John Kerry

This post began as a comment. Then as such things often do it grew into something a tad too wordy for the comments section. The posts the prompted this may be found at Dean’s World and The Moderate Voice. Note that this deals with politics (sigh); so do move on if this is not your cup of tea.

It is my conjecture that the failure of the Kerry campaign to adequately deal with the Swift Vets group has a deeper cause than merely the assumption that some nefarious coalition of left-leaning media commentators would see to it the story died a quiet death. Senator Kerry, his campaign aides and the larger media outlets have ignored this story because they assumed that most people would look at any allegations of impropriety and shrug it off as a product of the Vietnam War. In this analysis, the major actors on the campaign and media sides were unprepared for the notion that any of this would have traction with American voters.

In the circles of left-leaning politically aware persons Vietnam is regarded as a sort of Baptism by Fire. It is an event that justified all manner of activities in opposing it, as well as avoiding it. To Senator Kerry’s credit, he chose to wade in to the charnel house when he could have easily avoided it. I am unimpressed with claims that citations he was awarded might have been fraudulent. Instead I know that at a time in his life when he was certainly able to evade such duty he voluntarily placed himself in harm’s way. I am not impressed by implications that the combat duty was viewed as a stepping-stone to a political career. Did a young John Kerry stand to in the face of an enemy determined to kill him and his crew? The answer is an unambiguous “Yes”. This ends that debate for me.

Where Senator Kerry is far more vulnerable is on questions regarding his activities after returning home from Vietnam, and all this talk of medals and heroism and fraud have merely set the stage for the second act of this political drama. I find it amusing that no one seems to have noticed (or at least felt it necessary to comment upon) the fact that merely a day after the Senator lashed out at his critics, the focus shifted to events that are not a matter of opinion. The young Mr. Kerry’s testimony before congress is extraordinarily damning and is rendered even more so by his failure to adequately address his actions and the clear falsehoods he uttered to further a cause that some believe was in direct opposition to his nation’s vital interests.

Why has this gone unaddressed? As I noted above- it was assumed that most Americans would look at the facts and decide that they were irrelevant, or at least unimportant. A major strategic error on the part of the Kerry campaign was to attempt to “prepare the ground” by emphasizing his heroism and service in Vietnam, thereby hoping to inoculate themselves against any untidiness that might spring up. The reply would be along the lines of “How dare you impugn my service to my country?”

Only it does not seem to have eventuated in that fashion, has it? When the attacks came, as the Democratic campaign managers must have known they would, the careful indignation was insufficient to quiet the detractors. The media ignored the story to a degree, not out of some urge to protect Senator Kerry, but rather from a sense that the American people would not care. Nobody wanted to relive Vietnam, went the reasoning, so it was unlikely to make any great impression; however, the candidate himself made it an issue by placing Vietnam so prominently at the center of his campaign. By the time the inevitable decision was taken to attack the attackers the story had grown too large to contain, and this was complicated by the assorted veterans making these claims failing to collapse under the onslaught of criticism and investigative zeal unleashed against them.

Does this mean the Kerry candidacy is doomed? Hardly. They have a task set before them and they must demonstrate themselves equal to it. Should they prove successful these moments could easily cement victory for the Democrats in November; however, attempting to characterize the attacks against the Senator as part of an illicit Republican plot are doomed to failure. Those centrist voters paying attention to politics are aware of the astoundingly well-funded ?independent’ organizations lined up behind the Democratic candidate, and protesting against what amounts to a very lightly funded organization simply because it seems to be making headway will properly be viewed as at least slightly disingenuous, particularly in light of the candidate’s willing embrace of certain wealthy demagogues.

It seems likely that the winning strategy would be to confront and explain, and thereby defuse. Ignore the criticisms of the Senator’s war decorations, confront the fallout of Winter Soldier exclusively, and thereby de-link the two in the minds of the voters. In particular it would seem necessary to put this entire episode to rest at least a few days before the opening of the Republican convention. Failure on this point could be irrecoverably disastrous. The Senator’s words from 1971 are difficult to rationalize, particularly in the context of his later actions as a US Senator, but it is not an impossible task. It will require a depth of humanity and an ability to build empathy that few possess. Should Senator Kerry prove he is amongst those rare individuals he shall emerge as a most formidable candidate, and a superb President.

