[Marxism] A column on John Kerry

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 19 07:46:36 MDT 2004

NY Observer, May 19, 2004
Sen. Kerry: Engage! Tour Iraq by Humvee, Drive Down to Najaf
by Robert Sam Anson

John Kerry got in touch the other day.

It’s always nice to hear from a chum of 30 years ago, and considering 
how busy he’s been with the campaign, taking time out to write seemed 
awfully thoughtful. Especially with what’s been appearing in this space.

Bubbling with anticipation, I ripped open the envelope.

If you checked "Democrat" last time you registered, you know what 
dropped out. Because you got the same letter requesting "a most generous 
contribution" to the Democratic National Committee. John wrote (excuse 
me, Senator Kerry wrote): "Our tomorrow depends on it."

A P.S. asking after the kids would have helped the medicine go down, but 
even in his allons mes amis! to the barricades days, John won no stars 
for being cozy.

As fund-raising goes, though, the two-page missive wasn’t bad. Mr. 
Kerry’s signature appeared handwritten (testament to how clever 
computers are getting), and between the "Dear" and the "Sincerely," he 
listed five good reasons to pull out the checkbook: Everyone would have 
a job. You wouldn’t have to worry about breaking your neck or quitting 
smoking, as you’d have affordable health insurance. Land, sea and air 
would be pristine. Every school would be just like St. Paul’s. There 
wouldn’t be any racial, gender or sexual discrimination—and you could 
join a union, or have an abortion. In fact, you could even stick up a 
bank, if you wanted, confident that when the cops caught you they’d at 
least read your Miranda rights. Mr. Kerry was emphatic about that. "When 
I am President," he promised, "we will end the assault on our civil 
liberties and civil rights by appointing an attorney general whose name 
is not John Ashcroft."

Readers with elephant memories will recall that in his convention 
acceptance speech in 1968, Richard Nixon made exactly the same promise. 
And sure enough, soon as Tricky took the oath, Ramsey Clark had to pack. 
So, General Ashcroft, be warned: Unless Mr. Kerry changes his mind 
between now and Inauguration Day (this could happen), those secret plans 
you’ve been making to stay on in the new administration will be 

And what did Mr. Kerry say about Iraq?

Not one word.

Well, maybe he forgot; it’s been a hectic week.

First, he had to stay on message— health care premiums!—when everyone 
else on the planet was talking about Abu Ghraib.

Then he had to explain why, if he cared so much about the unemployed, he 
was off campaigning instead of staying in Washington and casting the one 
vote needed for the Senate to extend for 13 weeks benefits for the 
Americans who’ve flat run out of luck finding a job.

Then he had to pretend he had a snowball’s chance of carrying Arkansas 
by traipsing down to Little Rock, where he accomplished his actual 
mission—paying obeisance to the fund-raiser-in-chief—by lauding Bill 
Clinton for so many virtues (including turning him into a Razorback 
football fan) that the L.A. Times reporter lost track after a dozen. But 
Teresa no doubt filed away one suggestive line: "Whatever President 
Clinton did," her husband said, "it worked for him."

Throughout, Mr. Kerry strove mightily to avoid saying boo about Iraq. 
"We’re all interested in what’s happening," he told a reporter, assuring 
he was bearing up under all the pestering about the war. "But life goes 
on and we’ve got to make America strong here at home." The Tar Baby 
finally stuck to him, when he was forced to view the unexpurgated Abu 
Ghraib slide show the military brass was putting on for Congress. 
Emerging from the snoop-safe Capitol Bijou, Mr. Kerry pronounced the 
images of torture and humiliation "sickening" and 
"appalling"—subsequently amplified by "depraved and sad."

His review was several shades paler than the seemingly genuine horror 
George Bush has been expressing—but sufficient for political purposes. 
Unfortunately, though, Mr. Kerry rambled on, wrecking what had promised 
to be his first flip-flop-free week in many moons by assigning blame to 
"a group of people run amok, under what circumstances we have yet to 
determine." Quick as you can say "Tom DeLay" (who spent his week calling 
Democrats traitors), the Bush campaign pointed out that only days 
earlier, Mr. Kerry was pinning the Abu Ghraib rap on the entire chain of 
command, up to and including the Commander-in-Chief. The G.O.P. press 
release seemed to stir the normally stoic candidate, who shortly 
thereafter doubled back to his first version.

Midst these events, Mr. Kerry issued what the Associated Press described 
as "his fullest criticism yet" of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war: "I 
mean, this is not a success," he said. "I think that it’s been one 
miscalculation after another, frankly."

Weigh that for outraged megatonnage.

full: http://www.nyobserver.com/pages/frontpage4.asp

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