Skip to comments.John Kerry's Desperate Hours (Oh..Oh did he say the "F" word?)
Posted on 12/06/2003 9:27:34 PM PST by fight_truth_decay
The one-time Democratic front-runner is fighting for his survival...
On a Friday in November, at the end of a tough week, John Kerry projects an aura of friendly confidence that suggests he is either out of touch with reality or has the serenity of a Zen master. In the last five days, Kerry has fired his campaign manager and then seen two staffers walk out the door. He has decided to opt out of the public financing for his campaign -- ostensibly to keep up with his chief rival, blunt, plain-spoken former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who made a similar decision earlier in the week, but also, as Time will report a few days later, because his campaign is having trouble persuading anyone to write a check. Until pretty much the moment he started running in earnest earlier this year, Kerry's campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination had about it an aura of inevitability. Most watchers attributed the four-term Massachusetts senator's overconfidence to a hubris born of his patrician roots. The shorthand became: Because this guy went to a fancy prep school and then was tapped to join Skull and Bones at Yale, he just naturally assumes the nomination is his. But in person, Kerry projects something different: He doesn't seem elitist or aloof. Just the opposite, in fact. He is eager to connect, intense and hopped-up, pulling near-strangers in tight for old-friends-style handshakes, throwing around a lot of "man" and "dude." In these moments, the detail about Kerry that seems most important is not his elitist roots but the fact that he's a sixty-year-old guy who likes to snowboard.
Kerry brings to the race a dramatic life story and a resume so perfectly burnished that he seems almost a fictional creation. Born into an old-line family of Boston Brahmins, he was educated at Swiss boarding schools before attending St. Paul's and then Yale. As a teenager, he sailed off Newport, Rhode Island, with President John F. Kennedy. A few years later, as a young naval officer, he became a bona fide war hero in Vietnam, then returned home in 1969 and emerged as a prominent anti-war activist. He co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War, testified in Congress, headlined a peace rally with John Lennon and became a target of the Nixon White House ("Destroy the young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader," wrote Nixon aide Charles Colson in a memo to the president).
Kerry was elected to the Senate in 1984 after working as a prosecutor and serving as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. In the Senate, he became known for his high-profile investigations: He was one of the first members of Congress to probe the Iran-Contra scandal; in 1988, he helped uncover the massive BCCI banking scandal. In the Nineties, he joined Arizona senator John McCain to investigate -- and put to rest -- claims that American POWs were still being held in Vietnam. More recently, he led the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.
But it's another recent vote that most seems to have gotten Kerry into trouble with Democratic voters -- his decision to back the president's resolution to go to war in Iraq. Kerry offers a logical and well-reasoned rationale for favoring the war. But the stump is probably not the best place for nuance, and so Kerry's on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand stance has come off as overly calculated when contrasted with Dean's sledgehammer anti-war bluster.
With less than two months to go until he faces voters in Iowa and then New Hampshire, Kerry is refashioning himself as a bare-knuckled longshot -- the insider as outsider. Neither a bleeding heart, an insurgent, a new face nor a technocrat, Kerry is selling himself to voters as the guy who knows how the game is played in Washington. His challenge will be to show them that's not all he knows.
It seems that the fact that you voted in support of the president's war resolution has caused you a lot of trouble in your campaign. Do you regret supporting the president?
What I regret most of all is the way the administration dealt with it -- the extraordinary failure of the administration to keep its promises, to be mature and thoughtful about how you take a nation to war. They misled us; they presented false intelligence to us. The president made a series of promises to us -- number one, that he was gonna make every effort possible to build a legitimate coalition. He did not -- he built a fraudulent coalition. Second, he was gonna exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and the inspection process. He did not. And third, that he would go to war as a last resort. He did not.
I voted to protect the security of our country, based on the notion that the only way to get inspectors back in was to have a legitimate threat of force and the potential of using it. They took that legitimacy and bastardized it. If I were president, we would not be in Iraq today -- we would not be at war. This president abused the process.
Had you thought of Bush as someone whose word you could trust at that point?
It seems to me that we had a right to expect the president of the United States to live up to his word. It was disgraceful, one of the most egregious, fundamentally flawed moments of foreign policy that I can think of in my lifetime.
You were highly critical of the way they conducted the Afghanistan war, as well.
But that was a question of strategy, not whether we should be there or not. They had Osama bin Laden and a thousand Al Qaeda fighters cornered in the Tora Bora mountains and allowed them to escape.
Why do you think that was? Were they afraid of losing troops?
I think, at that point in time, yes. They ran a risk-averse operation. They didn't move any of our available legitimate forces into the area. Instead, they sent Afghans -- who, a week earlier, were fighting on the other side -- up into the mountains and said, "Hey, you go get the number-one criminal in the world." It sounds pretty stupid to me, frankly.
Are you saying that Bush's conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- not to mention the way he has pissed off our allies -- has been incompetent?
Oh, absolutely. Worse than incompetent. Clouded by ideological excess, a misinterpretation of history, a willful denial of facts.
Is Iraq turning into another Vietnam?
Not yet, but it's on its way, absent major changes in the way they're doing business.