16 Responses to “John Kerry”

  1. Well, my dear lady, I fear I must disagree. While can hardly say you weren’t around back then, but I do believe it likely you weren’t paying attention.

    The very reason that the Kerry campaign CANNOT squarely face the issues boiling up on Vietnam is entirely due to the fact that, back then, and directly in relation to Winter Soldier, he did indeed commit substantive treason — in fact, if not in law — he did willfully give false testimony before the Senate, testimony that he himself cooked up from sources he and others solicited.

    He cannot wash his hands of it, because he was up to his elbows in it. This is known to those who were involved in the antiwar movement, and not all of them remain left partisans. (Your humble correspondent, for one.)

    His ONLY possible defense is the ad hominem. And, to the extent that the voters see that as dirty pool, it will sink him.


  2. Mr. Alger-

    I am fully aware of the difficulties Senator Kerry faces, particularly as the focus of attention moves from the allegations regarding his war decorations and on to the facts of his activities upon returning home from Vietnam. My suggestion that there was but one way for him to deal with this in no way implies that I believe him capable of doing so. I have encountered his type far too often- the version of the past he carries in his head is designed to support the ego and minimize the discomfort of past indiscretions. I sincerely doubt that this is even a conscious effort on his part, rather it speaks to personality type, hence his decision to sue to suppress the advertisements he cannot bring himself to rebut and his fairly ludicrous charges that the Swift Boat Veterans are directly managed by the Bush campaign.

    It seems he is unwilling to accept that there are numerous people in his past that found his actions to be more than merely dishonorable or dishonest, but reprehensible. He fails to grasp just how deeply he has hurt those people, and his own ideological motivations prevent him from seeing that he in fact HAS hurt them. As I noted in my post, the left hemisphere of the American political sphere views Vietnam as an Ultimate Evil which justified anything done in opposition to it. This is a necessary fiction to maintain, for the alternative requires them to admit that they and their compatriots acted in a manner that caused immense harm to their nation and to suffering peoples half a world away. That is a horrible revelation for any individual to embrace so I am unsurprised by the reactions to those who would attempt to hold the Senator accountable for his words and actions during that time.

    The final point I made was no more than a recognition that should Senator Kerry find it within himself to confront and put paid to these issues he would perforce have made a substantial change in outlook and character that would border on the epiphanous. Such people are often quite formidable after such self-reanalysis. With that in mind, I stand by my assertions made in the conclusion of my post.


  3. I certainly think this is a thoughtful and valid analysis. The “if” of Kerry answering these questions in a appropriate manner leads to the “then” he will make a fine President. It’s just an awfully big “if” for him to get over.

  4. It certainly was thoughtful, and even, in it’s quietly stated position. Actually, I would say elegant, in it’s handling of a very emotional issue. Now, I am of the opinion Kerry isn’t capable of saving himself, from himself. As you did point out, that is immensely difficult for anyone, let alone someone with Kerry’s known flaws.

    I am greatful to my friend and mentor Nukevet for leading me here. It was an impressively written point of view, and I did enjoy reading it.

  5. Ms Marieko:

    I have to agree with your post, and only wish that more people realized the point you brought up in your comment, about the harm Kerry brought to other peoples. The 2 million Cambodians and 1 million (estimated) Vietnamese who died after we were forced to abandon the area have been largely forgotten. Do their governments bear primary responsibility? Of course. But John Kerry was a leader of those who prevented us from acting effectively to stop it, and as such, he and the Left who approved of our inaction have blood on their hands, and that blood cries out for justice.

  6. Very well done, Ms. Marieko. I came here via Mr. DuToit, and am thankful to him for spotlighting your superb analysis.

    I must say that I’m numbered among those who will agree with your examination of the issue, but with the conclusion that there is simply no way for Kerry to rise to the occassion, as it were.

    His flaws eminate from his core and in no small part define the man that he is.

    His record both during and post-Viet Nam is a direct reflection of the perfidy within.

    If he can’t be honest with himself; if he doesn’t possess the empathy to recognize the damage he’s wrought, then his is one hand that should never be allowed the reins of power in the most powerful office in the world.

