John McCain

Highlights From the Debacle

|

Drudge is touting Newsweek's promo for its "exclusive behind-the-scenes account of the entire presidential campaign reported by a separate Newsweek Special Project team that worked for more than a year on the extraordinary campaign." (Now that it's all over, I just hope the team members will be allowed to go ahead with the Heaven's Gate-style mass suicide they undoubtedly crave.)

Some of the interesting bits:

McCain remembers the U.S. has a constitution:

The "Outlandish" McCain Offer. Kerry's courtship of Senator John McCain to be his running mate was longer-standing and more intense than previously reported. As far back as August 2003, Kerry had taken McCain to breakfast to sound him out to run on a unity ticket. McCain batted away the idea as not serious, but Kerry, after he wrapped up the nomination in March, went back after McCain a half-dozen more times. "To show just how sincere he was, he made an outlandish offer," Newsweek's Thomas reports. "If McCain said yes he would expand the role of vice president to include secretary of Defense and the overall control of foreign policy. McCain exclaimed, 'You're out of your mind. I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell.'" Kerry was thwarted and furious. "Why the f— didn't he take it? After what the Bush people did to him…'"

Clinton and Jonathan Rauch agree on states' rights approach to gay marriage:

Clinton Advice Spurned. Looking for a way to pick up swing voters in the Red States, former President Bill Clinton, in a phone call with Kerry, urged the Senator to back local bans on gay marriage. Kerry respectfully listened, then told his aides, "I'm not going to ever do that."

Shrum, not Kerry, to blame for amazingly feckless response to Swift Boat assault:

Kerry Anger Over Swift Boat Ads. By August, the attack of the Swift Boat veterans was getting to Kerry. He called adviser Tad Devine, who was prepping to appear on "Meet The Press" the next day: "It's a pack of f—ing lies, what they're saying about me," he fairly shouted over the phone. Kerry blamed his advisers for his predicament. (Cahill and Shrum argued responding to the ads would only dignify them.) He had wanted to fight back; they had counseled caution. Even Kerry's ex-wife, Julia Thorne, was very upset about the ads, she told daughter Vanessa. She could remember how Kerry had suffered in Vietnam; she had seen the scars on his body, heard him cry out at night in his nightmares. She was so agitated about the unfairness of the Swift Boat assault that she told Vanessa she was ready to break her silence, to speak out and personally answer the Swift Boat charges. She changed her mind only when she was reassured that the campaign was about to start fighting back hard.

So, um, when was the fighting back hard part scheduled to begin? After the election, maybe?

NEXT: Some Genuinely Harmful Outsourcing

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “So, um, when was the fighting back hard part scheduled to begin? After the election, maybe?”

    Damn straight! How many on people on this board still believe the SBVT bullshit, just because the media didn’t bother to report that the charges had been disproven, because Kerry didn’t shout that fact from the rooftops?

    Somebody who lets his campaign arrange blatantly false smears on a wounded veteran should not be left in q condition to win on perceived “moral values.”

  2. I think the SBVT was a varient on “when did you stop beating your wife?” The way that the media reports stories Kerry was stuck with he said/he said scenario.

    “Some veterens claim that Kerry is a coward who doesn’t deserve his medals. Kerry disputes this charge.”

    Hard to see how he could have broken out of it. Maybe do something nuts like challenge that sack o’ crap O’Neil (sp?) guy to a televised debate or something. Or not making such a big deal of Vietnam in the first place.

    Anyway, people who believed the SBVT wasn’t voting for Kerry anyway. Kerry lost because of gay marriage. I think Clinton was probably right here. Maybe.

  3. Hand over total control of Defense and Foreign Policy to John McCain, and to the Vice President from thereafter?? Such a brilliant plan – too bad he didn’t share it with the American people, so we could help coax McCain onto the team!!

  4. The only problem with this “fighting back” was:

    a) KE04 had to renounce Xmas in Cambodia
    b) KE04 had to move away from the first Purple Heart, they could not definitively say it was not self-inflicted
    c) Kerry never signed his form 180, releasing all his docs to the media….perhaps we didn’t want anyone finding out about the discharge circumstances???

    but hang in there, joe!! like the fighting spirit!!

  5. Yeah, and what’s the deal with McCain anyway? It’s been ugly watching him bow and scrape and dance like a monkey for Dubs. I have problems with the guy but he’s got more class than pretty much anyone else I can think of running the rep party at this point. I guess he was thinking he’d pick up the pieces after Bush lost?

