Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Kerry’s quagmire
Posted on 08/26/2004 6:11:58 AM PDT by Pokey78
I have no views on whether one or more of John Kerrys bemedalled wounds from the Mekong Delta 35 years ago were self-inflicted though the Kerry campaign, in its second big concession to his chastisers, now says his first Purple Heart-earning wound might have been unintentionally self-inflicted. But theres no doubt every wound from the last 35 days is self-inflicted, beginning with the candidates disastrous decision at the Democratic Convention to play up Vietnam and play down Iraq, 9/11 and anything else that happened in the last 30 years. Since then Kerrys shot himself in the foot so many times he ought to put in for a good dozen more Purple Hearts.
The flaw in the Senators strategy to run for president as a plucky 24-year-old Swift boat lieutenant was an obvious one. The argument that his Swift boat command demonstrates his superb qualities of leadership falls apart once you notice his striking lack of the first ingredient of leadership: followers. Aside from the three or four Swiftees whove been persuaded to travel around the country with him, all the hundreds of other Swiftvets loathe him, and many of them are determined to stick to him like DNA to Monicas dress. This was entirely foreseeable Ive been getting emails from aggrieved veterans for two years now, so Id guess the Democrats have too.
But the party that likes to sneer that Bush never had a plan to deal with Iraqs inevitable insurgents doesnt seem to mind that Kerry never had a plan to deal with the Swiftees equally inevitable insurgents. A guy awash in gazillions from Barbra Streisand and co. who cant see off a couple of hundred middle-aged liars and their minimal ad-buy? Is that really the fellow you want to put up against al-Qaeda, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il?
The Kerry campaigns bumbling ineptness this last month is a bit of a stunner to those of us who followed Bill Clinton for eight years. The Democrats may not know how to run a school district or a highway department, but theyre supposed to be able to run scandals.
Consider, by way of comparison, James E. McGreevey, Democratic Governor of New Jersey. A couple of weeks ago, Governor McGreevey turned up for a 4 p.m. press conference with his wife loyally standing by his side and declared, My truth is that I am a gay American.
The following day it emerged that other folks truth is that McGreeveys a corrupt sexual predator who got the hots for an Israeli poet, put him on the payroll as the states $110,000-per-annum homeland security adviser, a position for which he had no obvious qualification, and allegedly forcibly performed oral sex on him as well as other acts, one of which may or may not have been responsible for the Governor mysteriously breaking a leg on the beach this summer.
I thought McGreeveys moment-of-truth press conference performance was completely revolting, even before it emerged that I am a gay American was a phrase developed by the Governor in consultation with a gay rights group that tested it in focus groups.
At one level, this is utterly contemptible. But at another its magnificently professional. The New Jersey Dems have arranged things to deny the people an early chance to vote on McGreeveys replacement and, by the time they do get their say, the hack machine pol wholl be taking over from him will be running as an established incumbent.
Dealt an unpromising hand, Garden State Democrats nevertheless defined the scandal on their terms. Thats how I figured Kerry would handle the Swift vets problem. Hed be shameless but effective. Hed have focus-grouped some weaselly form of words that would put him beyond reach, and the whole business would have dribbled away. But instead, cosseted away with Teresa, hes apparently been running the fightback himself, disastrously. First, he got his heavies to send out menacing letters of empty threats to TV stations considering running the Swift vets ad. Then he demanded that his lawyers write similar missives to stores carrying the Swiftees book. Imagine if Bush did that every time Michael Moore or Al Franken released yet another lame Bush-bashing tract: the shelves would be half empty. If anything, the buyers for the big chains underestimated the demand for the Swift book because they fell for the Boston Globe/New York Times spin that no one was interested in these embittered old losers. Now the store managers are reeling under a barrage of customers who think the unavailability of the book is due to Kerrys political muscle rather than incompetent ordering.
Still, thats no reason not to dig yourself in a little deeper. On Monday, Kerry called Bob Dole. Dole had gone on TV on Sunday and unburdened himself of some musings on the unusual circumstance of a war protester running as war hero: One day hes saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day hes standing there: I want to be president because Im a Vietnam veteran. Maybe he should apologise to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasnt the only one in Vietnam. Dole, of course, is a visibly scarred second world war vet, and he was out there a lot longer than four months.
