Skip to comments.The Great Donkey Mystery of 2004 (Why Kerry?)
Posted on 02/11/2004 12:33:53 PM PST by Akira
"In a surprising last-minute upset, all seven Democratic presidential hopefuls somehow lost the Democratic primaries Tuesday," The Onion America's best satirical news source reported the morning after the February 3 elections. "Primaries were held in Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, with no single Democratic candidate coming in higher than second place," it continued. "Experts are still unsure exactly how Kerry, whom many considered the frontrunner after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, lost to, and along with, every other Democratic candidate."
That's sort of how I feel about the Democrats in general these days. Yes, President Bush is going through a rough patch right now and in many respects deservedly so. But I can't shake this feeling that the Democrats are deluding themselves in believing Kerry to be the man they think he is. I mean, if he were remotely as macho and war-heroic as everyone claims, don't you think people might have liked him a little sooner? His support was almost nonexistent barely a week before Howard Dean went kablooey like one of those guys from Scanners.
Oh sure, the liberal press noticed how manly he looked in his wet suits, on his motorcycle, etc. But Democratic voters yawned at him until the very last moment. If you look at the exit polls, listen to the pundits, or just use common sense, you'll see that voters switched to him not because they liked him, but because they firmly believed hoped, really that other voters would. Kerry's appeal to Democrats is that they think he's the Democrat who has the best shot at beating Bush, not that he's the best man for the job. There's nothing wrong with that, but it shows that the real passion among Democrats isn't for their candidate; it's against the incumbent. And, again, that's fine too. But rank-and-file Democrats should keep in mind that they feel about George Bush the way rank-and-file Republicans felt about Bill Clinton in 1996. Screaming and hollering like a madman about how terrible the president of the United States is, or complaining "where's the outrage," doesn't win elections.
The Democrats seem to have succumbed to a terrible bout of wishful thinking, like Michael Moore bringing a condom in his wallet to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit-photo shoot.
In the current issue of the New Yorker, George Packer writes:
"Vietnam, of course, badly divided Democrats, turning some into Republicans and others into pacifists. And here is a remarkable fact: since the nineteen-sixties, the Democratic Party has had no foreign policy. Its leaders have continued to speak the language of liberal internationalism, but after Vietnam most Democrats haven't wanted to back up the talk with power. They continued to put their faith in institutions like the United Nations (where Saddam's Iraq was a member in good standing and Libya chaired the human-rights commission) long after it was apparent that these institutions needed repair. By the nineteen-nineties, liberal internationalism had become an atrophied muscle, with little fibre or sinew left. The Clinton Administration allowed a genocidal war to bleed away in the Balkans for two and a half years before acting to end it. In the dot-com decade, a lot of Democrats simply lost interest in the rest of the world. Clinton's foreign policy was globalization: encouraging the economic interconnectedness of the world, without developing a mechanism to prevent threats and conflicts from becoming catastrophes without borders."
Now, I have no doubt that many Democrats will contest this description. But that's not just because they're wrong; they're actually in denial. For years, it's seemed like Democrats have truly believed they have a foreign policy. When you listen to folks like John Kerry or read columns by E. J. Dionne, you get the impression that they think Republicans won on foreign policy and national security because they Jedi mind-tricked Michael Dukakis into a tank. The idea, usually insinuated rather than stated, was that the Republicans just acted more macho, or they hyped the threat of the Soviets in order to scare the public out of voting Democratic.
After all, they insisted, Democrats were united in opposition to the Soviets. The Cold War was this "intellectually coherent thing," in the words of Bill Clinton, and we were all on the same side. Of course, that's not true. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out in a wonderful speech Tuesday night at the American Enterprise Institute, it was the liberal foreign-policy establishment that made "Cold Warrior" an insult, not a badge of honor.
Anyway, because the Democrats refused to believe that Republicans actually had better ideas than they did seeing as Democrats often had no ideas at all they convinced themselves that if they could simply get a candidate who didn't seem like a sissy on foreign policy, they'd win. That was the conceit of the thankfully dying Wes Clark candidacy. Get a general to mouth Howard Dean's foreign-policy nonsense, and the Democrats will surely win, because, damn it, the Democrats do too have serious ideas on foreign policy! Clark didn't take off because everything about him except his résumé screamed fraud the second he became a candidate. He was just the Johnny Bravo candidate: He fit the costume, and he was willing to say what he was told to.
