One of the (few) gags that works in Al Franken's The Truth: With Jokes is a swipe at how John Kerry's campaign ordered speakers at the 2004 Democratic convention not to slash and attack George W. Bush. Instead, Team Shrum made the whole thing about Brave Vietnam Veteran John F. Kerry and His Band Of Brothers. "And so," Franken wrote, "as the Democrats organized their national convention around the positive, uniting, uplifting theme of "Reliving the Vietnam War," the fiendishly clever Republicans went with "9/11/24/7."
Let's see. What works here?
– There's the canned joke (McCain see-saws between canned jokes and moments of random sarcastic umbrage), which grows even staler with the addition of a visual aid for "tied up at the time." (The campaign's previously treated that footage with some seriousness.)
– There's the Vietnam nostalgia: More than that, the assumption that people are more nostalgiac for Vietnam than they are for drugs and 60s rock. The number of Americans who think Vietnam was worth fighting has ticked up since the 70s, of course, but it's still a minority. (Yes, yes, McCain is trying to win Republicans, but this is a New Hampshire ad and he only won last time because independents voted for him.)
I'm sure this'll be seen by smart people as bare-knuckled culture war brilliance, but I'm put in mind of Kerry and of another war hero whose constant reminders of his heroism mostly served to remind everyone how old and crusty he was.
(McCain will turn 72 next August.)