John Kerry was speak­ing for most up­scale Democrats M

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

y face time with John Kerry has been brief but choice. In 2003, I was at a cam­paign event in New Hamp­shire chat­ting with two old coots in plaid. The sen­a­tor ap­proached and stopped in front of us. The eti­quette in pri­mary sea­son is that the can­di­date de­fers to the cranky Gran­ite Stater’s churl­ish in­dif­fer­ence to sta­tus and ini­ti­ates the con­ver­sa­tion: “Hi, I’m John Kerry. Good to see ya. Cold enough for ya? How ‘bout them Sox?” Etc. In­stead, Mr. Kerry just stood there nose to nose, star­ing at us with an in­scrutable semi-glare on his face. Af­ter an eter­nity, an aide stepped out from be­hind him and said, “The sen­a­tor needs you to move.”

“Well, why couldn’t he have said that?” mut­tered one of the old coots. Why in­deed?

Right now the Demo­cratic Party needs the sen­a­tor to move. Prefer­ably to the South Sand­wich Is­lands.

He won’t, of course. A vain, thin­skinned, con­de­scend­ing blue­blood with no sense of his own ridicu­lous­ness, Sen. Nuancy Boy is se­cure in lit­tle else ex­cept his be­lief in his indispensability. We’ve all heard the fa­mous “joke” now: “You know, ed­u­ca­tion, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your home­work and you make an ef­fort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” Yet, tempt­ing as it is to en­joy his we-sup­port-our­dumb-troops mo­ment as merely the umpteenth con­fir­ma­tion of the sen­a­tor’s unerring abil­ity to Swift Boat him­self, it be­longs in a slightly dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory of Kerry gaffe than, say, the time they went into Wendy’s and Teresa didn’t know what chili was.


What­ever he may or may not have in­tended (and “I was mak­ing a joke about how stupid Bush is but I’m the only con­de­scend­ing lib­eral in Amer­ica too stupid to tell a Bushis-stupid joke with­out blow­ing it” must rank as one of the all-time lame ex­cuses), what he said fits what too many up­scale Dems be­lieve: that Amer­ica’s sol­diers are only there be­cause they’re too poor and too ill-ed­u­cated to know any bet­ter. That’s what they mean when they say “we sup­port our troops” — they sup­port them as vic­tims, as chil­dren, as po­ten­tial wel­fare re­cip­i­ents, but they don’t sup­port them as war­riors and they don’t sup­port the mis­sion.

So their “sup­port” is ob­jec­tively worth­less. The in­dig­nant protest that “of course” “we sup­port our troops” isn’t sup­port, it’s a strad­dle, and one that em­pha­sizes the Democrats’ frivolous­ness in the postSeptem­ber 11 world. A se­ri­ous party would have seen the ji­had as a pro­found for­eign pol­icy chal­lenge they needed to ad­dress cred­i­bly. They could have found a Tony Blair — a big mushy-leftie panty­waist on health and ed­u­ca­tion and all the other sissy stuff, but a man at ease with the pro­jec­tion of mil­i­tary force in the na­tional in­ter­est. But we saw in Con­necti­cut what hap­pens to Democrats who run as Blairites: you get bounced from the ticket. In the 2004 elec­tion, in­stead of com­ing to terms with it as a na­tional se­cu­rity ques­tion, the Democrats looked at the War on Ter­ror merely as a Bush wedge is­sue they needed to neu­tral­ize. And so they signed up with the weirdly in­co­her­ent nar­ra­tive of John Kerry — a cel­e­brated anti-war ac­tivist sud­denly “re­port­ing for duty” as a war hero and claim­ing that, even though the war was a mis­take and his com­rades were mur­der­ers and rapists, his four months in the Mekong rank as the most epic chap­ter in the an­nals of the Repub­lic.