  6. Maybe someday the gays’ “recruitment” efforts that middle America are so worried about will actually take hold, and gays will outnumber anti-gay Democrats enough to stop being taken for granted….

  7. Yep, snake, they sure got a lot of mileage out of “not definitively prove.” If the only thing would have convinced someone of the truth was a picture of Kerry next to a “Phenom Penh, 5 miles” sign, well he didn’t have one. So he was lying.

    Can you definitively prove you weren’t having sex with a sheep last Tuesday?

  8. Why are we still talking about the holiday in Cambodia? It’s tough there but that’s life.

  9. Oh, and a three point loss to a sitting president during time of war is not a debacle.

  10. throeau, calling injured vets’ wounds fake is waaaaaaayyyyyy below the belt. You know the Legion guys who wear the blue hats in Memorial Day parades? Picture someone saying that shit about what they went through.

  11. joe-

    My “it’s tough there but that’s life” comment wasn’t about their wounds. I was quoting the lyrics of “Holiday in Cambodia” in reference to the ongoing debate over whether Kerry went to Cambodia. I frankly don’t give a shit which countries he was or wasn’t in during Christmas of 1968. Depending on what happened, I’d either discover that Kerry went on one more mission in 1968, or that a navy veteran exaggerated some war stories decades after the fact. Which of course has never happened before…

  12. Damn straight! How many on people on this board still believe the SBVT bullshit, just because the media didn’t bother to report that the charges had been disproven,

    Actually, considering I’ve heard lots of accusations from both sides I don’t think I’ve actually seen any proof against what the swift boaters have said. Can someone point me in the right direction (joe)? About the only thing I’ve seen that has been “proved” is that Kerry got caught with his pants down about when he was in Cambodia (if he ever was there).

  13. Joe,

    We can agree on something. The SBVT was bullshit if only because no one is going to remember small unit combat actions in the same way. Don’t get me started on the supposed accuray of after action reports and award recommendations.

    Not that filming yourself as a war hero and then, 30 years later, constantly crowing about your four months of machine gunning sampans isn’t disturbing. I guess he wanted to increase his “political viability within the system” like someone else we know. And he did look like an ass when he “reported for duty”.

    If the media actually, uh, investigated stuff – instead of just parroting what politicans are saying – they might actually provide a useful service. But that would hurt both parties (unless the pose of unbiased objectivity were abandoned – try to convince the media to smash up that golden calf), editors would not be invited to the right parties, etc., etc. It would require thought and hard work, too, and we can’t have that in journalism.

    Brian,

    Ashcroft found the “Keating Five” documents that were never used so McCain has to shut up. They were in a box labelled “VRWC – use to shut up moderates”.

    See how easy it is to start a conspiracy theory.

  14. Joe at Waterloo:

    Having your army destroyed by the British and Germans when they are led by that clever Wellington dude is not a debacle!

  15. thoreau, I know, I own the album. It still bugs me because, regardless of politics, doing that to a wounded vet is deeply offensive, and now that the campaign’s over, I hope the self-proclaimed patriots who condoned it realize how shameful they behaved.

    “…or that a navy veteran exaggerated some war stories decades after the fact” Actually, he wrote about it in his personal diary a few hours after it occurred, just above the “sugar plumbs” passage the liars tried to pass off as proof that he was on base all day.

    Nathan, I posted a link to a good website a couple months ago, I’ll try to find it again for you later. There’s also Brinkley’s book.

    Ultimately, though, there isn’t photographic proof either way, just the naval records and testimony of his crew on Kerry’s side, and the contradictions of his accusers.

  16. One wonders if joe was equally indignant after Dukakis, another Massachusetts proto-saint, swirled down the shit tube.

    Why are the blue-cap Legion guys more sacred than the fritz-helmeted volunteers in Iraq? Questioning the former is civic sin, while questioning the latter is lefty patriotism.

  17. I don’t even know if it’s constitutional

    Hm. You know, as I think about it, McCain actually might be right, though for an odd reason, and almost certainly not one that crossed his mind.

    In Article II, only the President is prohibited from drawing multiple federal salaries. The Vice-President is not mentioned in that context. Presumably a VP-SecDef wouldn’t draw multiple salaries anyways; it would be unseemly. But there doesn’t seem to be any Article II difficulty with anyone, including the VP, doubling up on offices a la Henry Kissinger.

