Man Without Qualities

Monday, February 23, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose III: Henchmen Under Every Bed!

What is the Democratic front-runner going to call Joshua Muravchik? Mr. Muravchik notes, on the pages of the Bush-henchmen-operated Washington Post

As leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry accused American soldiers of "war crimes . . . committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." ... As a first major foreign policy cause, he championed the "nuclear freeze." ... The litany of weapons systems that Kerry opposed included conventional as well as nuclear equipment: the B-1 bomber, the B-2, the F-15, the F-14A, the F-14D, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Patriot missile, the Aegis air-defense cruiser and the Trident missile. And he sought to reduce procurement of the M1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Tomahawk cruise missile and the F-16 jet. ... When U.S. troops intervened in Grenada, Kerry denounced the action as "a bully's show of force." ...[H]e made himself one of the Senate's most vigorous opponents of aiding the anti-Communist contras as a means of pressuring Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. ... When Saddam Hussein swallowed up Kuwait in 1990, Kerry voted against authorizing the use of force. ... By 1995, with the death toll there estimated to have reached a quarter-million, Congress voted to end the arms embargo hamstringing the beleaguered Bosnians. Kerry was one of 29 senators who opposed this resolution. ... He now says that some of his stands against weapons systems were "stupid." And those medals he tossed away in protest, he explains, actually belonged to someone else ... Kerry cast one of only 12 Senate votes against the administration's request for $87 billion for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

How dare Mr. Muravchik impugn Senator Kerry's patriotism and challenge his military record this way! Henchmen, henchmen. Everywhere henchmen.

Mr. Muravchik's list of examples demonstrating Senator Kerry's weakness on national security is far from complete. It doesn't even touch on his opposition to an adequate American intelligence system, for example. The extent of a complete list should give a good deal of pause to anyone who hopes (as I do) that Vietnam is not likely to be a major campaign theme after all. The fact is that John Kerry has a big problem with his national security record - and his constant citation to his military record is the only hope he has of countering that problem. Senator Kerry sings his ceaseless, one-note song because he must. When will the Vietnam War be over in this campaign? It will end when both candidates figure out that neither has anything to gain from it - and not a moment sooner than that. Senator Kerry has already made feeble (one might say fraudulent) efforts to suppress the Democratic ploy of exploiting the President's Vietnam-era service record. I believe that particular ploy will likely stop for real very soon, simply because it's beginning to backfire as more and more evidence is produced. (Just one example from Brad DeLong's web site.) But Senator Kerry will not cease his constant citations to his own Vietnam service in attempts to distract attention from his weak voting and political record in the area of national security. He just can't do that.

To see this, one only has to look as far as ex-senator Cleland, who was also weak on national security, and was defeated in his re-election bid by Senator Chambliss largely on those grounds. Senator Cleland used his far more dramatic and sacrificial Vietnam service as a distraction from his weak national security voting record. It didn't work, and he was voted from office - but he's still citing to that same record and to Senator Kerry's today and for exactly the same purposes: "For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks," Cleland recently said.

Cleland is saying that kind of thing for the same reason he has always said that kind of thing: He has to. He has no other response with any hope of success.

The same is true of Senator Kerry. Indeed, he's at it again today: Kerry ... said he will not allow questions to be raised about his commitment to defense by Republicans "who never fought in a war." ... Asked for examples of Bush attacking his service in Vietnam, Kerry cited published reports that the campaign plans to question his outspoken opposition to the war after he returned.

Senator Kerry thinks and says that questioning his opposition to the war after he returned is the same as attacking his service in Vietnam. And people think that Dean sounded like he was nuts?

Settle in for a long, long summer.

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