But Kerry was hopping mad about this breach of senatorial clubbability and rang the old boy to complain. Dole refused to apologise and recounted his subsequent conversation with the candidate to Sean Hannitys radio audience a couple of hours later. Heres the bit I like. Kerry is whining about this and that, and Dole says to him, Everybody likes quiet heroes, John. Everybody knows you were in Vietnam and the less you say about it the better.
Its a bit late to try that approach now. Last week Kerry dusted off his blustery primary-season slogan if Bush wants to make this campaign about service in Vietnam, I have three words: BRING IT ON! After a couple more days dodging questions, Kerry decided it was time to try out another three words and sent Pretty Boy John Edwards to lay down the gauntlet to the President. This is a moment of truth for George W. Bush, said Edwards. We want to hear three words: Stop these ads. Having decided to hoard his campaign cash through August for the big ad-buys of September, Kerry changed his mind and blew a pile of dough on a new commercial demanding Bush repudiate the Swiftees and stop these ads.
Swift Boat Veterans For Truth is what they call a 527 advocacy group, the latest predictable loophole from the latest round of idiotic campaign finance reform. There are no formal connections permitted between 527s and political candidates, so Bush cant call a halt. Nonetheless, he responded to Kerry and Edwards with his own three words: sure, why not? I dont think we ought to have 527s. I cant be more plain about it, said Bush, saying that he was opposed to that ad and every other ad. I hope my opponent joins me in condemning these activities of the 527s.
Er, well, thats not quite what Kerry was hoping for. Nine of the top ten 527s are anti-Bush groups moveon.org and similar funded by the likes of George Soros. The way Kerrys chums at the New York Times have been trumpeting links between the Swiftees and prominent Republicans, youd think prominent Republicans were the Mafia. In fact, 19 of the top 20 individual donors to 527s are prominent Democrat supporters. If the 527s got yanked from the air, Kerry would be clobbered far worse than Bush, which is all the more reason not to be a big whiny ninny about one lousy ad running in a couple of states.
As the coup de grâce, Bush added, I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is whos best to lead the country in the war on terror ...I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward.
Bush didnt bring it on. Kerry brought it on himself. All that Senator Weenie has achieved by his stumblebum responses is to amplify the charges and broaden the field of attack against him. Take Doles sardonic characterisation of Kerrys wounds: Three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, theyre all superficial wounds ... Never spent one day in the hospital ... And boasting about three Purple Hearts when you think of some of the people who really got shot up in Vietnam.... Dole is the only political heavyweight visibly war-wounded enough to be able to say such things about Kerry, and he wouldnt have done so if Kerrys goons hadnt started smearing the Swiftvets as liars.
But now Doles said it, hes made it easier for others. I havent written much about Kerrys medals, because if you come from a country in the British military tradition, the whole Purple Heart thing is hard to get your head around. You mean, most of his medals are for being wounded? said my wife in amazement, her father and uncles having gone off to war in 1939 and two thirds of them having returned in far worse shape than Dole, never mind Kerry. And if you get three of these Purple Hearts they send you home?
Well, no. They dont send you home. But you can choose to leave. And thats what Kerry did. He got three scratches and went home eight months early. Despite the convention speech about how we were all in the same boat, the commander left his men in the boat and cleared off back to Massachusetts. Thats the essence of the Kerry military record, and the more the clumsy Democrat operatives insult anti-Kerry veterans, the easier it is to summarise the candidate as devastatingly as Bob Dole does.
The risk in running on biography is that voters wont find your life story as compelling as you do. They might be churlish enough to be more interested in, say, health care or terrorism than what you were doing in 1968. That risk becomes a certainty when your appealing soft-focus narrative comes under attack and your campaign degenerates into a defence of your biography. The minute you start running ads demanding that voters tell George W Bush to stop telling lies about what a weally weally big war hero I am, you sound ridiculous. Especially when your opponent is a guy whos never complained about anything not the Bush is Hitler stuff, not the Bush knew about 9/11 in advance stuff, not even the comparatively mild Michael Moore slur that hes a moron so paralysed without his minders that he continued reading My Pet Goat to Florida grade-schoolers for a full seven minutes on September 11. Kerry himself made sneering cracks about the pet goat business, and Bush didnt whine about it.
