Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 15, 2004

Long Time Coming

John Fund has an interesting survey of the aftermath, effects and dynamics of Vietnam veteran opposition to John Kerry in OpinionJournal today, including this observation:

As the evening proceeded and one Vietnam veteran after another shared the story of how veterans felt compelled to attack Mr. Kerry for his 1971 testimony branding fellow veterans as war criminals, former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg leaned back in his chair in amazement. "I think some of them are too intense," he told me. "But screwing with these guys by accusing them of atrocities was one of the biggest mistakes John Kerry ever made. Thirty years later he woke a sleeping giant."

Indeed he did.

That intensity of veteran reaction to John Kerry makes his decades-long insensitivity to their feelings and potency simply amazing. John Kerry has had thirty years to make peace with the veterans he offended in his post-Vietnam excitement. At any point in those 30 years it would not have been all that hard for him to make peace and still retain his war hero mantle. But John Kerry made no effort. Indeed, his efforts to reconcile the United States with Vietnam were vastly more energetic than his efforts to reconcile himself with the Vietnam War veterans he offended. His camp has suggested he may run again for President in 2008 - but there's still no hint of an outreach to veterans.

What's particularly strange about John Kerry's behavior over those three decades is that his failure to make peace with veterans carried obvious political risks - risks that could have been costlessly reduced. By the time he announced his bid for the presidency, it was much too late - and that, too, was obvious. For example, the Man Without Qualities predicted the Kerry-veterans train wreck way back on February 22:
So far, the media have been very weak in discussing Kerry's post-Vietnam-return antiwar activities - or the rest of his past, for that matter. After all, many of the people now involved in the mainstream media of Kerry's age participated in many of the same activities. The nation has learned to forgive them. Even Jane Fonda has apologized for some of what she did in the depths of her Vietnam era insanity - and on this point Ms. Fonda is more responsible than Senator Kerry, who does not apologize but instead just misrepresents his past. But if Kerry keeps pushing Vietnam, the Bush campaign won't be so gentle -and, ultimately, the media won't remain gentle, either. At some point Senator Kerry is going to have to stop misrepresenting his antiwar statements and outright apologize for some of them - especially his assertions to Congress that American soldiers were routinely war criminals. Veterans on the campaign trail are going to demand that of him - to his face.

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