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Mark Steyn: Kerry’s quagmire
The Spectator (U.K.) ^ | 08/28/04 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 08/26/2004 6:11:58 AM PDT by Pokey78

Mark Steyn says the Democratic contender has made a big mistake in campaigning on his Vietnam war record

I have no views on whether one or more of John Kerry’s 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 there’s no doubt every wound from the last 35 days is self-inflicted, beginning with the candidate’s 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 Kerry’s shot himself in the foot so many times he ought to put in for a good dozen more Purple Hearts.

The flaw in the Senator’s 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 who’ve 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 Monica’s dress. This was entirely foreseeable — I’ve been getting emails from aggrieved veterans for two years now, so I’d guess the Democrats have too.

But the party that likes to sneer that Bush never had a plan to deal with Iraq’s inevitable insurgents doesn’t 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 can’t 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-Qa’eda, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il?

The Kerry campaign’s 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 they’re 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 McGreevey’s a corrupt sexual predator who got the hots for an Israeli poet, put him on the payroll as the state’s $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 McGreevey’s 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 it’s magnificently professional. The New Jersey Dems have arranged things to deny the people an early chance to vote on McGreevey’s replacement and, by the time they do get their say, the hack machine pol who’ll 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. That’s how I figured Kerry would handle the Swift vets problem. He’d be shameless but effective. He’d 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, he’s 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 Kerry’s political muscle rather than incompetent ordering.

Still, that’s 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 he’s saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day he’s standing there: “I want to be president because I’m a Vietnam veteran.” Maybe he should apologise to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn’t 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 Hannity’s radio audience a couple of hours later. Here’s 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.’

It’s 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 can’t call a halt. Nonetheless, he responded to Kerry and Edwards with his own three words: sure, why not? ‘I don’t think we ought to have 527s. I can’t 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, that’s not quite what Kerry was hoping for. Nine of the top ten 527s are anti-Bush groups — and similar — funded by the likes of George Soros. The way Kerry’s chums at the New York Times have been trumpeting links between the Swiftees and ‘prominent Republicans’, you’d 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 who’s best to lead the country in the war on terror ...I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward.’

Bush didn’t 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 Dole’s sardonic characterisation of Kerry’s ‘wounds’: ‘Three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they’re 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 wouldn’t have done so if Kerry’s goons hadn’t started smearing the Swiftvets as ‘liars’.

But now Dole’s said it, he’s made it easier for others. I haven’t written much about Kerry’s 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 don’t send you home. But you can choose to leave. And that’s 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. That’s 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 won’t 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 who’s 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 he’s 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 didn’t 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 Frank’s 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 he’s gone to a lot of trouble to get the period details right.

Here’s 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 Globe’s 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%
Lying 15%’

A Kerry guy spun that to me as great news: hey, only 15 per cent think he’s lying about his service record! Hang on, man, 46 per cent think he’s exaggerating or lying. Your boy’s negatives outweigh his positives on the sole issue you’ve chosen to define the man and his candidacy. Among independents — i.e., all those critical swing voters — 34 per cent think he’s telling the truth, and 48 per cent think he’s either exaggerating or lying.

He’s got a week off now for the Republican convention. If the Swift vets are still hounding Kerry by mid-September, he’ll be mired in a Vietnam quagmire of his own making. And, unlike the original, no matter how many hits you take, there’s no early release.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 229; bush2004; kerry; marksteyn
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To: ClearCase_guy

All 3 Purple Hearts were self-inflicted?? This guy is a joke.

41 posted on 08/26/2004 6:51:33 AM PDT by igoramus987
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To: baraboolaw

The thing is, it's keeping Kerry in the public eye. When he's blabbering on the airwaves, his negatives go up. That Boston Brahmin snottiness may sell in Massachusetts, but it turns off people in the rest of the country. The last thing the RATS wanted to do this month was have him in the spotlight. But because he's whining so much about the Swifties, the media finally had to begin covering it, and as a result, his poll numbers are going down, especially among veterans.

Face it, when a guy is naturally unlikeable, then has it proven that he's lied about the only thing he's running on, people take notice. Clinton could get away with it because, whether you agree or disagree, he was a likeable guy. Ketchup Boy isn't.

42 posted on 08/26/2004 6:52:26 AM PDT by ABG(anybody but Gore) ("I'm just a gigolo, and everywhere I go, people know I'm lyin' about 'Nam".....)
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To: ravingnutter
I might get flamed for this but here goes...

The other day I heard a guy on talk radio say that Kerry, as a citizen and vet of the war, had every right to take his personal experiences from the war and speak out any way he chose. (I agree with that statement, but we can all agree that he chose the wrong path and hurt a lot of great men. ) He could have done a LOT of damage control had he simply come out early in his campaign and said," This is what I did 30 years ago, and I did it because I truly disagreed with the war. I've come to learn that my words hurt a lot of vets and may have lead to the death of others. That was not my intention and I'm truly sorry. I ask for forgiveness from my vet brothers and ask that they, at the least, appreciate that we all served to defend our rights as Americans to speak out as I did. I am proud of the men that I served with and know that many of them were never decorated for far more serious injuries than I received. THEY are the true heros of the war."

Of course that sort of statement would take character and we all can see that he is seriously lacking in anything resembling true character.

43 posted on 08/26/2004 6:53:14 AM PDT by amadeus
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44 posted on 08/26/2004 6:54:59 AM PDT by eureka! (May karma come back to the Rats and presstitutes in a big way....)
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To: Pokey78


45 posted on 08/26/2004 6:55:51 AM PDT by KansasGirl
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To: MeekOneGOP

Here's another good image for you:

Not directly linking it, to keep from overwhelming the bandwidth-challenged.

