February 20, 2004

The Unbearable Lightness of Scandals

Here's a shocker.

WASHINGTON - John Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War and President Bush's wartime service in the National Guard generate disapproval largely among people who already have made up their minds against that particular candidate, according to a national poll released Friday.
The scandal mongers are surely trying to win over independents by smearing the other guy. It doesn't work, obviously, but it does make the outraged feel superior. Political sleaze seems to me a strange form of emotional therapy, but hey, go with whatever works for ya. It had better feel good, because it wastes everyone else's time.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 20, 2004 04:49 PM
Comments

So it's "sleaze" to point out that John Kerry Perjured himself in front of Congress (a lot of those stories he told were lies), hurting the people he now calls "a band of [his] brothers"? It's sleaze to ask Kerry what he thinks of those "US Army == Baby killers" stories? It's sleaze to point out that when he grandstanded while throwing away Vietnam War medals, he was throwing away someone else's medals?

It's sleaze to point out that Kerry has a history of changing his tune for no reason other than perceived personal advantage, and to therefore wonder whether or not you can believe anything he says today?

Posted by: Greg D at February 20, 2004 05:24 PM

You know, Greg, I could just as easily butcher Bush's record as you took on Kerry's a second ago. But let's give it up, alright. This crap's getting really old really fast.

You can play the role of partisan cheerleader if you want, if it makes you feel better, but Totten's got a hell of a point here.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 20, 2004 05:47 PM

Greg: It's sleaze to point out that Kerry has a history of changing his tune for no reason other than perceived personal advantage, and to therefore wonder whether or not you can believe anything he says today?

No, but complaining that he ran around with Jane Fonda 30 years ago is. I protested the first Gulf War 13 years ago. So what?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 20, 2004 06:12 PM

Michael,
Why did you protest Gulf War I?

Posted by: Derek at February 20, 2004 06:21 PM

Wow, I didn't know you opposed GWI. Of course, that was still during the "Vietnam Legacy." Several other prominent "liberal hawks" also opposed GWI but supported GWII.

Posted by: FH at February 20, 2004 06:31 PM

I have no interest in Kerry's protest activities any more than I do Clinton's activities during that time. But I think it is relevant that this man who served in dangerous conditions for 4 months and then came home and headed a radical anti-war group (and it was radical it was pro-North Vietnam), used this resume to create a very left liberal political career for himself and then, just about the time it became fashionable started touting his war service as a badge of honor to the point of parody. The guy never shuts up about his war service EVER. I contrast him with men like Bob Kerrey, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush among many others who barely mentioned their war service. And it's worse for Kerry than the WWII guys because he built a career PROTESTING the war. He is a sleaze and scum and is among the worst candidates I have ever seen. I say this with a straight face. I would much sooner support Howard Dean than this hypocritical bastard. And this is ignoring the catastrophe I think he would bring to the very succesful so far war on terror. If Kerry said "30 years ago I was a radical protester, I've since grown up a bit." It would be over but many of us see that this is who he is. That his views have not changed regardless of the march of time, or the fact that this is a very different situation.

Posted by: Doug at February 20, 2004 07:23 PM

Derek: Why did you protest Gulf War I?

Basically, because I was a dumb college kid who thought pacifism was enlightened. I wasn't even old enough to drink then. I've changed my mind and support GWI retroactively.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 20, 2004 07:54 PM

"Retroactively"!!! Haaaaaaaaa.

Do tell us more, Michael. Pleeeease do tell us more!

This pacifism-hating current college student (22 years old in a couple of months, barely old enough to drink) would love to hear more. Could you maybe write us a lengthy post on your evolution from "enlightened pacifism" to pro-war hawkishness?

I would absolutely eat the stuff up, man...and pass it around to all of my "enlightened" friends on campus, first chance I get.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 20, 2004 08:09 PM

GBetting a little tired about what happened 30 yrs ago. I think it defocuses from what Kerry was doing as a Senator?