    Sloop New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  7. A very nice and sufficient-for-th-masses analysis, which requires no extra digging or difficult contemplation of medals, etc. Very nice, and thank you.

    For those more interested in the small facts, however, it is missing a few things:

    “To Senator Kerry’s credit, he chose to wade in to the charnel house when he could have easily avoided it.”

    No, he chose to volunteer for the much safer Navy than be drafted by the Army (his number was coming up). That’s very different. Even volunteering for the SwiftBoats was no big deal – they were reassigned to river duty (from the generally very safe coastal patrol) AFTER he was on one.

    “I am not impressed by implications that the combat duty was viewed as a stepping-stone to a political career.”

    By his own words, he volunteered for Swift Boat duty to emulate JFK and PT-109. You may not be impressed, but it is still true, and it may impress some swing voters, which is important.

    “Should Senator Kerry prove he is amongst those rare individuals he shall emerge as a most formidable candidate, and a superb President.”

    I agree that, IF, etc, we would likely make a good President (that I am diametrically opposed to, but still very skilled and able to perform the job) – certainly much better than heee would now – but I doubt he would be elected if he did manage to pull it off, as he would, in effect, be telling eveeeryone that he royally screwed up in a committing-treason kind of way. That would alienate many who still view what he did as right, while failing to win very many who view it as wrong (though they might think much better of him, they wouldn’t want him to be President). In short, while I think it would make him a much better PERSON, I doubt it would get him elected (though I do think it’s the best bet, barring the main stream media totally expending every remaining ounce of their credibilty to cover for him, which may yet happen).

  8. Politics being a 40/40/20 split mechanically, for Kerry to have such an epiphany would produce one of those rare times in political history where many of the 40% with ‘D’ tatooed on their forehead would cross the isle, or vote with their feet, and negate the few with ‘R’ on their face (and moderate in their hearts) that voted left from compassion for the ‘new’ man. A triump of beliefs over feelings as it were.


  9. Did a young John Kerry stand to in the face of an enemy determined to kill him and his crew?

    The answer to this question is not “Yes”. Any idiot can volunteer, which he did. But then, by contriving superficial wounds, he bugged out like the coward he is. No way does he get credit here.

  10. Kerrry volunteered for Swift boats at a time they were being used for coastal patrols, basically a sun, sand, and surf tour on a government supplied yacht. After he was in the Swift boats the mission changed to the brown water close combat mission and he got out of that in four months. Hero my ass.

    As for what he did in the Senate, well, what did he do in twenty years? I mean other than piss off vets and relatives of POW/MIA by his actions on the MIA Senate committee. He hasn’t gotten to that yet, has he?

    I served in the U.S. Army 1969 through 1972, the time Kerry was slandering my Army. I have come to realize that Vietnam will be fought to the death. It won’t be over until the last Boomer dies. I’m up for it. I owe something to the men on The Wall.

    Timothy II, chapter 2, verse 47.

  11. Smitty – we all “owe something to the men on the Wall. ”

    Thank you!

  12. I have also arrived via Kim DuToit, and my thanks to him.
    An interesting view. All that I took exception to were addressed by Deoxy – amazing coincidence, alas he has no blog listed.
    And Smitty tied up the loose ends beautifully. I’m still hoping to find that photo of JF’inK flipping to bird to the Viet Vets at The Wall, in front of the children.

  13. The problem started when the Democrats and thier handpuppets started in on Bush’s war record.This ,especially after eight years of saying that Clinton’s war record didn’t matter, just brought the chickens home to roost. If they had stayed away from this,and Kerry hadn’t harped on HIS war service,then this wouldn’t be being discussed and only what he did AFTER he got home would be on the chopping block of public opinion…………Personally what he did during the war isn’t the big deal.He did go over,he did serve,and he did come home(early,but then who wouldn’t have,given a chance)but then when he got home,he backstabbed everyone else who served………….Personally,power or not, why anyone would put themselves thru this process is beyond me.

  14. A fine analysis of Kerry’s options. The only flaw lies in your analysis of his problems.

    “…at a time in his life when he was certainly able to evade such duty he voluntarily placed himself in harm’s way…”

    Not exactly. He was denied a third draft deferral by his draft board and did NOT volunteer for the navy but instead chose to enlist in the “safe” Naval Reserves. This, in fact, was widely considered safer than enlisting in the various National Guard units which, if called up, were much more likely to be put in harms way than Naval reserve units.

