him a hypocrite. In an America where perception has utterly overshadowed facts, John Kerry has been a model of Saturnian consistency.
A Modern Day TR
John Kerry has been accused of running too cautious a campaign. Certainly, in comparison to the more overtly emotional and rhetorical approach of Governor Dean, that criticism may appear relevant. Yet, in the light of the example set by the current Bush Administration, with their obvious attitudinal inebriation and testosterone-based approach to foreign policy, I very much question whether success with angry rhetoric or populist appeals has anything whatsoever to do with serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the one remaining superpower. In my humble opinion, we need all the gravitas, patience and wisdom we can find if we ever hope to emerge intact from the War on Terror. Moreover, anyone familiar with John Kerry's history knows that he is anything but a physically cautious man – as his actions on that fateful day on the Mekong Delta, when he chose to beach his boat and single-handedly chase and kill a Vietcong guerrilla armed with a B-40 rocket, should amply demonstrate.
Kerry's Mars and Uranus in Gemini, in what astrologers would describe as the 7th house, describe a vigorous, versatile, in-your-face advocate for a physically heroic life. Kerry is a pilot, a skier, an avid Harley aficionado, a hunter, a wind-surfer and hockey player. His recent Tonight Show entrance on a Harley-Davison motorcycle was spun by Kerry critics as silly – even if it did frame an entirely accurate image of this man who would be President, an image that is far more true to life than that of Dubya's once shamefully celebrated landing on the USS Lincoln. In our topsy-turvy America, where the likes of Jayson Blair can turn infamy into a $500,000 book deal, and celebrity is routinely confused with achievement, perhaps we should not be surprised that pundits prefer the images conveyed in completely illusory (and considering Dubya's biography, profoundly dishonest) Rovian spectacle to the unvarnished truth. The facts strongly suggest that a brilliant New England liberal may actually be a more forceful advocate for a credible American masculinity than the utterly phony “Top Gun” in the White House. Add Kerry's peerless environmental record and his unassailable patriotism and commitment to national service to his demonstrated good-government instincts, and we may be watching the emergence of a leader cast as close to the mold of a modern day Teddy Roosevelt as we are likely to see.
The Vision Thing
The last time a Democrat defeated a sitting Bush, what Bill Clinton described as “the vision thing” proved to be a major element in the incumbent's undoing. As a Sagittarian, with Sag rising, and sensible Mercury in Capricorn in strong aspect to poetic and humanitarian Neptune in Libra, the vision thing is something that John Kerry offers in spades – but as I referenced earlier, tempered by a firm appreciation of current reality. Seen against the backdrop of the war against Islamic extremism – which is above all a war of perceptions and ideas – I humbly submit that this single attribute may be more important to leading America in 2005 than almost any other that I can imagine. Rather than ask you to take my opinion as proof of Kerry's qualifications in this area, let me instead allow him to speak for himself – in an extended excerpt from a late-90s interview he gave the publisher of American Windsurfer magazine :
I went to Jerusalem a number of years ago on an official journey to Israel and I was absolutely fascinated by the 32 or so different branches of Catholicism that were there. That's before you even get to the conflict between Arabs and Jews. I have spent a lot of time since then trying to understand these fundamental differences between religions in order to really better understand the politics that grow out of them. So much of the conflict on the face of this planet is rooted in religions and the belief systems they give rise to. The fundamentalism of one entity or another.
So I really wanted to try to learn more. I've spent some time reading and thinking about it and trying to study it and I've arrived at not so much a sense of the differences but a sense of the similarities in so many ways; the value system roots and the linkages between the Torah, the Koran and the Bible and the fundamental story that runs through all of this, that connects us-and really connects all of us.
And so I've also always been fascinated by the Transcendentalists and the Pantheists and others who found these great connections just in nature, in trees, the ponds, the ripples of the wind on the pond, the great feast of nature itself. I think it's all an expression that grows out of this profound respect people have for those forces that human beings struggle to define and to explain. It's all a matter of spirituality.