    The key provision might be in Article I, though.

    No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

    The Vice-President isn’t a Senator. But I wonder whether he is a Member of that House, in his capacity as tie-breaking President. If so, he would be prohibited from holding “any Office under the United States.” If the Vice-Presidency itself is such an office, then obviously the clause can’t mean that. But the anti-corruption and separation of powers views of the framers would have reserved special abhorrence for a cabinet minister, firable from that job by the President, casting votes in the upright and independent Senate. (The Vice-President as originally conceived was utterly independent of the President, and even now can’t be fired by the President.)

    Kerry didn’t pull this idea out of thin air, by the way. In general outline it’s the deal Gerald Ford approached Reagan with in 1980– Ford wanted to be VP with control over foreign policy and a certain number of cabinet posts. But I don’t remember Ford suggesting that he would fill any of those posts himself.

  18. ‘And he did look like an ass when he “reported for duty”.’

    Yup, that made me cringe when he did that. The rest of his speech was really good, but seeing that idiotic gesture played over and over…what a wasted opportunity.

    Mitch, 48% is not having your army destroyed. Napoleon would have fought on for years if his losses had been only 3% greater than Wellington’s. Unless you consider every loss to be a debacle. If 2004 for a debacle for the Democrats, what do you call 1984?

  19. “If the Vice-Presidency itself is such an office, then obviously the clause can’t mean that.”

    The Constitution contains explicit language directing the VP to carry out his executive and certain legislative duties; perhaps that should be read as a special exception to the general rule. If so, then having a VP hold a cabinet post would still be forbidden.

  20. Kerry had the Clinton strategy to follow as an example (“When they hit you, hit back right away and hit hard”). Instead he followed the good old Dukakis strategy (ignore it, people are too smart to fall for that kind of thing).

    History repeats itself as farce once again.

  21. I can believe that Kerry wanted election bad enough to propose that McCain hold the VP slot and SecDef job at the same time. I cannot believe that Kerry was furious that even egomaniac McCain dismissed such a numbskulled notion. If true, Kerry was even more disconnected from reality than the typical U.S. Senator. Jesus, can we just quintuple the salaries of these nitwits, and have them go on junkets 50 weeks a year?

  22. joe, “a sitting wartime president?” I thought your steadfast position was this is a neocon war of imperial aggression for Israel. On Nov. 5 it suddenly is a positive for Bush? Are you demonstrating all the “nuance” of your ex-candidate for President?

    We all know it hurts to lose, but discretion is the better part of valor…don’t jump up off the pavement and ask for another punch in the mouth.

    Hey, about the other thing, I was in college, I was drunk, it was a very uncertain period in my life, I was experimenting…and it was a goat, not a sheep.

  23. The odd thing, Mark, is that Kerry set up a very good response system, and used it very well in every other aspect of the campaign. The Bushies put out the windsurfing ad, the next day Kerry puts out the “Juvenile” ad.

    The Swifty attacks were the exception to the rule, but that was one big exception.

    “I thought your steadfast position was this is a neocon war of imperial aggression for Israel.” That’s because you have me confused with the liberal in your head. You could try actually reading what I’ve had to say, but that would be hard.

  24. And snake, I get knocked down, and I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down.

  25. I’m more struck by how McCain, who blatantly pushes an obviously unconstitutional law and decides that the Constitution isn’t really as important as making sure people don’t say bad things about incumbents, then fairly invents things that aren’t said in the Constitution. I think Jacob Levy’s got the relevant passages there, and I’d probably say that the VP isn’t a Senator, since he’s not elected to the senate, just presides over it. It’s not like a Prime Minister.

  26. The Democrats showed too much party unity. There should have been more of a knock-down-drag-out in the primary. Then someone (Lieberman, Edwards, …) would have brought up the Swift Vet stuff and Kerry would have learned how to rebut it or he would have been weeded out. Remember the last time the Democrats had a hard fought primary? 1992!

    It’s in everyone’s interest for both parties to present plausible candidates. It scares me that, as a Libertarian, I feel qualified to tell the Democrats that they need to work harder to weed out weak candidates.

  27. Nathan, I posted a link to a good website a couple months ago, I’ll try to find it again for you later. There’s also Brinkley’s book.

    Ahh, weren’t the Swifties in response to Brinkley’s book? And Brinkley’s book is based mostly on Kerry’s diaries / recollections. A bit two faced to say that constitues proof for Kerry’s side of the story but not the Swiftboats’.

