[Mb-civic] EDITORIAL How Dare Kerry Speak Up LATimes

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Tue Sep 28 12:59:21 PDT 2004



How Dare Kerry Speak Up

 September 28, 2004

 The suggestion that terrorists support Sen. John F. Kerry for president is
ugly, but basically silly. The suggestion that Kerry supports the terrorists
is flat-out disgusting. President Bush has allowed surrogates to spread the
former idea, but he himself has helped to promote the latter. Last week,
Bush declared that Kerry's criticism of him and his Iraq policy "can
embolden an enemy" and called Kerry "destructive" to the war on terror.

 Since election day 2000 and through his first term, Bush has talked a
better game of democratic values than he has played. And he is not one for
nuances in any event. But the point here is not subtle: The right to
criticize the policies of those in power is not just one of democracy's
fringe benefits; it is essential to making the democratic machinery work.
And questions of war and peace ‹ dead young Americans, dead Iraqis, a
radicalized Middle East, billions of dollars: Was it worth all this? ‹ are
the ones that need democracy the most. Why would any president even wish to
plunge this country into war and keep it there without a level of support
from the citizenry that is strong enough to survive the obvious

 Bush's own campaign strategy has put the events of 9/11 and their aftermath
at the center of this election. The president asks to be reelected based on
the claim that his response to that event has been a success. It would be
convenient for him if any challenge to this notion were considered beyond
the pale. Increasingly convenient, in fact, as the word "success" seems less
and less applicable. But Bush's convenience is not what this election is

 This attempt to delegitimize criticism rather than rebut it comes as part
three of a three-part Republican strategy. (At least we hope there are only
three parts.) Part one was the first wave of Swift boat ads (and the
ridiculous hoo-ha around them), raising questions about Kerry's Vietnam
service. From there it was an easy leap to part two, the second Swift boat
wave and the accompanying fuss about Kerry's leadership of the Vietnam
antiwar movement. Part three drives it all home: As during Vietnam, so
during Iraq. The guy is still at it, disloyally attacking his own country in
wartime and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

 As this page noted during the second Swift boat attack, the Vietnam antiwar
movement (or at least the part of it Kerry was associated with) was the
essence of patriotism, trying to rescue our country from a terrible mistake
and to prevent the waste of any more young lives. Those who attack Kerry
today for opposing the war back then overlook the fact that the country came
to agree with him. If Kerry and others had refrained from criticism out of a
crude notion of patriotism and a misguided "respect" for American troops,
many more of those troops would be long dead today.

 Kerry's position on Iraq is not a model of clarity and consistency. His
critique of the Bush policy has the tang of opportunism. But he is more
right than wrong, certainly more right than Bush, and in any event more
within his rights to make the argument than Bush is in trying to suppress
it. And, as with Vietnam, the nation's policy is gradually shifting Kerry's
way. Would Bush have made even the halfhearted efforts of recent weeks to
share the burden and direction of the war with the United Nations if he
hadn't been looking over his shoulder at the Democratic candidate for his
job? To accuse Kerry of aiding the enemy while taking his advice is

 Compared with Kerry, George W. Bush is a coward. This is not a reference to
their respective activities during Vietnam. It refers to the current
election campaign. Bush happily benefits from the slime his supporters are
spreading but refuses to take responsibility for it or to call point-blank
for it to stop. He got away with this when the prime mover was the shadowy
Swift boats group. Will he get away with it when the accusers are his own
vice president, high officials of his own administration (Deputy Secretary
of State Richard Armitage) and members of Congress from his own party (House
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert or Sen. Orrin Hatch)? The answer is yes: Based on
recent experience, he probably will get away with it.

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