Monday, September 20, 2004
John Kerry Is Unpatriotic.
Methinks thou doth protest too much.
PSAYINGS 5Q.39. There. I said it. Months ago, know-it-all pundit Jonathan Chait came out of the closet as a member of the liberal intelligentsia to proclaim that he, like so many of his foaming-at-the mouth leftist colleagues, really did hate George W. Bush:
I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.
And he concludes his rather lengthy polemic with the following self-absolving rationale (emphasis added):
To be a liberal today is to feel as though you've been transported into some alternative universe in which a transparently mediocre man is revered as a moral and strategic giant. You ask yourself why Bush is considered a great, or even a likeable, man. You wonder what it is you have been missing. Being a liberal, you probably subject yourself to frequent periods of self-doubt. But then you conclude that you're actually not missing anything at all. You decide Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident.
There. That feels better.
"Unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national
interest?" That sounds very much to me as if Mr. Chait has accused Mr.
Bush of being unpatriotic. Or is there some level of sophistication in
Mr. Chait's intellect that is beyond me?
At any rate, I have become increasingly annoyed with the political
rhetoric of the presidential campaign on both sides. I am annoyed that
every time a Republican criticizes Kerry's senate record or his policy
(non)positions, he or one of his surrogates grabs the nearest
microphone to denounce Bush-Cheney for questioning his patriotism. I am
annoyed that the mainstream media repeat such charges as if they were
fact -- about Cheney, about Zell Miller, about Karl Rove, about Saxby
Chambliss, about the President himself -- when the Republicans and
their supporters, specifically including Zell Miller in his convention
speech, have gone out of their way to say that they do NOT question
Kerry's patriotism. (I dare them to find any such quote by an elected
or appointed Republican official or campaign staffer.) And I am annoyed
that no Republican has the guts to suggest that there's good reason to
doubt Kerry's patriotism.
There is, you know. I'll begin by stating that I do not hate John
Kerry. I am fearful that he may be elected president. I feel a certain
contempt for him. I am resentful that the mainstream media have given
him a free ride since he inherited the nomination from the maniacal and
doomed Dean insurgency. But I do not hate him. My argument for his lack
of patriotism really does rest on a combination of facts and
conclusions which I invite others to reasonably review. I'll enumerate
these below, but first I'll posit the context in which I approach the
I spent many years of my youth in the corporate world, and I have
extensive experience in the disciplines of advertising and public
relations. It has become axiomatic with me that a significant
percentage of PR and ad campaigns are defensive in nature. They are
designed to overcome a perceived weakness rather than tout a strength.
When Ford began its "Quality is Job One" campaign decades ago, it was
because Ford's manufacturing quality had sunk to abysmal levels. Their
vehicles began falling apart as customers drove them out of the new car
lots. The current Walmart campaign dramatizing the company's love and
support for its own employees is a counterweight to the bad publicity
caused by several recent employee and class action lawsuits against the
company. When BMW and Hummer run ads showing the affordable cost of
their leasing plans, it is to overcome the accurate peception that these
are very expensive vehicles.
I confess that I tend to infer a similar motive whenever I see
advertising about intangibles rather than low prices, new technology,
or new product offerings. If an ad for a bank or brokerage house
emphasizes customer service and caring, I assume that this been a
recent or long-term problem in customer perceptions. If an ad features
a CEO telling me how committed he and his company are to the market they serve, I
assume the company is in trouble.
This is my context and the nature of my bias. When I hear Kerry and
Edwards and Kennedy and Cleland et al howling their outrage about
phantom charges that they are unpatriotic, I tend to believe their hypersensitivity arises from the fear that the charges might be
true or legitimately perceived as true. It strikes me as a possibility they
are genuinely concerned about. Directly accuse Bush and Cheney of being
unpatriotic, and they'll probably laugh it off. Merely object to anything said
(or screamed) by a Democrat and they'll suffer a very public anxiety
I think it's time to allow the possibility that Kerry and some of
his Democrat colleagues really are unpatriotic. Here are my reasons:
1. The current 'Fortunate Son'
campaign being conducted against George Bush.