There does not seem to have been a bill that would help National Defence, the Military, or Military families he did not vote againstg.

He may talk big about "band of brothers" but
he stuck a knife in the backs of those brothers, twisted it and broke it off in the wound every chance he got. I am NOT speaking of his protest record. I am referring to his Congressional record.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at February 20, 2004 08:12 PM

Grant: Could you maybe write us a lengthy post on your evolution from "enlightened pacifism" to pro-war hawkishness?

Perhaps. For the time being, let me summarize my transformation with a single word: Bosnia.

I guess you were pretty young when that happened, so maybe you didn't feel it as I did.

Here's a book for you. It's called Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass. Buy it. Read it. And read it again. It's the best book I've read about Bosnia, and I've read a lot. It would cure almost anyone of pacifism.

Everything I know about the dangers of appeasement and the bankruptcy of the UN I learned from that conflict. Only later did I learn that World War II taught the same lessons. But, as you know, I was too young for that one and had some catching up to do...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 20, 2004 08:21 PM

Michael,
Basically, because I was a dumb college kid who thought pacifism was enlightened. I wasn't even old enough to drink then. I've changed my mind and support GWI retroactively.

Exactly, and we have all supported and did dumb things in our lives. And I think the reason people are still upset over this issue. It is not clear wither Kerry has ever given up the values he held at 26.

At one time in my life I took to trashing Mexican immigrants for problems in California (I was 18 what can I say). I unintentionally aligned my self with the racist elements of my state. I was wrong and I felt horrible when I relished who my allies in my cause were. I had not really studied the problem and I wrongly used a whole group of people as a scrape goat for the problems I saw around me.

Portraying American solders as a bunch of murdering thugs is a very heavy thing to do and I can't say that I have every heard Kerry say what he was wrong for that or that he was sorry for what he said and did.

Maybe he did and I never heard it. It's entirlly posible. Maybe he changed his views in private and he has come to have a better respect for our fighting men and women. Without a public proclomation conterdicting his earlier testmony, we will never really know.

Posted by: Derek at February 20, 2004 08:25 PM

Doug-

I was at a Kerry ralley three weeks ago and he made a passing reference to his military service. While this may be the exception my personal experience was not as you report it.

btw, how was the Vietnam Vets Against the War pro-NVA? Because a few people flew the NVA flag at their event? I don't see how you can hold Kerry accountable for a few protestors who went over the line.

Posted by: andrew at February 20, 2004 10:34 PM

I learned in the school yard that if you don't fight back against a bully you encourage him. If you stand up to him he won't bother you any more and will look for an easier victim. If you kick the living shit out of him he doesn't bother you or anybody else anymore because he lives in fear.

The Democrats have been smearing, slandering and lying about Bush for the last year. What they have done during a time of war is unforgivable. If you want this to continue, then by all means do nothing. Encourage the bully. If you want the Democrats to stop, then fight back.

Kerry has a 30 year track record of betrying his country, denouncing his "band of brothers", gutting our intelligence services and trying to disarm our military. Few in the history of our nation have done more than Kerry to undermine our national security and sovereignty. He is not fit for office. For the benefit of all of us, Bush should kick the living shit out of Kerry on these grounds.

Kerry and the Democrats have lived by the sword during this primary season. And they've drawn some blood from Bush. Bush must fight back for the benefit of all of us. Kerry and the Democrats must die by the sword.

I want to see a bloodbath this election year. I want total political war. I want rhetorical fire-bombing with nothing off the table. I don't want this in order to win over independents. I want this so that Kerry and the Democrats pay the price they deserve for what they have done. Because if they don't, it will never end.

Posted by: HA at February 21, 2004 05:16 AM

There has been quite a bit commentary from the Vietnamese themselves that the Anti-war protesters were helping their cause. Just google it, and you'll find more than enough stuff to read.

The VVAW wasn't just a 'few' protesters going over the line.