The economy is clearly going to be the number-one issue in this election -- it always is. Bush has certainly looked vulnerable on this front. But in the past few weeks, it looks like we've started to see some positive economic news. Does this take a big issue away from the Democrats?
Whether the economy is good or bad, it doesn't change the fundamentals of my campaign for the presidency. Because I believe this administration is so badly out of touch with the needs of the American people, I think it is so much in the pocket of powerful special interests, I think it is so much working against the interests of average Americans -- that having a stronger economy, in their equation, is not gonna change life for a lot of Americans.
When the other Democratic candidates talk about Bush, they pretty much just bash his policies. You not only do that, but you also question his basic fitness to serve -- you just said he was incompetent. My question is: When Republicans ran against Clinton, they made a huge issue out of Clinton's character. Why isn't the character issue being taken to George Bush?
If you're running for the presidency, there are other things you have to focus on. I want to paint an optimistic, hopeful vision for the country and open people's eyes to the things that we could be doing with respect to, say, energy independence. In the 1930s, we thought it was critical to get electricity out into rural America, right? I think it's critical to get clean energy out to every part of America. Let's help create the framework to do it.
Did you feel you were blindsided by Dean's success?
Well, not blindsided. I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, "I'm against everything"? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did.
Do you see Dean as the next George McGovern? It's being said that the Republicans are foaming at the mouth to go against Dean.
Republicans have been contributing to Dean's campaign on the Internet. Look, Bush stood up in the White House Rose Garden a week ago and said, "I'm gonna run for re-election on the basis of my pre-emption doctrine and our ability to make the world safer." He has declared his strategy. And unless we have a nominee who can go right at him on that strategy, we're gonna be in trouble.
What do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California?
Well, first of all, Arnold's a friend of mine. I've known him for a long time, and he's a capable guy. I mean, he's smart and capable. I would have preferred that there had been no recall. I went out and campaigned against it. But I understand the anger that existed out there.
Do you think that same anger is propelling Dean's candidacy?
Other people have to determine that. I'm not an analyst. I'm running for president based on my vision for the country, and I think I have a longer, stronger, deeper record of fighting against those interests, and representing that anger, than Howard Dean.
You have talked in the past of smoking pot when you returned from Vietnam. What do you think of the way the pot laws are prosecuted today?
We have never had a legitimate War on Drugs in the United States, ever, and we won't until we have treatment on demand for addiction and until you have full drug education in our schools. The mandatory-minimum-sentencing structure of our country is funneling people into jail who have no business being there.
And every year, the number of people arrested for marijuana offenses goes up.
I've met plenty of people in my lifetime who've used marijuana and who I would not qualify as serious addicts -- who use about the same amount as some people drink beer or wine or have a cocktail. I don't get too excited by any of that.
Would you favor decriminalization?
No, not quite. What we did in the prosecutor's office was have a sort of unspoken approach to marijuana that was almost effectively decriminalization. We just didn't bother with small-time use. It doesn't rise to the level of nuisance, even. And what we were after was people dealing with heroin and destroying lives, and people who were killing people. That's where you need to focus.
What's most important to you in this campaign?
This is a critical time for the country. The stakes are just enormous. We need a president, frankly, who has the kind of experience that I've had: of being in a war, understanding its downsides but understanding the nature of the threats in the world. Understanding that you couldn't leave Saddam Hussein to his own devices, but you needed to do this in a very responsible, thoughtful way.
Does this change the way we relate to the world?
I'm gonna lift this country up to a greater engagement in the world. I mean, think of what we could do to reach out and begin to present a different face of our country. Think of what we could do to advance the interests of the developing world, so people would see the United States as not just this aggressive, arrogant force that only thinks of itself and doesn't really have a greater sense of humanity and concern. We're just not embracing any of that stuff today, and it drives me crazy.
John Kerry: Earth Day Address, Boston 2003
It is great to see all the young people here today.
Are you ready to improve your environment?
Are you ready to build up our neighborhoods?
I applaud you on your goal to register
one million voters this year.
Are you ready to take your future back?
(like a fox lickin' his chops while entering the hen house)
Like asking permission from coutries like France . . . </ sarcasm>
He makes his point like the Young Democrats on my college campus. And believe me when I say that that is not a good association to have made about onesself.
This group of 9 non-contenders have absolutely ZILCH to offer, besides Nickelodeon personal attacks and class warfare
"The president made a series of promises to us -- number one, that he was gonna make every effort possible to build a legitimate coalition. He did not -- he built a fraudulent coalition."
Can anybody tell me what a fraudulent coalition is?
" Second, he was gonna exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and the inspection process. He did not."That path was WAY over, even Clinton knew that.
" And third, that he would go to war as a last resort. He did not."
To some, war is no resort at all. For America to protect herself, bringing the battle to those who started this conflict, should be of FIRST RESORT.
As for any cohesive drug policy. He would rather turn a blind eye and not stand up for decriminalization. Goes to show what he'd do when any pressure is on....fold!
Wonder what it stands for...???
One not sufficiently submissive to French financial interests.
Which is what he is today ;)
PhotoShoppers, line up...............................................................here.
John should start campaigning in the full white jacket.
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