Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2004 / 17 Elul, 5764
John Kerry never falls
After locking up the Democratic nomination in the primaries last Spring,
John Kerry took a snowboarding vacation in Idaho. In a run down the
mountain, he fell. A reporter joshed him about it. "I don't fall," Kerry
snapped. Pointing to a Secret Service agent nearby, Kerry said: "That
(expletive deleted) knocked me down."
"Sen. John Kerry is angry at the way his campaign has botched the attacks
from the Swift boat veterans and has ordered a staff shake up that will put
former Clinton aides in top positions," reported the New York Daily News.
"(Kerry) wanted to go after the Swift boat attacks, but his top aides said
no," a "longtime senior Kerry adviser" told the News.
The advice Kerry's senior aides gave him was that he should leave response
to the Swifties to surrogates, because Kerry's friends in the major media
would do their best to bury the story.
This didn't work, because the story the Swifties wanted to tell got out
anyway, through talk radio and dozens of web logs. But it was good advice.
The Swifties didn't really take off in terms of public consciousness until
after Kerry went postal on them.
Kerry is taking aboard former Clinton aides Joe Lockhart and Joel Johnson,
experts at maligning the women who said Bill Clinton had forced his
attentions on them. But efforts to Mau Mau the Swifties just keeps the
Swifties in the news.
Some Democrats have urged that Kerry assault (again) Bush's service in the
Texas Air National Guard. But this wouldn't answer questions about Kerry's
service, and most Americans are more interested in fighting the war on
terror than in refighting a war that ended badly nearly three decades ago.
Back in the Spring of 2003, when I thought Kerry was the hero he claimed to
be, I still thought he was likely to be the weakest of the Democratic
candidates in a general election, because he is a poor campaigner, and
because his record after three terms in the Senate was both lackluster, and
decidedly left of center, especially on national security issues.
Kerry was using his war service as insulation against attacks on his voting
record. (How dare you criticize my votes on defense. I served in Vietnam!
How dare you bring up my flip flops on Iraq. I served in Vietnam!) But
thanks to the Swifties, that insulation has been stripped away.
No senator has been elected president since John F. Kennedy in 1960. This
is in large part because there are all those votes in the Congressional
Record for opposition researchers to sift through.
GOP consultant Rich Galen thinks there is another reason. Senators have
small staffs and no real responsibilities. They do not know how to manage
and to delegate, as governors do. Galen thinks Kerry's already top heavy
staff will become more so with the addition of the Clinton people, making
decision making even more sluggish and chaotic.
There is also likely to be more acrimony in the Kerry high command. Campaign
manager Mary Beth Cahill and other top aides come from the camp of Sen. Ted
Kennedy, which is not overfond of the Clintonistas.
Finally, there is the question of loyalty. Hillary's best shot at being
president would come in 2008, at the end of a second Bush term.
No staff shake up can cure the fundamental problem, which is Kerry himself.
His aides could not have known whether, or how much Kerry had embellished
his Vietnam service, and it was he more than they who chose to make his 4
1/2 months in Vietnam 35 years ago the central rationale for his candidacy
Kerry had to know that he had mightily peeved his shipmates when, in 1971,
he accused them and other Vietnam veterans of routinely committing grisly
war crimes. It's astounding that he gave no thought earlier to damage
The Swifties have said they will fold their tent if he apologizes for his
slander, and authorizes release of all of his military records. Kerry had
an opportunity to do this at the American Legion convention Sept. 1. But he
let the opportunity go by. John Kerry never falls. Everything is always
someone else's fault.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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