I find that even - even atheists and agnostics wind up with some kind of spirituality, maybe begrudgingly acknowledging it here and there, but it's there. I think it's really intriguing. For instance, thinking about China, the people and their policy-how do we respond to their view of us? And how do they arrive at that view of us and of the world and of life choices?
I think we have to think about those things in the context of the spiritual to completely understand where they are coming from. So here are a people who, you know, by and large, have a nation that has no theory of creationism. Well, that has to effect how you approach things. And until we think through how that might effect how you approach things, it's hard to figure out where you could find a meeting of the minds when approaching certain kinds of issues.
So, the exploration of all these things I find intriguing. Notwithstanding our separation between church and state, it is an essential ingredient of trying to piece together an approach to some of the great vexing questions we have internationally.
I submit that a man with this kind of spiritual and intellectual curiosity, coupled to the metaphorical broad shoulders that Saturn conveys, has the ideal skill set to lay the foundation for the human bridges we must build among men and women of good will around the world, and thus broker the eventual peace in this terrible war of ideas.
Can He Win?
People expect astrologers to be able to give a definitive answer to this kind of query, and many of my colleagues try to do just that. I can't possibly offer anything so definitive, since it is my belief that while the rough shape of the future can be reasonably deciphered, the actual details of that future are very much dependant on our input and actions. For instance, while their are probably hundreds of men and women who were born at approximately the same moments as Howard Dean, John Kerry or George W. Bush, they are the only three in this group that have any chance of being elected President in November 2004 – due to their efforts up to this point in this specific lifetime. I see no reason to assume that their efforts in this campaign will not also materially impact its outcome.
That stated, despite Howard Dean's strength in the polls today, two months before the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary, my guess is that this battle is far from over – and that John Kerry will very definitely have the kind of the cosmic wind behind him in 2004 that could transform this race, and have him taking the Oath of Office on January 20, 2005. But so could Howard Dean – who I also expect to run quite strongly in 2004.
As much as I would like to, I cannot totally dismiss George Bush's chances to grow through the ever-increasing challenges that I expect he will be presented with between now and the next election. I haven't seen much evidence of the kind of dramatic attitudinal and policy adjustments that I suspect would be required of the President, and his Administration, if they hoped to transform crisis into opportunity. But 12 months is a long time, and as they say, anything can happen.
Still, my current opinion is that either Dean or Kerry will be the next President of the United States. Based on the strength of both candidates charts in 2004, I'm not ruling out a scenario where these two men join forces to take the White House together. Based on the extraordinary strength of John Kerry's biography and experience, and the equally extraordinary outpouring of grass roots support propelling Howard Dean, I'm not clear that traditional regional considerations will be relevant come the summer of 2004.
John Kerry and the American Moment
Whether one uses a birth moment for the nation of July 2, 1776 (when John Adams tells us that the die was cast) or July 4, 1776 (when the Continental Congress began doing business as the United States of America), the resulting chart describes a great power, but one always challenged by the cosmos to live within itself, and to avoid the mistakes of imperial excess that the powers that preceded it were guilty of. Expressed in purely astrological terms, these resulting charts describe a nation conceived with Saturn in challenging aspect to the Sun. The Sun represents the spirit, dynamism and ideals of the nation, as well as its leaders. Saturn represents the perpetual challenge by the cosmos to become better than we have been, and ultimately, to make manifest in space and time every ideal that this nation was founded on. It is as if the United States, embodying the then revolutionary idea of “government for the people, by people”, was meant to serve as a demonstration project of what could be accomplished on this planet if human beings chose to act as if inspired by, to echo Lincoln's phrase, “the better angels of our nature”. Consequently, it may well be that cosmos intended our greatest impact to be through the force of intellectual and spiritual inspiration. Needless to say, a nation that unnecessarily entangles itself in imperial adventures (even if their preferred form of imperialism is ideological rather than territorial) dramatically compromises its ability to serve in that role.