It’s worth con­trast­ing the fawn­ing me­dia ad­mi­ra­tion for Mr. Kerry’s trun­cated tour of duty with their to­tal lack of in­ter­est in Bob Dole’s years of ser­vice two pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns ear­lier. That con­ven­tion night in Bos­ton was one of the freaki­est pre­sen­ta­tions in con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics: a man be­ing greeted as a com­bi­na­tion of Alexan­der the Great and the Duke of Welling­ton for a few weeks’ ser­vice in a war Amer­ica lost. But Mr. Kerry is the flesh-and-blood em­bod­i­ment of the Demo­cratic strad­dle, of the we-op­pose-the-war-but-sup­port-ourtroops line. That’s why anti-war Dems, out­spin­ning them­selves, de­cided they could sup­port a sol­dier who op­posed a war. And as Mr. Kerry demon­strates ef­fort­lessly ev­ery time he opens his mouth, if you de­tach the hero­ism of a war from the moral­ity of it, what’s left but brag­gado­cio? Or, as the sen­a­tor in­toned to me back in New Hamp­shire when I tried to ask what he would ac­tu­ally do about Iraq, Iran or any­thing else, “Some­times truly coura­geous lead­er­ship means hav­ing the courage not to show any lead­er­ship.” (I quote from me­mory.)

In fair­ness to Mr. Kerry, he didn’t in­vent the Democrats’ tor­tured re­la­tion­ship with the mil­i­tary. But ever since Eu­gene McCarthy ran against Lyn­don John­son and de­stroyed the most pow­er­ful Demo­crat of the last half-cen­tury, the Demo­cratic Party has had a prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ship with the pro­jec­tion of power in the na­tional in­ter­est. Jimmy Carter con­fined him­self to one screwed-up he­li­copter mis­sion in Iran; Bill Clin­ton bombed more coun­tries in a lit­tle more than six months than the Zion­ist neo­con war­mon­ger Ge­orge W. Bush has in six years but, un­less you hap­pened to be in that Su­danese as­pirin fac­tory, it was as desul­tory and un­com­mit­ted as his sex life and char­ac­ter­ized by the same in­abil­ity to reach (in Ken Starr’s word) “com­ple­tion.” As for John Kerry, since he first slan­dered the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary three decades ago, he’s been wrong on ev­ery for­eign pol­icy ques­tion and voted against ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant Amer­i­can weapons sys­tem.

To be sure, like Mr. Kerry in 2004 de­cid­ing that the mur­der­ers and rapists were now his brave “band of brothers,” the left of­ten dis­cover a sud­den en­thu­si­asm for the pre­vi­ous war once a new one’s come along. Since Iraq, they’ve been all in fa­vor of Afghanistan, though back in the fall of 2001 they were con­vinced it was a quag­mire, grave­yard of em­pire, un­winnable, an­other Viet­nam, etc. Oh, and they also dis­cov­ered a be­lated en­thu­si­asm for the first Pres­i­dent Bush’s shrewd con­duct of the 1991 Gulf War, though at the time Mr. Kerry and most other Democrats voted against that one, too. In this te­dious shell game, no mat­ter how fran­ti­cally the left shuf­fles the cups, you never find the one shriv­eled pea of The Mil­i­tary In­ter­ven­tion We’re Will­ing To Sup­port When it Mat­ters.

To be sure, the pro­gres­sives de­serve credit for hav­ing re­fined their view of the mil­i­tary: not mur­der­ers and rapists, just im­pov­er­ished suck­ers too stupid for any­thing other than sol­dier­ing. The left still doesn’t un­der­stand that it’s the sol­dier who guar­an­tees ev­ery other pro­fes­sion — the de­featist New York Times jour­nal­ist, the anti-Amer­i­can col­lege pro­fes­sor, the in­sur­gent-videoof-the-day host at CNN, the hollow preen­ing blowhard sen­a­tor. Mr. Kerry’s gaffe isn’t about one mal­adroit Marie An­toinette of the Se­nate but a glimpse into the mind­set of too many Amer­i­cans.

Mark Steyn is the se­nior con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for Hollinger Inc. Publi­ca­tions, se­nior North Amer­i­can colum­nist for Bri­tain’s Tele­graph Group, North Amer­i­can ed­i­tor for the Spec­ta­tor, and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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