Posted by: eric at February 21, 2004 05:20 AM

And it looks like HA wants to unleash 'counter revolutionary terror'. Well, its too early to really see what's going to happen--and it will be interesting to see whether Nader runs again.

I keep seeing reports of Democrats 'begging' Ralph not to run, as I think they know, as in 2000, that Nader running can only hurt the Democrats, not the Republicans. Sorta like Perot in 1992, which is why he got so much media attention then, unlike Nader in 2000.

Another thing to watch out for is the coming spring offensives in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and Iraq, once the troop rotation has finished. There may even be action against Syria (in Lebanon).

Looks to be an interesting year.

btw, Michael, its nice to see that you can readily admit to being wrong in the past. I say that as a veteran of the first Gulf War.

Posted by: eric at February 21, 2004 05:30 AM

I thought it said "The Unbearable Lightness of Sandals" at first. Oddly fitting.

MT, at least you gave some thought to current events when you were 20. Back in the day I was paying more attention to Black Flag albums than anything that mattered.

Posted by: Jim at February 21, 2004 07:52 AM

"paying more attention to Black Flag albums than to anything that mattered"...

To relate this, somewhat, to my generation, for alot of folks I know the evolution went something like this:

Wow, Rage Against the Machine kicks ass.

Wow, Rage Against the Machine are political.

Wow, if RATM kick ass and are political, I'd better listen to what they're saying and take it seriously.

Wow, they kick ass for saying some pretty enlightened shit. They're cool. They must be right.

FLASH FORWARD 4 OR 5 YEARS...

Yep, they still kick ass. I mean, who doesn't sometimes just want to sing along with "Killing in the Name Of"?! But their politics are kinda nutty.

Something tells me this phenomenon is pretty much the same across the different generations.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 21, 2004 08:25 AM

It's similar, but the Black Flag crowd had no politics. They were simply nihilists.

Posted by: Jim at February 21, 2004 09:03 AM

Michael-

I agree. If someone cares whether or not Kerry sat next to Jane Fonda at a rally, chances are they won't be voting Democratic anyway.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 21, 2004 09:06 AM

Some may find this interesting: Kerry's 1971 Testimony Against the Vietnam War (Video)

Posted by: jr at February 21, 2004 09:23 AM

eric-

The protestors helped the VC? Give me a break.

That's the old 'just shut up' line. We live in AMERICA where people are free to protest their government, if you want no decent then travel to present day Vietnam. Commie bastard.

Posted by: andrew at February 21, 2004 09:25 AM

I've just listened to Kerry's testimony before Congress. The overall impression the recording leaves is one of sober reflection and objective criticism.

The words he used are far more inflamatory in print than to the ear. But what you hear when you listen to his testimony does not inflame.

I am far more interested in what he now thinks about what he did then.

Does he still believe it was wrong to oppose the spread of Communism?

Does he still believe that the Vietnamese are better off under a totalitarian system than they would be under a system of freedom and liberty?

Does he still believe we should limit our power and submit to an organization (the UN) dominated by despots and totalitarian regimes?

Does he believe America, though flawed, is inherently good and is qualified to lead the world?

All young people, especially earnest dedicated young people make errors in judgment. Bush says that when he was young and irresponsible, he was young and irresponsible. This implies an understanding that growth and maturity takes place.

Does Kerry also recognize this, or is he still firmly committed to all the ideas of his youth as if he has never been wrong?

I don't need any specific mea culpa on any particulat issue, but a simple acknowledgement that he wasn't always right would go a long way toward convincing me he is trustworthy.

The key question is this one: Is he able to see the world as it is and adapt to changing circumstances, or does he insist on trying to fit the world into his concept of what should be, rather than what is?

A key necessary quality of Presidents is the ability to analize unexpected events and rapidly respond in a coherent and pragmatic way. And this is a key quality of leadership.