Yes, he's a silver spoon kid from a powerful family. But what of
Kerry? He was born to America's real aristocracy, the Winthrops and
Forbes families of Massachusetts. One of Harvard's residential houses
bears the name Winthrop. It's impossible to get any higher in the food
chain than a Winthrop. So George W. went to Phillips Academy, Andover;
Kerry went to a pre-prep school in Switzerland, for God's sake, then to
Fessenden School, then to the number one snob school in the country, St. Paul's (which looks down
its Grottlesex nose at the two much larger Phillips Academies). For college,
both George W. and John Kerry went to Yale, where both became members of
Skull and Bones.
We'll call it a draw at this point. One would have to say they are
both 'Fortunate Sons.' The next step was the military. Here again,
both served. George W. went into the Texas Air National Guard, and no
amount of smearing or niggling can wholly disguise the fact that he
flew jet fighter planes, which represents considerable risk whether you
do it in Indochina or Texas. But the claim is made that George
preferred the possibility of fiery death by airplane crash to the possibility of death by firefight in
Vietnam, while Kerry leaped like D'Artagnan into the fray. The Kerry supporters would have us believe that this is where
the careers of the two men diverge. But do they? Here's what a recent column
by liberal pundit Nicholas Kristoff has to say
Did Mr. Kerry volunteer for dangerous duty? Not as much as his campaign would like you to believe. The Kerry Web site declares, "As he was graduating from Yale, John Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam - because, as he later said, 'It was the right thing to do.' "
In fact, as Mr. Kerry was about to
graduate from Yale, he was inquiring about getting an educational
deferment to study in Europe. When that got nowhere, he volunteered for
the Navy, which was much less likely to involve danger in Vietnam than
other services. After a year on a ship in the ocean, Mr. Kerry
volunteered for Swift boats, but at that time they were used only in
Vietnam's coastal waters. A short time later, the Swift boats were
assigned exceptionally dangerous duties up Vietnamese rivers. "When I
signed up for the Swift boats, they had very little to do with the
war,'' Mr. Kerry wrote in 1986, adding, "I didn't really want to get
involved in the war."
So Kerry didn't want to go to Vietnam either. He got unlucky in that
he did wind up in Vietnam (for which George W. unsuccessfully volunteered
in the Guard) and he got lucky in that he had to serve in combat for
just a few months before a trio of glancing wounds brought him safely
and heroically home. Both George W. and John Kerry secured early
releases from duty, both for the purpose of becoming involved in
Doesn't it seem as if we're still looking at a near dead heat in the
'Fortunate Son' sweepstakes? So what exactly is it that propels John
Kerry to launch this particular attack on his opponent? Well,
'Fortunate Son' by John Fogerty was a kind of anthem to the anti-war
movement in the Vietnam era. It was a protest
song. It was a defiant riff against the movement's enemies, who were
(for those who can't remember) legion -- all those who supported the
war and eventually all those who fought proudly in the war and all who
continued to honor the flag rather than burn it, sew it to the ass-end
of their jeans, or fly it upside down on the cover of their
How can one avoid the conclusion that the emotional basis of Kerry's
"Fortunate Son" campaign is his continuing identification with an
anti-war movement which consistently treated "patriotism" as a dirty
word, the first refuge of the "fascist imperialist pigs of Amerika."
George W. Bush is the enemy targeted by "Fortunate Son" because he did
not participate in anti-war protests.
The proof is in the lyrics:
Some folks are born to wave the flag,
It ainít me, it ainít me, I ainít no
millionaireís son, no.
Is it my failing brain, or is the only comprehensible aspect of this
song the jeering tone applied to such patriotic terms as "red, white,
and blue" and "star spangled"? And who, might I be so bold as to ask,
is the "I" who is so angry and alienated and oppressed? Could it really
be the young John Kerry? Or is it supposed to be us? And if so, how?
Should we take this as the first honest (because subsconscious)
statement of policy about the War on Terror and the Iraq War by John
Kerry? We're supposed to rear back and revile the flag and all who
fight for it? And what's all that about "Hail to the Chief"? Isn't that
what Kerry is dying to hear these days?
