Kerry's Weak Witching Hour Riposte

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Speaking at midnight last night in Springfield, Ohio, John Kerry channeled the ghost of Buckeye State late-night movie hosts such as Columbus' Fritz the Night Owl and Cleveland's The Ghoul to wail about his treatment at the hands of the GOP:

"For the past week, they have attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief," Kerry told thousands here at a midnight rally shortly after Bush accepted the Republican nomination for a second term and questioned Kerry's support for combat troops in Iraq.

"Well, here is my answer to them," Kerry said to cheers. "I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."

Whole account here.

To be sure, Kerry's got a lot of ammunition if he wants to attack the Bush administration's head honchos regarding duty in Vietnam: Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, and others went out of their way to avoid the shooting there.

But to the extent he does that, he's literally fighting the last war (actually, a couple of wars ago). Worse still, he's kickstarting more discussion of his anti-war activism, which is the real motivator of the Swift Boats Veterans for Truth and a topic that's yet to be aired fully–and when it is, it ain't going to be flattering to a guy who wants to be commander-in-chief. Kerry has presented an extraordinarily confusing picture of a warrior-president: a war hero who made his entry into public life by challenging the war that made him a hero. Forget the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any of the charges about his medals, etc–at its core, his identity on this score is fundamentally ambiguous.

As important, when he turns his attention to Iraq, he's got a program that's completely muddled: What's the first thing he'll do if he's elected? Will he send more troops or less? Under U.N. control or U.S.? (This isn't to say Bush's next step is any clearer–but such is the privilege of incumbency that he can talk about staying the course, or even removing troops, without eliciting the same response.)

From a pure p.r. strategy POV, Kerry's midnight madness rally was a stroke of stupidity. If he wanted to go to show his brass balls, he should have held the conference at 12 noon yesterday, pointedly breaking with the traditional silence of candidates during their counterparts' conventions to answer the "unprecedented" attacks on his character, etc. That would have made the evening news before Bush spoke and might have put a little spine in the flip-flopper image that the GOP tattooed into the brains of all 10 Americans who actually watched the TV coverage of the RNC. Certainly Kerry had a free pass to do so after Zell Miller's spiel.

Instead, Kerry, who is increasingly looking like the Bad-luck Schleprock of presidential contenders, got pushed off the morning news shows today by the Russian school hostage crisis and a weakened Hurricane Frances. And with the U.S. Open heating up, it might be another week before he makes it back into the papers.

NEXT: Wolcott, You Magnficent Minx, You've Done It Again!

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  1. “I’m continually amazed at how John Kerry can take a gun, aim it at his foot, smile when he pulls the trigger, then be shocked at how much it hurts.”

    This is what happens when you earn a purple heart for having rice jammed in your butt, just a pavlovian reaction.

  2. “It’s funny you brought it up. I was just thinking about all the conservative pundits who said Gore’s speeches were so unhinged and cited how “angry” and “crazy” he supposedly was. Now some of them are defending Miller, who seemed a hundred times as angry and crazy as Gore will ever be.”

    A “hundred times as crazy as Gore”?

    LOL

    If you think that then, YOU’RE the one who is crazy!

  3. There’s a big difference between Zell Miller’s angry speech and angry speeches by Gore or Dean. I’d say Miller was angry about terrorists threatening his country and his family, and the failure of his party to adequately defend them. It came off as righteous anger about a war. In contrast, Gore and Dean were angry about Bush and the Republicans, and they came off as unhinged partisans, like Buchanan’s notorious speech at the ’92 convention.

  4. Forgive the occult geekiness, but I believe the “witching hour” is 3 AM, not 12 AM.

    Have a nice holiday weekend all yous!

  5. clark: What did Miller equate with disloyalty, opposition to Bush or support for Kerry? It sounded like a hawk democrat would have been acceptable to Miller, but the Dems nominated a weiner instead.

  6. As someone who wants to see Kerry lose to Bush, I have to say I’m immensely pleased with Kerry’s speech.

    Nothing turns off swing voters more than a politician who adopts a “How dare you question my qualifications” posture. Because, you know, if they didn’t question Kerry’s qualifications, they wouldn’t be swing voters, now would they.

