Last night I watched C-SPAN’s broadcast of John Kerry and John O’Neill on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Both O’Neill and Kerry came across as very sharp, very good debaters. Both scored rhetorical points. O’Neill was effective at putting Kerry on the spot about his generalizations about U.S. soldiers committing war atrocities. Kerry was smoother, more polished, more confident, and on some occasions was able to use his confidence to make O’Neill look like he was pushing too hard. (Nice trick.)
I was struck by the substantive differences between Kerry and O’Neill’s worldviews, and by the extent to which their respective arguments have held up since. O’Neill cautioned that precipitate withdrawal of American forces and support from South Vietnam could lead to a bloodbath — a suggestion that Kerry scoffed at. The passage of time reveals that O’Neill was prescient and Kerry was naive.
Kerry also seemed confident that the Vietnamese communists could be counted on to negotiate in good faith about the return of U.S. prisoners. Again, Kerry looks naive from the vantage of history. And he seemed to miss the big picture: that South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — imperfect but relatively open societies — were under attack by communist imperialists determined to impose totalitarian rule. Where O’Neill was leery of handing victories to our enemies, Kerry talked as though he believed the communists would stop bothering everyone if only the United States would withdraw from the region, and if only the South Vietnamese government would take some civics lessons. In Kerry’s view it seemed to be all about us. Needless to say, the 1970s and 1980s, with Vietnamese boat people, the horrors of reeducation camps and the Khmer Rouge’s genocide, the communist expansion into Africa and Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the failure of “detente” in U.S.-USSR relations, were not kind to Kerry’s view.
I don’t know what O’Neill’s like now, but my impression of Kerry is that his worldview hasn’t changed significantly since 1971. He still sounds like that old broken record from the Dick Cavett Show — confidently posturing, making sweeping negative generalizations about the U.S., assuming good motives of other countries, avoiding specifics, and trying to be on both sides of an issue when someone calls him on one of his generalizations. This kind of behavior may be tolerable in a debate, where all that matters is scoring points, but a president has to be able to understand the big picture and make decisions. Kerry didn’t, and still doesn’t, appear able to do that.
UPDATE: Jim Miller has related thoughts.
14 thoughts on “Kerry Hasn’t Changed”
John Kerry is a charter member of the blame America first club. He and his ilk believe that America is the biggest problem in the world. They don’t like America and they don’t like Americans. It’s bad enough that a good portion of teh world is in the club, but it’s even worse when our own citizens are members.
There is a great book by Mona Charen called “Usefeul Idiots.” Basically it’s about the 70 years history of the lefts denial and obstruction in fighting against communism, and how they were dead wrong at every instance, using their own words and matching them with the facts. The book was written in 2002 before anybody considered Kerry a presdiential candidate, but the various Kerry episodes are featured prominently in the Chapter on Vietnam.
“O’Neill cautioned that precipitate withdrawal of American forces and support from South Vietnam could lead to a bloodbath — a suggestion that Kerry scoffed at. The passage of time reveals that O’Neill was prescient and Kerry was naive.”
Making such a prediction required no prescience whatsoever. Denying the possibility requires a brand of willful myopia that only the left seems capable of. It had happened in every country where a communist government had taken over (not by free election of course, that still has never happened) before or since. It is in the communist handbook: the first thing you do when you take over a country is start exterminating anybody you think won’t cooperate. It’s easier and quicker than their second choice: “re-education”.
This is not a secret, and anybody who says they didn’t see it coming is either a liar or has been lied to by their friends.
And if you see how Kerry tried to negotiate with the Sandinistas, you’ll see just how consistent his “world view” has been. I try not to hate, I’m not a hater. I believe he believes he’s right and that his intentions are, good I guess. But when I read how naive he was during the Nicaragua turmoil, reading transcripts of debates and press coverage, I’m disgusted. –s
“But when I read how naive he was during the Nicaragua turmoil, reading transcripts of debates and press coverage, I’m disgusted.”
I think you are being too kind. I don’t think he was naive at all. He knew exactly what he was doing. You are right to be disgusted, maybe more than you know.
That last one was me.
Somewhat off topic, but since we’re talking about O’Neill, I noticed you fail to mention today’s piece in the NYT that effectively and conclusively exposes them as nothing more than a bunch of liars.
You should be ashamed of youself for your support of this group… but of course, you aren’t.
And of course, no one here cares that the current Commander in Chief evaded service in Vietnam and wasn’t even man enough to fulfill his duty in the cushy National Guard post his rich poppy arranged for him…
– Typical of you Gordo to not provide any link to your alleged conclusive evidence. But hey, it comes from the NYT, so it must be true. And its mere existence entitles you to shame people you don’t even know for reasons you don’t understand.