The use of this song against his opponent in a contemporary
presidential campaign represents a Freudian slip for Kerry. His
persona, he seems to be telling us, was truly born during the period
when he defamed America and her troops in a time of war. It's the only
position that he has ever held for more than a few expedient months.
2. John Kerry's Homeland.
Above, I stipulated for the sake of argument that Kerry and Bush
enjoyed approximately equal advantages as young men. But that is not to
say that their youths were in any way equivalent. Kerry came from a
rich family, but his father worked for the foreign service and was not
rich. Much of Kerry's education was funded by family members who were
wealthy. Nevertheless, Kerry had what must be called an international
upbringing. Consider these excerpts from the most detailed biography
I have been able to find of him on the web:
Kerry says his first memory is from age three, of holding his crying mother's hand while they walked through the broken glass and rubble of her childhood home in Saint-Briac, France. The memorable visit came shortly after the United States had liberated Saint-Briac from the Nazis on August 14, 1944. The family estate, known as Les Essarts, had been occupied and used as a Nazi headquarters during the war. When the Germans fled, they bombed Les Essarts and burnt it down.
The sprawling estate was rebuilt in 1954.
Kerry and his parents would often spend the summer holidays there.
Kerry occupied his time there racing his cousins on bicycles and
challenging relatives to games of kick the can. During these summers,
he became good friends with his first cousin Brice Lalonde, a future
Socialist and Green Party leader in France who ran for
president of France in 1981.
He went to a Swiss boarding school at age
11 while his family lived in Berlin. When he visited home, he biked
around and saw the rubble of Hitler's bunker, and also sneaked into
East Berlin, until his father found out and grounded him. As a boy,
Kerry often spent time alone. He biked through France, took a ferry
from Norway to England, one time camping alone in Sherwood Forest.
While attending the boarding school, Kerry saw the film Scaramouche,
which became his favorite movie. He later named his powerboat after the
There is nothing odious about such experience. The fact that his
mother was French, that he lived for a time in Berlin and attended
boarding school in a country that spoke both French and German does not
mean that Kerry automatically favors the nations of France and Germany
over his native land. But we are entitled to ask what Kerry's
relationship to his native land consists of and whether there's a
possibility that the relationship is somehow distinctly different from
that of people who were raised less exotically.
Further, the Kerry family's roots in Massachusetts aristocracy bear
on the fact of his international childhood in quite an interesting way.
Consider this assessment from an article titled John
As the country expanded westward, it was
largely members of the lower classes--those with little to lose and
much to gain--who ventured into the wilderness. Those staying behind
were disproportionately those who, like the Winthrops and the Forbeses,
enjoyed positions of privilege and distinction. The result is that,
while class mobility and meritocracy were early phenomena elsewhere in
America, New England retained a more rigid social and economic caste
system not unlike the one that millions of immigrants would flee Europe
to escape. With the hoi polloi seeking opportunity on the frontier
while the elites remained in the east, a natural sense of superiority
arose throughout New England--a sense that very much carries on to this
True to the region's Europhilic origins,
New Englanders, as a whole, care deeply about what France and Germany
think about America, Americans, and U.S. foreign policy. When Kerry
wrings his hands about the need to "rebuild our alliances," he's not
just giving voice to his own concerns; he's playing to his base, a
constituency that can't bear the thought of losing international
This is the "America" that Kerry visited and occasionally lived in
as a small child, the America he grew to manhood in at the Fessenden
School, St. Paul's, and Yale, and the America he chose to live in as a
prosecuting attorney, lieutenant governor, and U.S. Senator. At what
point, we might wonder, did he ever acquire the knack of feeling more
at home in Iowa, Mississippi, Texas, and West Virginia than he did in
Paris, Berlin, or Luzerne?
Did it occur at some point after he took his first stance against
America on behalf of the world at Yale?
In March 1965, as the Vietnam War
escalated, he won the Ten Eyck prize as the best orator in the junior
class for a speech that was critical of U.S. foreign policy.
Did he become more at home in America after he achieved celebrity by
smearing his fellow troops in testimony before the U.S. Congress? Or
was the big change accomplished by his marriage to a $300 million
fortune? Or by his remarriage to the multi-lingual foreign born heiress
of a $1 billion American manufacturing fortune? At exactly what point
did he descend out of the Alps to mind-meld with us "working families"?