  7. Gore may hypervenilate & froth at the mouth when he speaks, but his speech from late may wasn’t so bad. Miller equated opposition to Bush with disloyalty

    And Gore equated opposition to Democrats with Nazism. Which is worse, in your opinion — being a disloyal American, or being a loyal Brownshirt? A disloyal American is merely a bad person; Nazis are widely regarded as some of the most evil people in the history of the world.

    Besides, it turns my stomach to listen to people who suck up to Michael Moore complain that their patriotism or loyalty to America is being questioned. It’s like hearing former Nixon or Clinton staffers complain about people questioning their ethics.

  8. Nick, you are an amazing work. “Columbus’ Fritz the Night Owl and Cleveland’s The Ghoul”! Where the hell do you get this stuff. I wish I had been aware during your Suck days. You are truly a treasure to the blogoshpere.

    As to you other yutzes, Miller did not question the patriotism, dedication, commitment of those who criticize the administration’s handling of the war. He questioned the patriotism of those who lie and manipulate about the war for political advantage (much like Kerry and his “war crimes” bit). He was right on and its about time someone said it, especially a Democrat (Lieberman has been too polite to be heard).

  9. I remember the Ghoul; he had a brief run in Philly in the early seventies. He was the first host I remember using pop songs as bumpers – pretty cool for the pre-Post-Modern era of TV. Better than Dr. Shock and Saturday Night Dead put together.

  10. This passage from Miller equates all opposition to Bush with disloyalty:
    “Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat’s manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.”
    As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate today, “Most people call this a ‘presidential election.’ Someone should tell Zell they happen every four years.”
    This is just so incredibly stupid that it defies belief:
    “Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today’s Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
    And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.”

    Gore referred to “digital brownshirts” in the speech after the one that I referred to and not in a context of all opposition to Democrats. I don’t in general defend comparing one’s opponents to Nazi’s, but it has become so common (attacks on Pat Buchanan, “feminazis”) that it has lost most of its sting. Actually, the same thing is happening to attacks on the opposition’s patriotism.

  11. “This passage from Miller equates all opposition to Bush with disloyalty…”

    How is that? Is English your first language? He’s saying that they are allowing their opposition to Bush define their stance on the war.

    I suppose it’s better to sound like the rest of the imbeciles who post to the Internet than actually think about things, however. Have fun.

  12. This passage from Miller equates all opposition to Bush with disloyalty:

    [snip] our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat’s manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.

    Clark, I think the the operative words here are “manic obsession.” Miller isn’t talking about everyday politics, or even politics in wartime. He’s talking about the Michael Moore tinfoil hat crowd claiming that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance, that the war in Iraq was just a pretext to give Halliburton a contract, Bush = Hitler, etc. This is not standard “who can do best in these troubled times” campaign rhetoric, but wild charges that would have been considered defeatism if not sedition in the not-too-distant past. (I’m not saying it’s sedition by today’s standards.)

    And this can be blamed on the Democratic party, given that it comes from Democratic congresscritters (McKinney, Lee, Owens, etc.), presidential candidates, and honored guests at their convention (Moore).

  13. I think Zell Miller proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Democrats are all about scary rhetoric, insane allegations, and negative campaigning. He demonstrated quite explicitly how the Democrat attack machine works. He showed us ironclad proof that Democrats have no ideas, only anger.

    Ironically, he proved these things by engaging in it himself. Funny, no?

  14. Thoreau:

    I think you hit it—the GOP lowered themselves to bringing a Democrat fear-monger on board…

    I wonder who’ll be speaking at the next RNC—Morris Dees?

  15. “Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat’s manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.”

    What in that sentence are you saying isn’t true?

    As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate today, “Most people call this a ‘presidential election.’ Someone should tell Zell they happen every four years.”

    Oh, please. The Democrats didn’t have to appeal to the anti-war wingnut crowd just to beat Bush. They didn’t have to suck up to propagandists like Michael Moore. They didn’t have to give the thumbs-up to the MoveOn “Bush = Hitler” crowd. But they did; they decided that their best bet for winning power in 2004 was to embrace the We Hate America crowd. So boo fuckity hoo for them if they don’t like people questioning their loyalty and their patriotism. They should try expressing some sometime.