KERRY'S ALL MAN AND ALL WET
But Kerry's authentic. That is, he's been authentically planning on running for president since he had training wheels on his bike. And because nobody better represents the flimsy array of sentiments and clichés masquerading as a Democratic foreign policy than John Kerry, he's been cultivating his macho image for years. I'm sure he does like to ride his motorcycle and I'm sure he enjoys surfing too. But he loves doing these things when there's a photographer from Vanity Fair around.
"Kerry's speeches," in the words of Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice, "bristle with suck-on-this epigrams." He talks about how much he knows about aircraft carriers, he yells "bring it on!" constantly. A consultant to the Kerry campaign even told the Washington Post, "That's our slogan 'John Kerry: He's no weenie.'"
On Meet the Press in December of 2002, Kerry explained to Tim Russert that he didn't believe in the death penalty in large part because he thought life in prison is "tougher." Now, I've written before that this was a great example of how Kerry likes to be on every side of an issue (a point Mickey Kaus makes with mountains of evidence almost every day). I still think that. But, on reflection, it also seems clear that Kerry wants life in prison to be harsher because, well, "John Kerry: He's no weenie."
Okay, so he's no weenie, no matter how French he looks. Fine. But, who cares? How bereft of ideas and how overcome with cynicism is the Democratic party if it honestly thinks the solution to its problems is to trot out the same old tired message, but with a new messenger boasting a good war record? Sure, the American people like guys with military experience. But they don't melt at the sight of them. Bill Clinton defeated two war heroes, and Al Gore served in Vietnam (as a military journalist) and lost. Ideas matter. Policy matters. John Kerry may have lots of foreign-policy experience, but time and again he's culled the wrong lessons from it.
He voted against the first Gulf War, for the second one, and then against the money necessary to keep the peace, i.e., to "nation-build," which was once one of the Democrats' very few real foreign-policy ideas. Ask him on a Tuesday why he voted the way he did and, sure as shinola, he'll give you a different answer than he did on Monday.
He was against almost every weapons system during the Cold War and he sided with the nuclear-freeze movement. He still boasts of fighting "Ronald Reagan's illegal wars in Central America," which is a perfectly snide way of saying that Kerry fought Reagan when Reagan was fighting and winning the Cold War. He was even one of the few Democrats who voted against lifting the arms embargo that was contributing to the mass slaughter of Bosnians. His 1997 book on foreign policy, which he touts as prophetic on the war on terrorism, predicted that various mafias not al Qaeda, not Islamic fundamentalism posed the biggest threat to national security. It also underscored Kerry's view that the war on terrorism is nothing more than a law-enforcement problem.
But don't tell that to the Democrats. They're convinced his medals which he kinda sorta, wink, wink, gave back far outweigh all of this. How else to explain the dizzying spin that Kerry's victories in Tennessee and Virginia prove he's "electable" in the south? Umm, note to the dreamers: Winning a Democratic primary in a Republican state is not the same thing as winning an election in a Republican state just as winning your fraternity's three-man basketball tournament doesn't make you eligible to play in the NBA.
Or, just look at the unseemly glee about Bush's clearly less-than-gung-ho National Guard service. (Hey what ever happened to smart-liberalism's disgust at "wedge issues"?)
Well, here's a prediction. For good or ill, Americans will make up their minds on this story by next week; next month at the latest. Then what, Terry? My guess is we'll see McAuliffe at the debates this fall shouting from his hideout amidst the klieg lights, "Enough about tax cuts! Ask him again about the National Guard!"
As for me, I'm not worried. If the Democrats want to nominate a guy so arrogant and liberal that he actually seems like a comedian's parody of a Massachusetts senator, that's fine by me. But why they think normal Americans will love him when, in their hearts of hearts, even partisan Democrats don't is a mystery.
That is not wishful thinking. That is physically impossible.
Moreover, again I have to poke out my mind's eye.
Because he's rich enough (or at least his wife is that wealthy) to self-fund his 2004 Presidential campaign... The Democrats are currently 90% short of their 527 fundraising targets for 2004.
They are losing their House races. They are losing up to 5 Senate seats, and they can't afford to run a decent Presidential campaign.
But if they nominate Kerry, then his wife gets stuck with the bill.
Not sure I agree with that. The real anti-Clinton candidates like Alan Keyes never came close to flirting with the nomination, as Howard Dean did in the Democratic primary. And unlike Kerry, Bush made it aggressively clear that he wouldn't be a reflection for conservative anger against Clinton.
Heh-heh-heh... gotta love Jonah! :)
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