46 posted on 08/26/2004 6:56:01 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (hoplophobia is a mental aberration rather than a mere attitude)
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To: eureka!


47 posted on 08/26/2004 6:56:24 AM PDT by Logic n' Reason (Don't piss down my back and tell me it's rainin')
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To: baraboolaw
We are being played.


I disagree. Kerry and his advisers have such a lifelong disdain for military matters and men, that they have been blindsided by the feelings of actual military veterans.
48 posted on 08/26/2004 6:59:00 AM PDT by maica (BIG Media is not mainstream. We are right. They are left, not center.)
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To: Pokey78
The Democrats may not know how to run a school district or a highway department, but they’re supposed to be able to run scandals.

Mark "The Stinger" Steyn

49 posted on 08/26/2004 7:00:38 AM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: Pokey78
"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."

Imagine the fate of Americans if they should be foolish enough to believe the propaganda.

"A guy awash in gazillions from Barbra Streisand and co. who can’t 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-Qa’eda, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il?"

Classic Steyn.

50 posted on 08/26/2004 7:01:41 AM PDT by Savage Beast (9/11 was never repeated--thanks to President Bush!)
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To: Pokey78

Yes from a bold BRING...IT...ON to a wimpering Max 'stop these ads' Mr. President....

51 posted on 08/26/2004 7:02:05 AM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: Ichneumon

Kerry is so humble that he won't even release his military records lest some sharp press person notice he was in Vietnam.

52 posted on 08/26/2004 7:02:47 AM PDT by jwpjr
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To: Pokey78
"Especially when your opponent is a guy who’s never complained about anything – not the ‘Bush is Hitler’ stuff, not the ‘Bush knew about 9/11 in advance’ stuff..."

And here we see the pay off from NOT responding (as many on this forum would like) to every attack with a counter attack.

President Bush, and his advisors know that the main stream media is not his friend. Any complaint by him or his administration would have been given the Ginrich treatment, he would have been ridiculed.

Further, if he or his administration would have gone after the Clintons, the MSM would have then turned him into Ken Starr.

As it is, he is going into this election well liked by most Americans, and the left has so exaggerated his negatives, nothing sticks.

53 posted on 08/26/2004 7:03:51 AM PDT by CIB-173RDABN
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To: amadeus

I heard that he has asked for time on 60 minutes this Sunday to apologize to veterans. Too little, too late.

54 posted on 08/26/2004 7:05:28 AM PDT by ravingnutter
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To: NonValueAdded

Kerry was in the Senate?

Excellent, Big Daddy!!! Mind if I adopt that for my new tagline?

I don't mind at all. I think we all need to start asking
that question every time we hear his name.

55 posted on 08/26/2004 7:08:51 AM PDT by BigDaddyTX
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To: Pokey78
‘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... ‘stop these ads’.


56 posted on 08/26/2004 7:10:54 AM PDT by Semper Paratus
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To: baraboolaw

>>Very Clintonesque. Very dangerous. We are being played.<<

This is not Clintonesque, it is Clinton. They want Kerry to implode so either Kerry can step down in October and Hillary take over in their "October Surprise" or she can run in '08.

57 posted on 08/26/2004 7:12:14 AM PDT by netmilsmom ("I don't have time in my life to read potato chips" - Netmilsdad)
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To: Pokey78

Man the lifeboats, this campaign is sinking!

58 posted on 08/26/2004 7:14:38 AM PDT by MtnClimber
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To: BigDaddyTX


59 posted on 08/26/2004 7:16:23 AM PDT by NonValueAdded (Kerry was in the Senate???)
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To: Tooters
Kerrry had the slime machine in full attack mode last night. First, It is reported that private detectives have dug up lots of dirt on the Swifties (divorce, child support etc). Secondly. Democrat Shills were on all the cable shows...portraying Kerry as a brave American who spoke out against this evil war when it wasn't popular to do so. Yeah, right-the war was popular in the 1970's? I think not. O'Neil demonstrated far more courage then Kerry. O'Neil's position was most unpopular at the time.

Kerry is going to prove once and for all that the Vietnam veterans are indeed war criminals by breathlessly informing Americans that at least 61 guys were court-martialed. 61 out of about 3 million-wow. What a scandal. War is hell-folks. Kerry came home and in order to advance his career, he told lies and branded his band of brothers war criminals. He is at it again-I'm afraid (have I mentioned that I truly despise Kerry).

Bob Beckel was on Hannity and Colmes, and he backed Oliver North into a corner demanding that North admit American soldiers did commit atrocities. Since some (I think) 61 odd men were court martialed for can not be denied. But it certainly was not common practice..After all, a brave helicopter pilot blocked Lt. Calley and threatened to shoot him if the massacre continued. This sure doesn't strike me as a guy who witnessed atrocities all the time.

Monynihan (one of the last of the decent Democrats) said 'sure atrocities happened read about it in the papers...the guilty parties will be charged, convicted and you can read about it. Can you name one other country where this is the case?' This is not a direct quote...but a summary of Moynihan's words (always liked this guy/ last of the Democratic statesmen if you ask me).

So once again the Kerry slime machine kicks into high gear. The swifties and all the other Vietnam Vets are going to be painted as a little bit slutty and a lot nutty...whack jobs really. They came damaged goods-victims of the Republican war machine (never mind Democrats started the war). The kerry band of traitors wasn't really spitting on the Vietnam Vets; no they were spitting on government policies. Some men who wiped the spit of anti-war activist from their faces and who were denied jobs because people viewed them as time bombs who could go off at any minute (postal vets), might have a different opinion. John Kerry is only trying to help these men (sarcasm)...he is their friend. Well with friends like John Kerry, Vietnam vets sure don't need any enemies.
60 posted on 08/26/2004 7:18:00 AM PDT by nyconse
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