But national self-realization, to coin a phrase, is an ongoing process, not an event that is realized once, then celebrated, with everyone who will come afterwards living off the reflected glory of that moment. That is, unless a nation doesn't mind surrendering to a premature decline, as a peoples' ability to serve as an important spiritual force on the planet inevitably wanes. I suspect that the cosmos has its own kind of inheritance tax, which it employs to keep each generation of Americans on their toes, and ready to meet the spiritual challenges of their respective era. Moreover, as we all witnessed through the events of Saturn's last passage through Cancer, in 1973-76 – which brought the culmination of the Watergate scandals, a Vice-President's and President's resignation, and the collapse of South Vietnam – the price of betraying the spirit and ideals behind the cosmic impulses that brought this nation into being can be extremely traumatic, and can leave scars that heal slowly, if at all. But lessons truly learned are lessons that never have to be repeated.
It strikes me that the naive jingoism and reckless optimism of the Bush Administration is so very similar to the kind of attitudes that must have been rampant in the British, French and Spanish courts during the last decade or two before the American Revolution. With the Sun and Moon in powerful aspect to Jupiter in his natal chart, I have no doubt that George W. Bush thinks himself the man of the historical moment. In his private moments, he must be amazed that Republicans overlooked John McCain's long and distinguished service in favor of Dubya's decidedly more modest qualifications for the Presidency – or that fate somehow saw to it that the candidate with fewer votes was installed as President. In my estimation, this amazement has gone to his head, and his native arrogance and overconfidence has overtaken whatever common sense he entered the White House in possession of.
I believe that we are living in the midst of a nationalistic bubble, and our supremely confident President is the embodiment of how intoxicated and disconnected from reality we have become. My very strong suspicion as an astrologer is that, unless we effect a rather dramatic course correction sooner rather than later, both Republicans and Democrats may rue the day that Kathryn Harris removed the names of tens-of-thousands of legal Democratic voters from the Florida roles, and in the process both subverted the spirit of our democracy, and put the lesser man in the White House. But, perhaps Lt. General Boykin is correct, and it was God who put George Bush in the White House. Perhaps the cosmos wanted to send the people of this nation a message – but it may not be quite the message that General Boykin suspects.
It further strikes me that if one man or woman had been born to be President at this profoundly dangerous time for this country, of all the candidates on the stage today, John Kerry would be the obvious choice. The marriage of Sagittarian vision with Saturnian depth that his chart reflects is an ideal theoretical response to a pressing cosmic challenge – the completion of a Saturn cycle that began with Nixon's resignation and the fall of Saigon, and the commencement of a new cycle. Furthermore, his demonstrated skill set also strikes this astrologer as perfectly mirroring the demands of the historical moment. In my humble opinion, this is a time for experienced, patient, courageous, disciplined and steady leadership. It is also a time for bridge-building – both with regard to old friends from whom we have become estranged and new friends we have yet to embrace. It is not a time in which the attitude, anger or populist fantasy that has so fueled the Dean campaign offers anything useful with regard to the road ahead. In fact, it can be argued that it is exactly that kind of an approach, as advocated by the current Administration, that brought us to where we are today. With Saturn returning to the United States Sun, it is fair to say that the American people have a tremendous amount of work ahead of them. We can no longer afford to rest on the laurels of our past, or reward rhetoric that is not backed by hard-earned human currency. In closing, seen within the context of a culture that rewards Jupiterian celebrity and bravado rather than authentic Saturnian achievement and courage, it strikes me that George W. Bush is the embodiment of what of America has become – and that John F. Kerry is the embodiment of what we once were, and what we must be again.
Matthew Carnicelli © 2003. All rights reserved.
Originally published November 24, 2003; revised December 6, 2003. A revised and expanded version of this article will be published in the Winter 2004 issue of The International Astrologer, ISAR's quarterly journal. For more information on ISAR, visit www.isarastrology.com.
1. Excerpted from: Senator John Kerry - The Windsurfer That Would Be President, Issue 5.5
For more on Saturn's conjunction of the United States Sun see:
Documenting the Impact of Cosmic Gravity, Part II
Getting to Know You
Documenting the Impact of Cosmic Gravity, Part I
The Reagan Legacy
Laying Naked Neo-Conservative Incompetence
The Turning Point
Saturn and the Rush to War
Rumsfeld Awakens from the Dream
A Viewer's Guide to a Gathering Storm
It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn