Sunday, September 05, 2004

Kerry's showing he just can't take the heat

As things go from bad to worse for the kerry campaign, the candidate melts down more each passing hour. His whole campaign is now centered on his 4 months in Vietnam. Just a thought here johnny boy, before you start railing about anyone receiving draft deferments, you had better consult with the lap dog that is runiing with you. While I was serving (Edwards and I are the same age) your boy was drinking beer and smoking weed at college. People that live in glass houses should never throw rocks. - Sailor

Kerry's showing he just can't take the heat
September 5, 2004

Both candidates gave speeches late on Thursday night. George W. Bush was more or less expected to. John Kerry didn't have to, but reported for duty even though nobody wanted him to. Unnerved by sagging numbers, he decided to start the post-Labor Day phase of the campaign three days before Labor Day. The way things are going, Democrats seem likely to be launching the post-election catastrophic-defeat vicious-recriminations phase of the campaign round about Sept. 12.
At any rate, less than 60 minutes after President Bush gave a sober, graceful, droll and moving address, Kerry decided to hit back. In the midnight hour, he climbed out of his political coffin, and before his thousands of aides could grab the garlic from Teresa's kitchen and start waving it at him, he found himself in front of an audience and started giving a speech. As in Vietnam, he was in no mood to take prisoners: ''I have five words for Americans,'' he thundered. ''This is your wake up call!''
Is that five words? Or is it six? Well, it's all very nuanced, according to whether you hyphenate the ''wake-up.'' Maybe he should have said, ''I have four words plus a common hyphenated expression for Americans.'' I'd suggest the rewrite to him personally, but I don't want him to stare huffily at me and drone, "How dare you attack my patriotism."
By about nine words into John Kerry's wake up call, I was sound asleep again. But this was what he told Ohio's brave band of chronic insomniacs:
''For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander in chief. Well, here's my answer. I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve.''
Oh, dear . . . growing drowsy again . . . losing the will to type . . . what's he saying now?
''Two tours of duty''
Ah, yes. As usual, he has four words for Americans: I served in Vietnam. Or five words if you spell it Viet Nam.
So we have one candidate running on a platform of ambitious reforms for an ''ownership society'' at home and a pledge to hunt down America's enemies abroad. And we have another candidate running on the platform that no one has the right to say anything mean about him.
And for this the senator broke the eminently civilized tradition that each candidate lets the other guy have his convention week to himself? Maybe they need to start scheduling those Kerry campaign shakeups twice a week.
There was an old joke back in the Cold War:
Proud American to Russian guy: ''In my country every one of us has the right to criticize our president.''
Russian guy: ''Same here. In my country every one of us has the right to criticize your president.''
That seems to be the way John Kerry likes it. Americans should be free to call Bush a moron, a liar, a fraud, a deserter, an agent of the House of Saud, a mass murderer, a mass rapist (according to the speaker at a National Organization for Women rally last week) and the new Hitler (according to just about everyone). But how dare anyone be so impertinent as to insult John Kerry! No one has the right to insult Kerry, except possibly Teresa, and only on the day she gives him his allowance.
Several distinguished analysts have suggested that the best rationale for a Kerry presidency is that it would be a ''return to normalcy'' -- a quiet life after the epic pages of history George W. Bush has been writing these last three years. Even if a ''return to normalcy'' were an option, I doubt whether John Kerry would qualify. As we saw in those two Thursday speeches, Bush takes the war seriously but he doesn't take himself seriously -- self-deprecating jokes are obligatory these days, but try to imagine Kerry doing the equivalent of Bush's gags about mangled English and swaggering. The president is comfortable in his own skin, which is why he shrugs off the Hitler stuff. By contrast, Kerry doesn't take the war seriously because he's so busy taking himself seriously. If ''return to normalcy'' means four years of a grimly humorless, touchy, self-regarding Kerry presidency, I'll take the war.
That's surely why Kerry is running his kamikaze kandidacy on biography rather than any grand themes. Senator Kerrikaze is running for president because he thinks he should be president -- who needs a platform? One of the most revealing aspects of the campaign this last week were the interviews given by his various surrogates. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and was asked about the swift boat veterans' ads, and he laughed and blustered and stalled and floundered. That sounded weird. This thing's been going on a month now, and the Kerry campaign still hasn't come up with a form of words to deflect questions about it. If they had an agreed spin, McAuliffe and Co. would be out using it. But the seared senator feels it's lese majeste even to question him. He can talk about Vietnam 24/7, but nobody else is allowed to bring it up.
Sorry, man, that's not the way it works. And if he thinks it does, he's even further removed from the realities of democratic politics than he was from the interior of Cambodia. Instead of those military records the swift boat vets are calling for, I'd be more interested in seeing his medical ones.
As for Bush, to be sure at one level his convention was a ''soft-focus infomercial,'' just as Kerry's was. But the infomercial came into sharp focus just often enough to clarify, piercingly, the differences between the parties. On opening night in Boston, the Democrats staged a tasteful, teary candlelight remembrance of those who died on 9/11. On opening night in New York, the Republicans put up one speaker after another -- John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Ron Silver -- resolved that those thousands of innocents shall not have died in vain.
I remember a couple of days after Sept. 11 writing that weepy candlelight vigils were a cop-out: the issue wasn't whether you were sad about the dead people but whether you wanted to do something about it. Three years on, the two conventions drew the same distinction. If you want passivity and wallowing in victim culture, the Dems will do. If you want to win this thing, Bush is the only guy running

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