  16. There were several million people watching the RNC coverage.

    Do you honestly think Miller’s speech was any angrier, crazier, or scarier than Al Gore’s last couple of eruptions? Digital brownshirts etc. etc.?

  17. I don’t, but joe probably does.

  18. “Well, here is my answer to them…I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq.”

    Except, he just did have his commitment questioned, and repeatedly, by those same people.

  19. Do you honestly think Miller’s speech was any angrier, crazier, or scarier than Al Gore’s last couple of eruptions?

    It’s funny you brought it up. I was just thinking about all the conservative pundits who said Gore’s speeches were so unhinged and cited how “angry” and “crazy” he supposedly was. Now some of them are defending Miller, who seemed a hundred times as angry and crazy as Gore will ever be.

    I enjoyed Miller’s speech, because I’m bored with the cautious, focus-group-tested addresses that have become the norm at these conventions. It was fun to see someone get up there in prime time and just go nuts. But the speech was deeply dishonest. And the man came off as a psychopath.

  20. I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have

    Chickenhawk alert!

    who misled America into Iraq.

    That would include John Kerry, who I believe is on record supporting regime change in Iraq and agreeing that Iraq’s WMD program was real and a threat to the US.

    I mean, really, running against Kerry is so easy. You just juxtapose his constant history of being fer-an-agin just about every damn thing. Karl Rove’s crew isn’t even going to have to break a sweat to beat this guy like a drum at a Metallica concert.

  21. It’s Frances, not Francis.

    I’m continually amazed at how John Kerry can take a gun, aim it at his foot, smile when he pulls the trigger, then be shocked at how much it hurts. His campaign STILL hasn’t grasped the fact no one (no one reasonable at least) cares about his service IN Vietnam, or whether he deserved the medals he received. The reason he’s earning the bile of veterans is his post-war behavior.
    As long as he keeps defending his service, while ignoring the attacks on his activism he’s going to be like a boxer trying to block head shots while getting whooped by blows to his body.

  22. “I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way. By that I mean that yesterday, during this Presidential campaign, and even throughout recent times, Vietnam has been discussed and written about without an adequate statement of its full meaning.”
    “We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. Someone who was deeply against the war in 1969 or 1970 may well have served their country with equal passion and patriotism by opposing the war as by fighting in it. Are we now, 20 years or 30 years later, to forget the difficulties of that time, of families that were literally torn apart, of brothers who ceased to talk to brothers, of fathers who disowned their sons, of people who felt compelled to leave the country and forget their own future and turn against the will of their own aspirations?” – John Kerry, January 30, 1992

    Singing a different tune now, aren’t we Senator?

  23. I imagine the Clinton crew that has taken over his campaign were ready to bitch slap Kerry last nite, and demand that he fucking shut up about Viet Nam. All it does is play into the huge vet uprising against him, which is about to go into hyper-drive when Stolen Honor — the documentary — is released later this month.

    In that film, one former POW after another recounts how their Communist torturers used Kerry’s words against them and to deny that they were entitled to Geneva Convention protections, since the were “war criminals.”

    What is Kerry going to reap from his utter insistence on blathering about Viet Nam?

    Let us look at Ms.Jane Fonda, who bankrolled Kerry’s VVAW in the 70s, and who has given his 527s millions today:

    >>One story is told by Jerry Driscoll, an F-4E pilot, who was a River Rat and a former POW in Ho Lo Prison-the “Hanoi Hilton.” Dragged from a stinking cesspit of a cell, cleaned, fed, and dressed in clean PJs, he was ordered to describe for a visiting American “Peace Activist” the “lenient and humane treatment” he’d received. He spat at Fonda, was clubbed, and dragged away. During the subsequent beating, he fell forward upon the camp Commandant’s feet, accidentally pulling the man’s shoe off-which sent that officer berserk. In 1978, the Air Force colonel still suffered from double vision (which permanently ended his flying days) from the frenzied application of the wooden baton.