    When a higher authority called up his reserve unit, Kerry served at first on a deep water vessel that was only in the most theoretical of “danger” for a few weeks well off the coast of Viet Nam. Later, when the “Swift Boats” were assigned to OFF-SHORE duty, Kerry did volunteer for that relatively safe duty. Unfortunately, Admiral Zumwalt had decided the swift boats were suited to patrolling upriver… and that was when Kerry was ordered into a duty he had arduously avoided up until that time: duty where he could actually be in the line of fire.

    No, he couldn’t have evaded it, any of it. His draft board had denied his deferral. He enlisted in an analog of the Texas National Guard—the Naval Reserves—about as far as one could imagine getting from the possibility of being in harm’s way. His safe gig aboard offshore patrols was turned into potentially hazardous duty By Admiral Zumwalt when he ordered the swift boats under Rear Admiral Hoffman to patrol upriver.

    The only way Kerry could have “evaded” such duty would have been to disobey orders.

    And that’s something a guy who had widely-proclaimed abitions to become president one day could simply not afford to do.

    Since Kerry insists on running on a four months and twelve days’ mini-tour of Viet Nam as his only real qualifications (smokescreen avoiding examination of his Senate record) he has even greater problems stemming from his post-Viet Nam activities than you have detailed, as well.

    For example, his enlistment in the Naval Reserves was for a six-year stint, with a 6-month wartime extension. What records exist—and have been released by Kerry—indicate he served only about half of that. And some of that time was while he was—against navy regs—”speaking out” with unsupported allegations of war crimes (some of which he said he participated in!—and in dereliction of duty, if the allegations were true, had not reported while he was on active duty! Another chargeable offense, IF the allegations were true…) and treating with the enemy during time of wwar (trip to Paris in 1971, etc.).

    Were Kerry to have been held to the same standards as some of the apparent criminals of Abu Ghraib, his own admissions ought to have placed him behind bars.

    I agree with you that confronting these problems directly would serve him best—and that he may well have created a myth in his own mind that prevents him from doing so.

  15. > The Senator’s words from 1971 are difficult to rationalize, particularly in the context of his later actions as a US Senator, but it is not an impossible task. It will require a depth of humanity and an ability to build empathy that few possess. Should Senator Kerry prove he is amongst those rare individuals he shall emerge as a most formidable candidate, and a superb President.

    My personal suspicion, for what it’s worth, is that should Senator Kerry indeed prove he is amongst those rare individuals having depth of humanity and an ability to build empathy, it will be only the second most interesting news item of that day, easily eclipsed by a sky-darkening flock of flying pigs. Still, it’s a nice thing to speculate about.

  16. I, too came from Kim’s place.
    Many of us didn’t take the chance to come home early. Many extended their tours voluntarily for various reasons. Many more went back for second and third tours.
    As each of my children went through school I had to confront Mr. Kerry’s actions again. His description of us as a bunch of rapists and murdering goons is still being taught as fact in many schools. Do you have the slightest idea of what it feels like to tell your teenaged daughter that rape seldom happened and was punished severly? That in two full and one partial tours that you’d seen one case of rape and those guys went to the military prison for decades-long sentences?
    We also know men who died, leaving children behind. One of the things we wonder is who corrected those lies to those children?
    It’s one thing for Kerry to have peed on me. I washed it off and went on with my life. There are some 58,000 of us that couldn’t wash it off. Now this person has dug up those same 58,000 bodies and is standing on them in an attempt to make himself tall enough for the job he seeks. It isn’t working.
    It isn’t about me. It isn’t about George W. Bush. It is about 58,000 sons and brothers, fathers and uncles and, yes, a few daughters, and most of all, friends. John Kerry stole their honor once. Now, all these years later he’s trying to wrap himself in that honor. He thinks we’ve forgotten. Like Smitty, I haven’t forgotten my debt to those whose names are carved in that black granite.
    They’re back, you know. The young men that used to visit my dreams regularly are visiting again. Thank you, Mr. Kerry.