If That Bong Comes Onto My Yard Again I'm Keepin' It

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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."

Which is a good way of introducing John McCain's new ad.


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.)

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  1. Paul turned 72 in August.

  2. First post!

    tied up at the time

    I’m guessing if someone made a joke about the Hanoi Hilton to McCain, he’d crack them upside the jaw…

  3. I don’t remember Dole plugging his military service relentlessly during his campaign. I’m pretty sure I remember a poll showing that the majority of Americans didn’t know he’d actually been wounded in WWII.

    Now, as for Kerry, who’s four months in Vietnam were the most monumental in this history of the Republic…

  4. One of the (few) gags that works in Al Franken’s The Truth: With Jokes…

    You think that gag works? Hate to read the rest of it. Glad I didn’t.

  5. Republicans are in deep doo-doo if they think a 3% margin of victory by an incumbent wartime president is a positive example of how to frame a campaign. That race never should have been close. If the Pats beat the Dolphins by 4 points in Foxborough in December, would Weigel single out Miami’s defensive schemes as examples of failure?

    The idea that Kerry’s military service didn’t help his image is absurd. Think about this: on the “strong leader” question, John Kerry got a majority of Yeses in the days before the election. John. Kerry. Strong. Leader. Do you think that was because of the campaign he ran? Because of what the nation learned about his leadership in the Senate? I think it had something to do with boats and explosives and battle decorations. His opponents seemed to think so, too, since their primary means of fighting him off was to launch attacks on that very history.

    McCain’s problem isn’t that he’s highlighting his military service. That’s a big winner, just as it was for Joe Sestak and Jim Webb and the rest of the “Fighting Dems” last November.

    McCain’s problem is that he thinks the public’s respect for military accomplishment still reflects a 1969-vintage view of the “hippies vs squares” culture war. Maybe it does, among Republicans.

  6. That picture of Dole (though undoubtedly touched up) only highlights how very old and ill McCain looks for his age. And I don’t say that in a snarky fashion. He simply looks like he wouldn’t last six months in the job.

    I also agree that McCain shouldn’t harp on the Vietnam thing too much, for that and other reasons. Fact is, McCain has a pretty substantial resume (whether or not you like the stuff on it) and doesn’t need to go back to 1968 to find stuff to talk about.

    That was one of the problems for Kerry. After he came home from Vietnam and did the “Winter Soldier” thing, his resume consisted largely of marrying well. There simply wasn’t that much else to talk about, and it was notable at the time how little Kerry talked about his senatorial record.

    Of course, I think the McCain campaign will be gone by February at the latest.

  7. One of the reasons McCain mentions Vietnam is to make him seem younger. He is much older than most Vietnam vets.

  8. Ron Paul is 72.

  9. Ron Paul is the only military veteran frontrunner [sic!] running for President – Democrat or Republican – besides John McCain. He didn’t obtain draft deferments like many others did at the time. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

    Dr. Paul’s medical training was interrupted when he was drafted during the Cuban Missile Crisis into the United States Air Force. He served as a flight surgeon out of Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, from 1963 to 1965, attending to the ear, nose and throat problems of pilots. He remained in the military during the early years of the Vietnam War. Paul’s active duty service took him to countries such as South Korea, Iran, Ethiopia and Turkey. He then served in the Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968 while completing his medical residency in Pittsburgh. He achieved rank of captain during his service in the Air Force.

  10. ChrisO,

    After he came home from Vietnam and did the “Winter Soldier” thing, his resume consisted largely of marrying well. There simply wasn’t that much else to talk about, and it was notable at the time how little Kerry talked about his senatorial record.

    That’s the funny thing – Kerry actually did have a record to run on. For one, he was the best investigator in the Senate, playing central roles in breaking and investigating the BCCI and Iran-Contra scandals. He also had a strong environmental record to run on, and literally wrote the book (well, wrote a book) on how to fight terrorism. It called for concerted intel, investigation, and special forces efforts, and talked about the shortcomings of main-force military force. Sound maybe a little relevant to the 2004 campaign?

    But except for people like me who already knew his record, nobody ever heard of that stuff. It was a tactical decision not to talk about it, in order to run down George Bush and talk about purple hearts.

  11. Very good Edwardoooo000oo0o,
    You can cut and paste from Ron Paul’s campaign website.

    Now, you show me where he hammers on his military career during debates and what not like McCain does or Bush and Kerry did, then you might actually have a valid point. Until then, keep trying.

  12. Fact is, McCain has a pretty substantial resume (whether or not you like the stuff on it) and doesn’t need to go back to 1968 to find stuff to talk about.

    Like his membership in the Keating Five?

  13. But, isn’t 72 the new 62? Or did I read that in an outdated copy of The Modern Hipster? I was in a dentist’s office at the time, so…

  14. Paul is 72, but he doesn’t look like he’ll die six months into a stressful job. Compare that to John McCain.

  15. Dole in 08! (Either one will do.)

  16. How old is Dole now? He was tumbling off of stages back when he ran. Then he was afflicted with erectile dysfunction. Yikes! Maybe he should sit this one out, take a nice nap or something.

  17. The thing about Paul is, he doesn’t look stressed as hell about everything. McCain looks like a myocardial infarction waiting to happen.

    If it happens during a Republican debate, at least there’ll be a doctor present. And he probably won’t be doing anything else, like answering questions or such, so he should be able to help.

  18. mudpuppy

    I’m all in favor of a President who would take an eight year nap after the swearing in, rousing only long enough for the second swearing in.

  19. Hillary celebrates her 60th birthday tomorrow, although she’s still younger than the Republican frontrunners. This reminds me of some old B&W movie I saw about the first woman president who had to leave office at the end of the film because she fell pregnant. At least Hillary doesn’t have to worry about that.

  20. Aresen

    You’re right. That would be the best. presidency. ever.

    If only.

  21. How old is Dole now?…Then he was afflicted with erectile dysfunction. Yikes! Maybe he should sit this one out, take a nice nap or something.

    Dude! That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. Think of all the silliness we could have avoided if Little Billy spent the 90s having “down time.”

  22. am i the only one who thinks that the mccain ad is actually funny? i think it’s worth a chuckle. of course, i wouldn’t take it SERIOUSLY, standing-ovation-i-hate-hippies-too style, but i guess a lot of people would. there’s a reason for that south park kill-hippies episode. (although the antithesis wasn’t trust-your-government bomb-the-foreigners ‘squares’ politics, but SLAYER!)

  23. too many dashes in that comment

  24. All these Republican jack offs running now-a-days, `cept R. Paul, make me miss Bob Dole.

  25. If only.

    Calvin Coolidge. Best president of the 20th century.

  26. “If the Pats beat the Dolphins by 4 points in Foxborough in December”

    that would cause a change in the earth’s rotation from the massive jump up and down (and then the silicon reverberations and after shocks) in South FLA!

    “down time”. AWESOME! For the Johnson, yes, Trousers, no. (although he did perfect the penguin walk during those years)

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