– Where does it say that anyone here “supports” this group by the way ? And what group is that anyway ? Neither Jonathan’s post nor any of the comments refer to a group or its support. Typical of you to flame without even reading what is being said. Clearly, your opinion entitles you to insult others as soon as you think they hold a different one. The presence or absence of evidence is not even a factor.
– For your information, the current Commander in Chief didn’t come out of flight training until 1972, at which time Air Force involvement in Vietnam was winding down. And if his “rich poppy” wanted to cover his young arse, fighter pilot in the National Guard was one of the worst possible picks, given the number of ANG pilots who ended up serving tours in Vietnam. Those of them who did serve in that theater do not quite appreciate the implication that the Air National Guard was some kind of comfy closet for rich kids. You would know if you actually talked to one of them.
Meanwhile, others, like Senator Tom Harkin, were on active duty at the time and never saw combat, yet claimed they did for many years. But he’s a Democrat so I guess it’s OK to stretch his story a little bit. Clearly, some people are allowed to claim they fought when they didn’t, when others should be ashamed for simply doing their time at home without ever lying about it.
– Bush’s record is what it is, but at least he has one, unlike his predecessor. Which brings up two interesting questions :
1. Isn’t it interesting how Clinton’s draft-dodging was a non-issue summoned by desperate right-wingers, but Bush’s lack of war experience is an obvious and critical flaw of his character ?
2. Had W. served in Vietnam, much of his work would have consisted of bombing missions. The kind of work which, a mere couple of decades ago, earned you the lovely qualifiers of ‘baby killer’, ‘murderer’ and so on, all on the basis of claims that all you did was bomb civilians. How fascinating that his lack of such a record today turns out to be such a liability for the very same people who used to hurl such insults at former pilots ?
– A related question : why is it that claims that we invaded Iraq to defend the U.S. are met with dismissal and derision, while Kerry’s claim during his acceptance speech that he defended his country in Vietnam are met with applause ? Were the U.S. in any way threatened by North Vietnam ?
Just so we’re clear, I don’t expect any serious answer to any of those questions from you.
Gordo, I see that you still prefer personal attacks over addressing issues — in this case Kerry’s profound and persistent misreading of world events (not to mention his character flaws: unlike Bush, Kerry appears to have lied about his military record).
You say I should be ashamed for supporting an organization that I didn’t even mention in my post. Yet you have no shame about mindlessly parroting the latest partisan talking points from the NYT. Is that the best you can do? I’m almost disappointed.
You guys never disappoint me. I always expect nothing more than distortions and outright lies.
Here’s the link to the NYT article, which sets forth connections between the Swift Boat Liars and the Bush campaign, but also collects all the inconsistencies and fabrications set forth by the SBL.
Go read it. And you really should before you dismiss it as “left wing talking points”.
And here, Sylvain, by the way, is just one instance of where you are a bald-faced liar, and not even a good one at that.
Sylvain said: “Where does it say that anyone here “supports” this group by the way ? And what group is that anyway ? Neither Jonathan’s post nor any of the comments refer to a group or its support. Typical of you to flame without even reading what is being said. Clearly, your opinion entitles you to insult others as soon as you think they hold a different one. The presence or absence of evidence is not even a factor.”
Lexington Greene on 4 August (check your archives, please) posted every link to the SBL’s ad, book, and of course, the site for donations. If you just wanted readers to check out the ad, why include the donation site and implore readers to go there? Once again, your statements are proven to be patently ridiculous. I conclude that either you are too stupid to know what’s happening on your own website, or don’t have the integrity to own up to it.
You said “A related question : why is it that claims that we invaded Iraq to defend the U.S. are met with dismissal and derision, while Kerry’s claim during his acceptance speech that he defended his country in Vietnam are met with applause ? Were the U.S. in any way threatened by North Vietnam ?”
Here’s the difference: As a citizen and soldier, John Kerry answered his country’s call to duty and volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. I would say the same distinction falls on every active duty member of the military who served or is serving their country now. They don’t make the determination of who the enemy is—they respond to the call and act and I for one have never acted with dismissal or derision towards them for this, nor do any democrats I know.
The political leaders who call the shots, though, are a different story. I do act with derision and dismissal at the false portrayal by the Bush administration that Iraq was an immediate threat the country, which has thus far cost the lives of over 900 of our brave and dedicated servicepeople. I would act with the same derision towards the Johnson administration for making the same claims about Vietnam.
Jonathan said: “: unlike Bush, Kerry appears to have lied about his military record).”
Bush did indeed lie about his military record.
