Thursday, November 02, 2006

On Kerry

I have a few thoughts I'll make as non-partisan as I can. (Which still isn't very non-partisan. I'm not gonna lie. I don't really like Kerry. I don't much like Bush either. Since I didn't live in a swing state in 2004, I didn't feel obligated to vote for either of them. God bless write-in slots.)

1. If Kerry hadn't said anything noteworthy, what would've dominated the news cycle instead? Probably George Allen's goons roughing up a Democrat here in Charlottesville. The Allen/Webb campaign has already drawn intense national interest for its competitiveness and drama (I mean drama in the lame junior-highish sense), and Kerry blew a great news story for Democrats by shifting the attention to himself, with only a week to go before the election, no less.

2. There are those Kerry defenders who think he doesn't need to apologize for what he said. (What's odd is that his defenders don't agree on whether he was "right" in the sense that he was talking about Bush getting us stuck in Iraq because he didn't study hard enough in school [notwithstanding Kerry's similarly lackluster Yale GPA--let's just settle this right now: you and I, dear reader, are smarter than BOTH these bozos], or right about what it sounded like he was saying about the troops in Iraq. If you can't agree on what he was talking about, isn't that in itself indicative of a problem?) In this case, when Kerry's reputation isn't on the line but his party's is, it doesn't matter whether he was right. Kerry needed to apologize as soon as he realized he'd caused a kerfuffle and get out of the news as soon as possible, for the sake of his party. No, he's not running for office, but he's still the public face of the Democratic party, as their most recent presidential nominee. I doubt nearly as many people know who the DNC chair is, or who the House minority leader is, as know Kerry was the last Democrat to run for president. I don't mean that he actually is representative of mainstream Democratic opinion, just that people are likely to perceive him that way. What he says matters, not just for Kerry, but for all Democrats, and they have a lot at stake this year. (I doubt that ultimately this incident will make much difference by itself, but it compounds the public image issues that Democrats as well as Republicans have. I can't think of an election year in which discussion of actual, you know, policy was more important, and in which less of it has taken place.)

3. Kerry's just a bad politician. He would be much more savvy if he'd had his belligerant response to the Swift-Boating and his meek response to the controversy surrounding his recent comments. I am operating on the assumption that he was foolish enough to say something unintentionally that would alienate a lot of people, but not so foolish as to intend to say what came out of his mouth. I don't think he can be not foolish, though. "Not foolish" entails not giving your political enemies their material in the first place, and then spending two days making the situation even worse. Kerry has decades of political experience and ran for the highest office in the country. He should know by now how the game works.


Deanna said...

My mother got a phone call from my brother this morning. In the course of their conversation, Kerry came up. A few points:
1) Jonathan is a captain in the Army, and is currently in Baghdad on a Special Police Training Team (SPTT), training the Iraqi police force
2) He also has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Alabama, and
3) He pays attention to politics in the States while he is overseas.

He and every member of the SPTT group firmly believe that Kerry meant what he said - that he believes that they are uneducated, and by inference, stupid. No apology is going to change their minds. They don't buy the "excuse" that it was a botched joke - they really believe that Kerry meant to insult them.

Kerry is the stupid one. He should know by now - after being a politician for most of his adult life - that it's not what you say, it's how what you say is perceived. If the troops in the combat zones are offended and mad, you had best better start groveling, buddy.

And if you haven't seen this picture, it is a hoot:

Juliet said...

It's entirely possible that Kerry meant what he said--at least in some subconscious way, because why else would he a. let it come out of his mouth and b. not immediately recognize how bad it sounded? Justin initially gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I think suggested he left out the crucial word "us" before "stuck" before it was floated as a possibility on teh Internets, but now he thinks that since there are now several rumored explanations of what Kerry was supposed to say, it's less likely that any single one of them would be true.

It's interesting that even after Democrats tried so hard to cultivate a military-friendly image in the 2004 campaign and before that, and said they're the ones who want to supply troops with what they need and not send them into unnecessary wars, there's still the sense that this one slip by Kerry strips away that entire facade. I suspect it's partly because even though Bush is a "draft dodger" etc., he clearly respects the troops, whereas with Democrats, it's almost a sort of infantilization of them, you know? Like when Michael Moore was asking politicians if they'd send their sons and daughters to Iraq--people don't send their children to Iraq; adults make the decision to serve in the military of their own accord, and deserve all the honor and responsibility for that decision.

I wrote this post because one of the spotlight posts yesterday was about Kerry, and I disagreed with most of it, but I don't want to go over to people's blogs just to argue with them. I usually try not to talk about politics on this blog as much as I think about them, because I want to avoid nasty arguments in my little happy place, but since most of the DC blogs that cover politics are all about the evil RethugliKKKans, I figured I might as well put something different out there if I felt strongly about it. Which I do. Jonathan and his fellow soldiers are doing something critically important, more important than I'll ever do (well, except for raising kids, but he's doing that too). This was a stupid thing for Kerry to joke about, no matter what he meant.