What are we supposed to make
of it all?
One possible interpretation of such a background is that John Kerry grew quite naturally into a sense of citizenship in the high civilization of the Old World, which consisted of the advanced European nations plus the northeastern intelligentsia of the United States, and came to believe that there was both a privilege and a responsibility of leadership by such elites over the benighted lesser folk outside his ken. During the period of the Cold War, this kind of self definition would pose little or no conflict of interest. While Europe's interests coincided with America's, he would encounter no crippling need to choose between them.
But the world changed after the Cold War and again after September
9/11. The unavoidable truth is that if Kerry's real affinity is for the
post-modern European sensibility rather than America's heartland sensibility,
he is in profoundly important ways no longer a completely trustworthy
patriot, but a man of divided loyalties. That is in itself no crime,
but it is an unacceptable state of mind in an American president
leading his people in a war for survival.
3. The Oil for Food Scandal.
The mainstream media have been exceptionally reluctant to cover this
ballooning mega-billion-dollar fiasco, probably because of its
complexity and its capacity to undermine the authority of the United
Nations. Last night, though, Fox News
tackled the subject and revealed evidence of massively corrupt collusion
between Saddam Hussein and major commercial and political players
(including Clinton pal Marc Rich) in France, Russia, China, Yemen, and
the United Arab Republics. Saddam may have looted as much as $11
billion for himself, including funds he employed to acquire weapons
used against Coalition forces in the Iraq War. Highly suspect but
not yet confirmed links among companies and individuals strongly
suggest that "Oil for Food" monies have financed both Al Qaeda and the
insurgents still killing American troops today. The U.N. bureaucrat
responsible for overseeing the Oil for Food program may be complicit in
In short, the U.N. administration as well as France, Russia, and
China -- permanent members of the Security Council -- may have have
been bought off by Saddam during Bush's attempt to rally U.N. support
to bring Iraq to account. If so, there was never any chance that the
multilateralism demanded by Kerry could have been achieved. Some of our "friends"
and other nations sold us out and are guilty of helping to murder
Yet Kerry still speaks and acts -- in a time of continuing war -- as
if the fault for America's isolation from traditional allies is
entirely Bush's, which is to say, America's.
The U.S. Congress is vigorously pursuing an investigation of the Oil
for Food scandal. He cannot be unaware of its implications on the
foreigh policy he proposes. Yet he still insists that any military
action not vigorously supported by France and Germany must be wrong.
I can find no way to deem this a patriotic position.
4. Kerry, Our Troops, and Our
Yesterday, the Captain's
Quarters blog ran a letter from a USMC major attached to the
Multi-National Corps staff in Baghdad,. The letter contains significant
new information about recent developments in Iraq and then concludes:
You may hear analysts and prognosticators
on CNN, ABC and the like in the next few days talking about how bleak
the situation is here in Iraq, but from where I sit, itís looking
significantly better now than when I got here. The momentum is moving
in our favor, and all Americans need to know that, so please, please,
pass this on to those who care and will pass it on to others. It is
very demoralizing for us here in uniform to read & hear such
negativity in our press. It is fodder for our enemies to use against us
and against the vast majority of Iraqis who want their new government
to succeed. It causes the American public to start thinking about the
acceptability of ďcutting our lossesĒ and pulling out, which would be
devastating for Iraq for generations to come, and Muslim militants
would claim a huge victory, causing us to have to continue to fight
them elsewhere (remember, in war ďAwayĒ games are always preferable to
ďHomeĒ games). Reports like that also cause Iraqis begin to fear that
we will pull out before we finish the job, and thus less willing to
openly support their interim government and US/Coalition activities. We
are realizing significant progress here Ė not propaganda progress, but
real strides are being made. Itís terrible to see our national morale,
and support for what weíre doing here, jeopardized by sensationalized
stories hyped by media giants whose #1 priority is advertising income
followed closely by their political agenda; getting the story straight
falls much further down on their priority scale, as Dan Rather and CBS
News have so aptly demonstrated in the last week.