    I do recall the Washington Post doing an article about the debacle and they found that both stories had some major holes in them.

  28. RE: The McCain offer

    From this we may infer that; not only is Kerry devoid of principle, but he assumed the same of McCain.

  29. Obviously what I wrote was an exaggeration of your anti-war position…you’re trying to dodge the fact that you can’t have it both ways, unless you’re willing to admit that the voting public has validated Bush’s foreign policy. That’s the only way you could use your “sitting wartime president” defense for Kerry’s decisive loss. The media’s smarter than you on this, joe…you’d better retreat quickly to the “red-state dumbass” ruse to explain this defeat.

    That’s an exceedingly dumb song by an even dumber anarchist band, and it’s amusing to read you retreat into Ratherisms proclaiming your toughness. Just stare into your makeup mirror and repeat: “Courage”

  30. BTW, What the fuck is Andrew Sullivan doing in the vertical banner ad to the right???

  31. And regardless of what was what beyond the “I was in Cambodia before I was not in Cambodia” gaffe, Kerry did have a problem with with appearing to, how do I put this delicatly, make shit up.

    “I ran two Boston Marathons.”

    “Really, there’s no official record of it.”

    “Uh.. I, um, did it unofficially.”

    Then there was:

    “I was 30 yards away from Buckner in Game 6.”

    “Really, the Globe says you were at a benefit in Boston that night.”

    “Uh, yeah, um… I hopped a jet and got there late.”

    And all his nonsense about how he hunts (crawling around on his belly), which most hunters just laughed at. And his meeting with the entire UN Security Council that really wasn’t a meeting with the entire UN Security Council. And the time he claimed he was in Iraq when he wasn’t (or was it Palestine.. I can’t keep his fibs straight).

    Frankly, all minor stuff. But he really didn’t help himself credibility wise.

  32. From the article: “McCain exclaimed, ‘You’re out of your mind. I don’t even know if it’s constitutional”

    OK, this is conclusive proof that the entire exchange was fabricated. McCain has custom printed toilet paper with the full text of the U.S. Constitution and all 27 amendments on it.

  33. Oh, and to rain on the “dumb people vote Republican” parade, from the AP Exit Poll data:

    Did not complete high school: Kerry=58% Bush=42%
    High school graduate: Kerry=51 Bush=49%
    Some college or associate degree: Kerry=48% Bush=52%
    College graduate: Kerry=45% Bush=55%
    Postgraduate study: Kerry=49% Bush=51%

  34. Forgot to mention, the above is for Ohio.

  35. I don’t think “dumb” is the right word. But “deluded” certainly fits.

    http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Pres_Election_04/html/new_10_21_04.html

    How else to describe folks who think that Duelfer report confirmed that Iraq had WMD’s or that the 9/11 commission determined working ties between Iraq and Al Quaeda?

    Loyalism tends to incapacitate the higher functions of the brain, regardless of your political party.

  36. Loyalism tends to incapacitate the higher functions of the brain, regardless of your political party.

    Agreed. How many people still say “Bush stole the 2000 election?”

    (joe, are you in here?)

  37. “…McCain, who blatantly pushes an obviously unconstitutional law”

    Look, the US Supreme Court, a majority of whom were appointed becasue they’re “strict constructionist,” small government types, and all of whom spend their professional lives pondering the application of the Constitution, disagrees with you. Now, maybe you’re right and they’re all wrong, but the issue is, at a minimum, sufficiently debateable to put the lie to your characterization that the bill was “blatantly unconstitutional.”

    “…unless you’re willing to admit that the voting public has validated Bush’s foreign policy.”

    The voting public rallies around the flag during wartime. No shit. Don’t change horses in midstream is a cliche for a reason. The voting public didn’t want to vote the president who started the war out of office, and replace him with someone who they didn’t think would pursue the war as vigorously. They didn’t want the country to appear weak by turning out a wartime president, and Kerry couldn’t convince a majority that he’d follow through with the war. Add in a few strategically located “God Hates Fags” fliers, and you get to 51%.

  38. Nathan,

    The complaints about the 2000 election have more to do with procedure than outcome. Even if it were conclusively proven that more Bush ballots were cast than Kerry ballots, the behavior of Bush, Harriss, and their rent a mobs was abominable. It’s the equivalent of the 60 Minutes TANG memos – it has been demonstrated that Bush skipped out on his responsibilities, had strings pulled for him, etc., but that doesn’t make Rather’s behavior any more excusable.