Kerry's relatively bare legislative record makes me wonder about his ability to lead.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 21, 2004 11:36 AM

BTW, Dean had leadership qualities in spades. The problem with Dean is where he wanted to lead, not his ability to lead. I haven't been convinced that either Edwards or Kerry have that leadership ability.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 21, 2004 11:43 AM

Grant claimed: You know, Greg, I could just as easily butcher Bush's record as you took on Kerry's a second ago. But let's give it up, alright. This crap's getting really old really fast.

Please, if you can honestly take apart Bush the way I honestly took apart Kerry, you should.

I've got no problem with someone like Michael, who was young and stupid, and regrets it.

I've got a great deal of a problem with people who were young and stupid, but don't regret it. If Kerry were to say "thirty years ago, I did some horrible, and horribly wrong, things. I regret them, and am living my life to make up for them", and specify which things those were, I'd say they should all be taken off the table.

He won't do that, because the core of the Democrat Party still embraces the betrayal they engaged in 30 years ago.

And that is why he should be beaten with it.

Greg

Posted by: Greg D at February 22, 2004 12:51 AM

Michael,

I see from the comments that the heat is on regarding Kerry's anti-war antics. I am a Vietnam Era veteran who strongly feels that we were smeared by the left, Jane Fonda in particular (she funded the Winter Soldier Investigation).

I think the poll you are citing is premature because the issue has been quieter in the major media than the ridiculous Drudge item. Side point - Cable media seems to favor the ridiculous.

I think you are showing your generations disdain - possibly deserved - for the 60's generation.

Since this generation did in fact diverge from cultural norms more widely than any other, it is a fair target for those trying to reintegrate some conservative principles - like self defense - into their world view.

My bet is that Kerry's smear of his band of brothers will haunt him big time. This age group votes in higher percentages, and there are about 29 million veterans out there, most from the Vietnam era.

Posted by: jdwill at February 22, 2004 06:34 AM

Scott,

"The words he used are far more inflamatory in print than to the ear. But what you hear when you listen to his testimony does not inflame."

I listened to it too. Kerry was as wooden then as he is now. He is winning the Dem primary by default, he couldn't inflame the Middle East - which might be a point in his favor.

Posted by: jdwill at February 22, 2004 06:50 AM

Hey, I went into both the GWI and GWII anti-war but of course now am an “Evil Neo-Con”. I agree with HA, Bush should kick the living shit out of Kerry if he is the opponent. Kerry has never apologized or even clarified his anti-war testimony. This isn’t about disagreeing with policy. This is about smearing veterans with accusations. It will make a difference to many, I don’t care what anybody says. If Bush Sr. got nailed for not knowing the price of a gallon of milk, Kerry can get nailed for lying about veterans committing atrocities for the sake of politics.

Posted by: Samuel at February 22, 2004 08:11 AM

Each individual has a history. You can't blank it out. This is near the Christian notion of forgiveness, and forgetfulness. The question is was Kerry's protesting of the Vietnam War characteristic of his actions today? One can't pretend that what he did 30 years ago didn't happen or wasn't wrong—if it was wrong. Kerry doesn't pretend the former, but hasn't apologized for the latter, nor would he if he doesn't consider it wrong. Well he can hardly reverse what he did then, and considering his record in the Senate over those decades one can say that it is characteristic of the man. For that reason, it's an issue that's relevant today.

Posted by: Robert Tracy at February 22, 2004 11:45 AM

I am a Vietnam Era vet (*not* a Vietnam vet -- my service never took me closer than 1000 miles to the action) and I so far don't know any Viet vets of any kind who say they will vote for Kerry. Most say they will vote for Bush. Some say they won't vote if it's between Kerry and Bush. Some just don't say, but won't say they'll vote for Kerry. I don't know all 29,000,000 vets, but the couple of hundred I do know are relatively average. This must say something.