Here’s just one.:
In Bush’s 1999 autobiography, A Charge to Keep, Bush says that after completing flight training in June 1970, “I continued flying with my unit for the next several years”.
The Truth: “But 22 months after finishing his training, and with two years left on his six-year commitment, Bush gave up flying – for good, it would turn out”. [Boston Globe, 5/23/00]
There’s more, much more. http://www.democrats.com/display.cfm?id=165
Jonathan said: “You say I should be ashamed for supporting an organization that I didn’t even mention in my post. Yet you have no shame about mindlessly parroting the latest partisan talking points from the NYT. Is that the best you can do? I’m almost disappointed.”
Jonathan. You really amaze me with this one. You really equate the veracity and mission of the NYT with the SBLs? I don’t agree with everything in the NYT, especially Safire, but they have a long way to go before I can say they are funded by democrats with the sole purpose of smearing Bush. If you really can’t see this difference, you are just really off the deep end. I never took you guys too seriously before, but know I see that you guys just throw whatever rediculous and irrational **it you can find against the wall.
– Of course, there is nothing extreme in calling those who disagree with you “wingnuts”. That is an obvious sign of someone used to adult debates, of a person who can argue substance and doesn’t confuse the messenger for the message. Someone who can reason on his own and argue conclusions from facts and first principles.
– The New York Times throws a long counter-mud article against a muddy attack. Wow. That’s unheard of. “They” attack Kerry, so we attack “them” back. Gee, that’s a new one. So that is your definition of the truth : whatever you want to hear. If someone in a newspaper alleges a “right-wing conspiracy”, with the usual evil names – Karl Rove, of course; if he didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him – and comforting partisan code words (“conservative” “lie”), that settles the whole debate and that’s that.
Amazing. You’d think we’re in an election year or something.
– If you have an issue with Lex’s August 4 post, then go and post it there. Or are you too lazy to post your grand self-righteous accusations in the right spot ? Does your disagreement entitles you to dump your little pile of dung anywhere, even if it has no or little relevance to the topic at hand ? This is not about integrity, dummy, it’s about your ability to click the right link. Is that too much to ask ? Today is August 20th, not August 4th, in case you didn’t notice.
– Yes, Kerry served. Unlike Clinton, for instance. But back when overexcited Republicans questioned Clinton’s character due to his draft dodging, Democrats shrugged their shoulders, the younger ones even claiming that it only proved he was smart. But suddenly, Vietnam War experience is a requirement for the job ? Interesting. No political posturing there, of course.
– And what did he lie about exactly ? Did he lie about flying combat mission, like Senator Tom Harkin ? And says who ? democrats.com…with a name like that, I’m sure their information is totally reliable and unbiased. Bush’s last recorded day of service was July 30, 1973. So yes, he continued flying for several years after 1970. Where’s the lie in that quote of yours ?
– The veracity of the New York Times ? You mean, like Jayson Blair ? Could it be at all possible that you respect the NYT because their bias fits yours ? Nah, that couldn’t be. You’re too subtle and objective to fall for that one. People who call opponents ‘wingnuts’ are nuanced and sophisticated, by definition.
– I never took you guys too seriously before That’s good. Then you would never waste your time around here writing silly self-important diatribes to assert your moral and intellectual superiority through name-calling, insults and other adolescent posturing. What a relief.
– but know I see that you guys just throw whatever rediculous and irrational **it you can find against the wall. Yes, we do throw trolls like you against the wall. It’s fun. Guilty as charged, your honor.
Ah, Gordo. Your latest missive comes just before noon. Is it recess already? Perhaps when you return to class you could ask the teacher for remedial lessons in logic and civility.
The question under discussion is whether Kerry has a clue about international affairs. This is a reasonable question given Kerry’s long history of seemingly willful obtuseness to communist imperialism, but you don’t want to address it. Could it be that you don’t have an effective response? That’s the way it appears.
Feel free to respond to the issue at hand, but leave the personal attacks out of it or I’ll delete your comments.
Jonathan said: “Feel free to respond to the issue at hand, but leave the personal attacks out of it or I’ll delete your comments.”
That’s ok. Since you’ve responded above with nothing more than a slew of personal attacks by you and your soulmate Sylvain above (not one factual assertion–only innueundo, slander, and generalization, and other attempts to deflect my valid points) and now threaten me with a deletion of my comments, I think that’s my signal that I’ve batted you kids around enough. My bad.
I conclude that you really have nothing to offer even for wingnuts. You can have your insane little world back yourselves now. Enjoy.
Well OK then.
Before completing your hasty retreat by accusing your opponents of your own deeds to claim yet another imaginary self-attributed moral victory, you might want to read this. Could make you famous….
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