Monday, September 20, 2004

Instapunk092004 InstaPunk092004update UPDATE. Welcome to all visitors who are dropping in by way of InstaPundit (Thanks, Glenn). While you're here, you may also want to check out InstaPunk's recent entries on Mary Mapes and Dan Rather. They're shorter than this one and maybe funnier

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 question.

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 attack.

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 congressional campaigns.

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 anti-war books.

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,
ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes,

It ainít me, it ainít me, I ainít no millionaireís son, no.
It ainít me, it ainít me; I ainít no fortunate one, no.

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give?
Ooh, they only answer more! more! more! yoh,

It ainít me, it ainít me, I ainít no military son, son.
It ainít me, it ainít me; I ainít no fortunate one, one.

It ainít me, it ainít me, I ainít no fortunate one, no no no,
It ainít me, it ainít me, I ainít no fortunate son, no no 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 title character.

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 Kerry's America:

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 day.

In the eyes of many New Englanders, the region is culturally more like Europe than the rest of America. It has cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, established families who dominate the local history books, each with its own seal and tartan. Those who grow up in the region feel a righteous sense of pride that their home is the birthplace of American liberty, of Plymouth Rock, the Minutemen, the shot heard 'round the world. Anyone who can boast a lineage that traces in whole or part "back to the May-flower" is something of an honorary royal, a living connection to a storied past. The floods of tourists who come in each year to marvel at sights they'd previously only read about in history books--sights that, for the locals, are simply part of the everyday landscape--reinforce the notion that this is a place that's in some intrinsic way better than any of the newer, less interesting, less gentrified parts of the country.

Imbued with an innate sense of egalitarianism, no New Englander worth his salt will own up to being a snob, but New England snobbery is undeniable. It's there in the jokes, in the vocabulary, in the knowing references to the benighted souls back in the red states. In New England parlance, "West Virginia" is a synonym for uncouth, "Mississippi" for unread, "Iowa" means boring, and "Texas" boorish. A Southern accent is widely recognized as a sign of intellectual inferiority, and anyone who owns a gun is, by definition, a bloodthirsty, paranoid redneck....

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 popularity contests.

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.

In the speech he said, "It is the specter of Western imperialism that causes more fear among Africans and Asians than communism, and thus it is self-defeating." Because of his public speaking skills, he was chosen to give the class oration at graduation. The speech was hastily rewritten at the last moment, and was a broad criticism of American foreign policy, including the war.

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 the corruption.

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 American troops.

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 Coalition Allies

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 of war.

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 ago.

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.

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