On the other hand, the anti-Kerry vets I know are just about foaming about him. They don't disagree with his service or mostly even about his right to be anti-War afterwards (although they are pretty put of by some of it). What makes them hopping mad is the sleazy way he uses his service. My guess is he wouldn't be a big hit at the bar in the local VFW. A couple of the biggest heroes and most decorated (not necessarily the same guys) say practically nothing about their heroism or combat experience, and certainly not to outsiders.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at February 22, 2004 02:05 PM

Totten writes:
"The scandal mongers are surely trying to win over independents by smearing the other guy. It doesn't work, obviously, but it does make the outraged feel superior."

Oh golly, good to see somebody out there can remain high above the gutter fray of flinging Vietnam war medals on White House lawns and "Bush's f--king war."

Atta boy, Totten! There's nothin' worse than trying to act "superior" at the other guy's expense.

Posted by: Marc S. Lamb at February 22, 2004 02:36 PM

There's nothin' worse than trying to act "superior" at the other guy's expense.</i.

Ah, come on, Mark. I'm not trying to act superior. This old crap just bores me and always has. Almost everyone I know rolls their eyes at this stuff. We can't all be superior.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 22, 2004 11:22 PM

But you are superior, Michael. Fuck relativism.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 23, 2004 01:28 AM

Michael,

This Kerry 1971 thing is not in the same league as the Bush AWOL flap. It would be one thing if Kerry just went to a few anti-war rallies. You and I have both been stupid enough to do something like that. Nor would such stupidity, 30-plus years ago, disqualify the man from the Presidency. Bush used to be a cokehead, and everyone knows it.

But Kerry's anti-war activism doesn't look stupid to me. It looks calculated, and viciously dishonest. He threw in with the anti-war crowd for political gain, not out of personal conviction. And there is ample evidence of cynical opportunism throughout his career, to the present day. The guy just blows with the wind.

Kerry's loudest critics are mostly crackpots and partisans, of course. But they do present an abundance of facts. Here, for instance, is a little thing from NewsMax which I linked last week. Filter out the spin and innuendo (which is laid on relatively thin), and look at the factual claims. Lump in Kerry's 1971 testimony, and then formulate his defense. If you can.

More recently (2001) there's the business of Don Bendell, the Vietnam Human Rights Act, and C. Stewart Forbes. I see no immediate reason to call bullshit on Bendell. And if Bendell's right, then Kerry's a monster.

No, Michael, this isn't a "scandal". It's a fucking tragedy that this man could get a major party's nomination for President.

Posted by: dipnut at February 23, 2004 09:54 AM

The protestors helped the VC? Give me a break.

That's the old 'just shut up' line. We live in AMERICA where people are free to protest their government, if you want no decent then travel to present day Vietnam....

It's spelled "dissent", Andrew, and Vietnam-era "dissent" DEFINITELY helped the VC.

If you wish to dissent without aiding the enemy, you have to pass the following two tests:

1. Mean what you say. Be honest.
2. Sincerely wish the best for America, and strive to uphold the American ideal.

The Vietnam war could have been amply criticized within these criteria. But most of the Vietnam dissenters failed test 2. Kerry failed both tests. He was, and remains, a vicious liar.

Posted by: dipnut at February 23, 2004 10:05 AM

dipnut,

It's a fucking tragedy that this man could get a major party's nomination for President.

Benedict Arnold was another war hero who betrayed his country. But back then we knew what to do with traitors. We hung the bastards. Now we apparently nominate them for President.

Kerry's arrogance is breathtaking. He thinks that because he spent a few months in Vietnam that his record of betrayal in the 30 years since is beyond question. Fuck that.

Posted by: HA at February 24, 2004 04:36 AM

They are not trying to winover independents. They, the "scandal mongers" on both sides, are speaking to their own base --- revving 'em up, entertaining them, distracting them from the other sides's arguments, etc..

Going after those three uncommitted voters in Macomb County, Michigan is what the candidates themselves will do, with very nuanced speeches and advertisements, in October.

Posted by: The Commissar at February 24, 2004 12:01 PM

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