Happily, the boys on the bus are still doing their bit for Kerry. Editor & Publisher had an hilarious headline this week: Campaign Journalists: Has Swift Boat Story Gone On Too Long? Too long? It took two weeks before the New York Times could bring itself to say a word about it. Nonetheless, it probably has had too long a life, said Frank James, a Chicago Tribune reporter. We wish someone would put a stake in this vampire.
If Franks getting a little bored on the campaign plane, why not ask to see the hat Kerry told the Washington Post he travels with all the time and which he claims was given to him by a CIA guy on one of his secret missions? If he produces the hat, ask if you can have it carbon-dated to see if it dates from the late Sixties. Many of us would indulge the Mad Hatter in his wacky fantasies if hes gone to a lot of trouble to get the period details right.
Heres an interesting Rasmussen poll of likely voters from the end of last week i.e., a point at which the big networks and agenda-setting newspapers were still insisting, in the words of the Boston Globes Thomas Oliphant, that the story does not meet basic standards for coverage in the mainstream media. In other words, the circulation of the story was confined to the Internet and right-wing talk-radio, and already the numbers looked like this:
About his service in Vietnam, is Kerry...
Telling the truth 39%
Exaggerating the truth 31%
A Kerry guy spun that to me as great news: hey, only 15 per cent think hes lying about his service record! Hang on, man, 46 per cent think hes exaggerating or lying. Your boys negatives outweigh his positives on the sole issue youve chosen to define the man and his candidacy. Among independents i.e., all those critical swing voters 34 per cent think hes telling the truth, and 48 per cent think hes either exaggerating or lying.
Hes got a week off now for the Republican convention. If the Swift vets are still hounding Kerry by mid-September, hell be mired in a Vietnam quagmire of his own making. And, unlike the original, no matter how many hits you take, theres no early release.
Kerry was in Viet Nam? For how long? 100 days or so...
Wasn't he in the Senate or something for 20 YEARS
Steyn is great.
The title says it all.
Three states, to be exact. And if Kerry and Company have promoted them by trying to "fight back" against them, so that now they are familiar to people in every state.
BIG mistake. Kerry has run the most inept campaign I've seen since...well, since "Crazy Howard" Dean.
I said from the get go that his bringing up Vietnam might come back to bite him. As a vet I really resent his peace protesting.I became a beneficary of being called names myself as result of his actions.
By my calculation, using the dates in Brinkley's book, he spent somewhere from 103-107 days in a forward area.
As a poster said here the other day...it WAS enemy fire, Kerry is his own worst enemy!
It is funny how BRING IT ON! has become stop these ads. You could say Kerry planned for a war but had no plan for peace.
Well, the senior guys are definitely out of touch with reality. The media tried to save you but a little thing called the internet and cable news did you in.
"Especially when your opponent is a guy whos never complained about anything not the Bush is Hitler stuff, not the Bush knew about 9/11 in advance stuff, not even the comparatively mild Michael Moore slur that hes a moron so paralysed without his minders that he continued reading My Pet Goat to Florida grade-schoolers for a full seven minutes on September 11. Kerry himself made sneering cracks about the pet goat business, and Bush didnt whine about it."
This is the man I want for President of the U.S.
Not only is Steyn always worth reading, he has to be one of the most prolific writers out there. Always fresh and insightful. Love him.
Kerry was in the Senate?
I don't know but he WAS in Vietnam.
It's absolutely true that Kerry could have defused this whole thing if he hadn't fought back. He could have said, "I respect these vets and they have the right to their opinion and to their memories. My memories and opinions are different." and as he has said earlier, "I was a young man in 1971 and I was quoting other vets and went overboard, I was caught up in the moment and I apologize."
That would have ended the story but he made it a battle of who lied.
0.58% of his life in Vietnam, 33% of his life in the Senate. And yet he talks all Vietnam all the time.
I think even the LSM's Kerry Kamp is Kracking. Sooner or later, some reporter somewhere is going to do a compliation of Kerry 'Stretchers' VC the Flying Dog, Christmas in Cambodia, his Vivid memory of MLK's assissination in Vietnam...when he wasn't in Vietnam etc etc &c.
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