    Col Larry Carrigan spent 6 years in the “Hilton”–the first three of which he was “missing in action”. His group, too, got the cleaned/fed/clothed routine in preparation for a “peace delegation” visit. They, however, had time and devised a plan to get word to the world that they still survived. Each man secreted a tiny piece of paper, with his social security number on it, in the palm of his hand. When paraded before Fonda and a cameraman, she walked the line, shaking each man’s hand and asking little encouraging snippets like: “Aren’t you sorry you bombed babies?” and “Are you grateful for the humane treatment from your benevolent captors?” Believing this HAD to be an act, they each palmed her their sliver of paper. She took them all without missing a beat. At the end of the line and once the camera stopped rolling, to the shocked disbelief of the POWs, she turned to the officer in charge…and handed him the little pile. Three men died from the subsequent beatings.>To add insult to injury, when American POWs finally began to return home (some of them having been held captive for up to nine years) and describe the tortures they had endured at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Jane Fonda quickly told the country that they should “not hail the POWs as heroes, because they are hypocrites and liars.” Fonda said the idea that the POWs she had met in Vietnam had been tortured was “laughable,” claiming: “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed.” The POWs who said they had been tortured were “exaggerating, probably for their own self-interest,” she asserted. She told audiences that “Never in the history of the United States have POWs come home looking like football players. These football players are no more heroes than Custer was. They’re military careerists and professional killers” who are “trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to law.”

  24. “Singing a different tune now, aren’t we Senator?”

    Put something in his monkey’s(Edwards?) cup and he’ll sing whatever you say.

  25. Actully, he’s only figuratively fighting the last war.
    Gore may hypervenilate & froth at the mouth when he speaks, but his speech from late may wasn’t so bad. Miller equated opposition to Bush with disloyalty. His taking offense at people referring to our occupation of Iraq as an occupation was idiotic.

  26. “Well, here is my answer to them…I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq.”

    And again, with his deferment application, Kerry tried to avoid service as well. When that failed, he did his best to get out ASAP. Also, Kerry has stated he would have gone into Iraq even knowing what we know today about WMDs. With that quote, Kerry comes off as a deeply dishonest psychopath.

  27. Mona,

    Interestingly, in the exact same snopes article you quote(http://www.snopes.com/military/fonda.asp), it says,

    “The most serious accusations in the piece quoted above — that Fonda turned over slips of paper furtively given her by American POWS to the North Vietnamese and that several POWs were beaten to death as a result — are proveably untrue. Those named in the inflammatory e-mail categorically deny the events they supposedly were part of.

    “It’s a figment of somebody’s imagination,” says Ret. Col. Larry Carrigan, one of the servicemen mentioned in the ‘slips of paper’ incident. Carrigan was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and did spend time in a POW camp. He has no idea why the story was attributed to him. “I never met Jane Fonda.”

    The tale about a defiant serviceman who spit at Jane Fonda and is severely beaten as a result is often attributed to Air Force pilot Jerry Driscoll. He has repeatedly stated on the record that it did not originate with him.”

    That said, I agree that Fonda’s behavior was abominable and really, really stupid. I also agree that Kerry is a moron to constantly bring up his service in Viet Nam for a variety of reasons.

    I won’t vote for Kerry, but I have to ask why you think Kerry’s demonstrable dishonesty regarding the Viet Nam war is MORE significant today than the Bush administration’s demonstrable dishonesty regarding our present war in Iraq?

  28. I hope I’m not the only person who thinks bringing give-em-hell Zell onboard at the RNC was a possible calculated move by the Bush campaign to make Bush’s pro-war stance seem moderate, and moderate compared to a *Democrat* no less.

    Of course, the Bush camp immediately hopped to the task of backing away from the senator. An awfully fast move given the bloodthirsty roars of support at the convention itself.

    I think Bush already learned from his daddy’s experience in bringing extremists (of the Christian moralist variety) to the RNC in ’92. That lesson being: it isn’t a bad thing, as long as they’re not from your own party.

  29. I won’t vote for Kerry, but I have to ask why you think Kerry’s demonstrable dishonesty regarding the Viet Nam war is MORE significant today than the Bush administration’s demonstrable dishonesty regarding our present war in Iraq?

    Well, Kerry’s dishonesty aided the enemy and hurt America its citizens; Bush’s “dishonesty” hurt the enemy and helped America and its citizens. That’s a pretty significant difference.

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