We Canadians understand that whoever is elected President of the United States of America, automatically has a profound influence on what happens in this country.

That relationship was defined by Pierre Elliott Trudeau as being similar to the apprehension of a mouse in proximity to an elephant when the elephant stirs. And it was Richard Nixon who famously described Trudeau as “that asshole.”

Nixon’s judgment of Trudeau’s character was not a singular one, of course. Indeed, many Canadians referred to that great Canadian in like fashion, and worse.

Come to think of it, John Fitzgerald Kennedy felt just about the same way when it came to the Prime Minister of his day, the Prairie populist John Diefenbaker, who Kennedy once (allegedly) referred to as a “son of a bitch.”

Both assessments came out of an American difficulty in accepting the fact that our country has the sovereign right to hold opinions that may differ from whatever is current and popular in America, even though we happen to be immutably joined at the 49th parallel.

All of which is by way of introduction to a few observations on the events this week in John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s home town of Boston, a place where there is hardly a family in the Maritime Provinces without some familial connection to relatives who long since emigrated down to the “Boston States.”

Boston, I conclude from watching Boston television stations on my satellite service, has been turned on its ear by the Democratic National Convention. It seems that many of the good citizens of the city wish to hell nobody had ever entertained the dim idea of inviting the Democrats to town in the first place. For them, Democrat is spelled a-g-g-r-a-v-a-t-i-o-n — with disrupted travel flow, and a crowded downtown. Their city has been turned into hooker heaven for the week.

One estimate has 6200 actual delegates, 15,000 relatives and camp followers and — get this one — 15,000 journalists in town to cover the doings of the others. With respect to the last, there is no real story to be found in Boston. The Democratic National Convention is a pre-ordained convocation to acknowledge the obvious: Senator John Kerry will attempt to dislodge George Bush at the ballot box in November, with the help of Senator John Edwards, the Vice-Presidential candidate sent over from central casting.

Just a couple of Johns on the make in the biggest political whorehouse on the planet?

No, I don’t think so. Apart from the genuine lust for power, which must be at the epi-centre of anyone foolhardy enough to go after this biggest of political prizes, John Kerry does seem to have something about him which sets him apart from the man he must beat in November.

There is a difference in political candidates and it is this: those to whom power is an end unto itself, and those to whom power is merely a means to effect an end. The latter has a vision of society that has a legitimacy greater than the opportunity to benefit and enrich backers and hangers-on, whose only qualification is the sharing of an ideology based on greed as its central moral and ethical value.

There is no question about which best describes Bush and the Republican Party. It is evidenced in a thoughtful column in the New York Times last weekend which recounted the ways in which this Republican president is undoing what a turn-of-the-twentieth-century president named Teddy Roosevelt did to preserve the American wilderness.

Simply stated, George W. Bush is the greatest enemy the American ecological and environmental movement has seen in a century. He is deliberately sabotaging laws made to protect Americans from the disastrous effects of unfettered greed posing in the name of economic development.

Kerry’s biggest problem going into this political convention, according to American political commentators, has been his inability so far to position himself as anything more than an anybody-but-Bush candidate. Kerry and Bush are now bouncing back and forth with a three or four point lead in most polls. It is a statistical dead heat right now. Democratic strategists say this is better than any challenger has ever done, at this stage of an American presidential election campaign.

What is most fascinating though, is that on individual issues — jobs, medical care, even Iraq — Bush is behind, and losing ground.

That is what sets up the drama of this week in Boston.

The convention is regarded by Kerry’s braintrust as the launching pad into the three month run-up to voting day, the part where he will try to take the focus off the Bush inadequacies, and divert national attention to the Kerry positives — his personal positives, his policies and the vision he holds forth to make his America a better, stronger, safer place.

Bush claims allegiance on what amounts to the “fear” issue — his phantasmagoric War On Terror — where he has demonstrably failed, and miserably so. But 93 per cent of Republicans polled this week say they will vote for him anyway.

Kerry’s task this week is to win over those voters tagged “independent,” swing voters who will decide who gets the key to the White House after what most commentators are terming the most polarized election campaign in many generations. Almost half say they will vote for him and running mate, John Edwards.

That is where the heart of this American election lies. To win, John Kerry must win the hearts of Americans who say they “do not know him yet” — in that phrase that really means they are yet to see themselves in him and what he wants America to be.

Those voters know what George Bush is and what he can never be. Sufficient numbers now recognize what they know, enough to give confidence to those who believe there is still time for America to be what it can be.

I’m betting on the two Johns.