The major singled out the media for criticism, but it is impossible
to avoid the realization that Kerry is a leading participant in the
"negativity" about Iraq, even if it is impossible to determine his
preferred policy. When he says that Iraq was "the wrong war, in the
wrong place, at the wrong time," he is telling the Iraqi people, and
our troops, that they can't rely on continued support from the U.S.
government if he is elected. When he says that George Bush spent $200
billion on Iraq that should go to prescription medicines or schools in
the U.S., he is fueling the Iraqi fear that we will "cut and run." When
he hints that he will set a definite timetable for bringing U.S. troops
home, he is telling the insurgents to keep fighting until America
leaves and he is telling the Iraqis not to help the American troops
because a definite day will come when the insurgents can take their
revenge on "collaborators."
This kind of talk adds directly and daily to the risks confronting
U.S. troops. Kerry's campaign rhetoric contains killing words. And he
either doesn't realize it or doesn't care.
Kerry performs a similar disservice when he describes the invasion
of Iraq as unilateral and when he trivializes the contributions of
other members of the Coalition. How does it improve America's standing
in the world when he ignores the battlefield sacrifices of Britain,
Poland, Italy, etc. Their military power is small compared to
ours. But so is the military might of France and Germany. Why is it that
only those two nations are good enough to enlist as allies? Is this an
echo of childhood homes in Paris, Berlin, and Switzerland?
Just yesterday, Kerry's sister did her best to scare
the Australians out of the Coalition with America. She told them:
JOHN Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.
Diana Kerry, younger sister of the Democrat presidential candidate, told The Weekend Australian that the Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta clearly showed the danger to Australians had increased.
"Australia has kept faith with the US and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels," she said, referring to the invasion of Iraq.
Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms Kerry said: "The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta -- I would have to say that."
Who benefits if America's allies are insulted or frightened out of the War on Terror? Certainly not American troops, who will face longer odds and deadlier dangers when the enemy sees how easily America can be isolated. The only beneficiary is John Kerry.
At the Republican convention, Zell Miller declared it wasn't John Kerry's patriotism but his judgment that is in doubt. I disagree. Why? Because John Kerry has behaved with the same careless disregard for American troops in the field before. That's the significance of the testimony he gave Congress about supposed war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam: his words were, as they are now, weapons used to incite additional violence against the armed forces of the country he purports to love. He never apologized for the damage his words caused on that first occasion, and he cannot be given the benefit of the doubt this time. The evidence suggests that the only military man he cares about is a two-faced veteran named John Kerry.
5. Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets
This is merely an addendum to the previous reason. Having failed to apologize for his slander of Vietnam troops, Kerry is clearly so unrepentant that he regards it as defensible to denounce 250 fellow veterans as liars and Republican shills. He's never cared a whit about his so-called band of brothers. He has no sense of personal honor. He is a nation unto himself.
6. Kerry and the Commander-in-Chief
It may be understandable if unacceptable that the Michael Moores of
the nation forget that George W. Bush is our commander-in-chief in a
time of war. There is no excuse for John Kerry to forget it. He is
aspiring to be commander-in-chief. If he does not respect the office,
he is not qualified to fill it.
There is no excuse for a presidential candidate to declare that the
sitting President is "unfit for command" when American troops are in
the field. There is no excuse for a presidential candidate to suggest
that a draft status 30 years in the past has any bearing on the
qualifications of a sitting president who has already served four years
as commander-in-chief and has exposed himself to personal peril on
multiple occasions. There is no excuse for a presidential candidate to
imply that a sitting president is a coward when the office he is
competing for has a 9-percent assassination rate and an 11-percent
casualty rate. There is no excuse for a presidential candidate to
undermine the perceived honor and integrity of the commander-in-chief in a time
There are honorable ways of debating the alternatives in Iraq and in
the War on Terror. But only a patriot would think to discover those
ways in the poisonous world John Kerry helped bring into being thirty-some years
What was it Chait said in his hymn of hate? A dullard lacking any moral constraints in
his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of
the very rich (read: himself),
unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest.
Works for me. You're right, Jonathan. That does feel better.