Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tempest in a teapot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Everyone's all over the now-notorious John Kerry "joke" -- you know, the "botched joke" that college students should study hard or "get stuck in Iraq".

CNN has the story here. Kerry himself has a response here. And the much ado in and around the blogosphere is here.

It was a stupid thing to say. He may be right, if I interpret his insinuation correctly, that many of the men and women in the armed forces, particularly the ones doing the fighting in Iraq, come from poor and uneducated backgrounds. This was a point vividly illustrated by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11, and it's a valid one. But his either/or is ridiculous. You don't either do well in college or head off to boot camp. The military isn't a collection of collegiate failures.

However, the huffing and puffing from Bush, McCain, and the various occupants of the right-wing insane asylum is outrageous, too. Kerry did not insult "every soldier serving in combat," as McCain suggested. Nor was his remark "insulting and shameful," as Bush suggested. It was just stupid, not least as it comes just a week before the midterms. Kerry should have known better than to provide Republicans with such ammunition.

They're blowing it out of proportion, of course, but they're desperate, and with many voters just now beginning to pay attention to politics, Kerry's "joke" gives Republicans something to cling on to as they struggle to present Democrats as soft on national security. Everything has been going the Democrats' way, but it's been a challenge to overcome the GOP-fabricated stereotypes that have long plagued them. With one "joke," Kerry has reminded voters that Democrats have been, or rather have been perceived to be, anti-military and soft on national security, certainly not the party to wage the war on terror or to deal effectively with the myriad threats America currently faces.

John Kerry, I believe, is a good and decent man. A hero. A proud veteran. I supported him enthusiastically in '04. But this is hardly what Democrats' need. This one "joke," badly presented and terribly miscalculated, gives Republicans a dash of hope when for all intents and purposes they had little hope left. They'll milk this until there's absolutely nothing left, and then some, and they'll use it to smear all Democrats with insinuated label of "traitor". With so many races so close, even a slight breeze could make all the difference. Let's hope not, but this "joke" could turn out to be just the gust of wind Republicans needed to make the midterms competitive again.

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Regardless, it seems to me that the incident at the Allen campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia was far more serious than Kerry's "joke". If you missed it, here's the Post: "A Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen at a campaign rally in Charlottesville yesterday was shoved, put into a headlock and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers."

First the macaca comment and now this. Oh, and all that racism. The entire Allen campaign, from the senator on down, seems to amount to nothing but organized thuggery.

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