  39. The complaints about the 2000 election have more to do with procedure than outcome. Even if it were conclusively proven that more Bush ballots were cast than Kerry ballots, the behavior of Bush, Harriss, and their rent a mobs was abominable. It’s the equivalent of the 60 Minutes TANG memos – it has been demonstrated that Bush skipped out on his responsibilities, had strings pulled for him, etc., but that doesn’t make Rather’s behavior any more excusable.

    Huh? When the hell was I talking about Dan Rather?

  40. You weren’t – I was giving another example.

  41. Oh, and a three point loss to a sitting president during time of war is not a debacle.

    Make that five points.


  42. Oh, and to rain on the “dumb people vote Republican” parade, from the AP Exit Poll data:

    Wasn’t that also the exit poll data that indicated Kerry was leading Bush?

  43. “the SBVT bullshit”

    Leaving aside the Swiftie’s claims; Kerry abandoned his tour of duty in Vietnam and his comrades after a mere 4 months. He wasn’t seriously wounded, his wounds didn’t justify a transfer, they were a flimsy pretext. He ran away. That’s not a Swiftie lie, it’s a fact.

    His whole posturing about Vietnam wasn’t honest. He opposed and condemned the war, then, when convenient, he tried to cash in and draw political capital from it.

    His error wasn’t failing to answer the SVFT campaign. His error was mentioning Vietnam in the first place. But he probably didn’t have anything better in his CV to use.

  44. Jacob’s right about Kerry stupidly making Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign. It’s that same, silly chickenhawk argument that the left latched on to about two and a half years ago and just couldn’t be talked out of. I guess they thought they were being brilliantly Machiavellian in trying to use biography to prop up an empty candidate (the way all those clever little Rove-wannabes, like Michael Moore and Matthew Yglesias, all went gaga earlier for Clark: “Wow! A four-star general! ‘Scuse me while I jerk off over my own political savvy!”).

  45. Not supporting Clinton’s noxious proposal (if the story is true) was an admirable thing for Kerry to do if he realized that it would cost him votes. Its certainly better than what our Bigot in Chief has promoted with regard to homosexuality over the past few years. Shit, I might have voted for Kerry if I had known this.

    Kurt,

    How is 51% to 48% suddenly a “five point” loss? Furthermore, only three and half million votes seperated the two men. It was hardly a “debacle,” “blow out,” etc.

  46. Received a transfer = abandoned his comrades?

    Funnay, his comarades didn’t seem to feel that way.

    Vietnam, both serving there and opposing the war, were the formative events in Kerry’s life. How was he not supposed to mention them?

    The mistakes came in laying it on too thick during the convention, and in not presenting the protest phase himself, which allowed the Bush surrogates to define it for the public instead.

    But Kerry’s Vietnam service was a huge asset. Without it, do you think a candidacy based around criticism of the conduct of the war would have been taken seriously? Hell, no – Dick Cheney would have told Howard Dean “Get a haircut, hippie, and let the real men handle this.” It would have been a blowout.

  47. Actually, Howard Dean was a bad example. Dean wouldn’t have criticized the conduct of the war – he would have criticized the war itself. You don’t need to establish your military credentials to do that.

    Gorp, I liked Clark because of his ideas. Smart guy, had big ideas on military and foreign policy and the occasional domestic issues, and wasn’t afraid to admit when he didn’t know about a topic. It was his personality I couldn’t stand. Exactly the “I’m such a hot shit” attitude that makes me dislike military brass.

  48. Received a transfer = abandoned his comrades?

    Yes.
    The transfer was granted upon his demand. He didn’t have to leave. He wasn’t really wounded. He could have stayed and concluded his tour of duty like everybody else.
    That he grabbed his opportunity and left is understandable. I would probably have done the same thing. But later, I wouldn’t gone boasting what a big hero I was.

  49. I was physically indisposed for the election so I missed all the blogging here, but did anyone take the opportunity to say to joe

    HA HA HA HA HA YOU LOST!

    I didn’t think so.

  50. “Oh, and a three point loss to a sitting president during time of war is not a debacle.”

    When you add to that the results of the Senate and House races, it is pretty much a debacle. But it is nice to know that Joe can be counted on to tout the party line . . .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.