Wednesday, August 25, 2004

John Kerry's Monica Moment?

That's what Andy McCarthy says about Kerry's seared-seared memory speech on the floor of the Senate in 1986 when Kerry decried the Reagan Administration's attempt to prevent Central America from turning into a Communist playpen. Moreover, McCarthy challenges the motivation of Kerry's 1971 testimony to Congress by claiming that Kerry knew (or at least should have known) that his charges of extensive war crimes and approval from officers were false. Here is an excerpt:

The 1971 testimony — far from the long ago and far away manifestation of a different, authentic Kerry — is very much of a piece with an adult lifetime of behavior, both small and large, indicative of detachment from reality and disregard for truth. Why did he film himself in mock battles? Why has he, for over a decade, spoken with great passion on behalf of diametrically opposite policy positions on Iraq and innumerable other issues? Why did he not only concoct the "Christmas in Cambodia" tale but take it to the floor of the United States Senate and inject it into a debate about national security?

. . . a 1980s' "conviction politician" is not to be found in the contras dispute, the dramatic stage for Kerry's "seared — seared — in me" Cambodia memory. That, instead, is turning into Kerry's "I-did-not-have-sexual-relations-with-that-woman" moment. The faux episode is not, as Kerry's how-dare-you bluster would have it, immune from analysis and judgment because to weigh it would somehow impugn his military service or his patriotism — in fact, it would do neither. It is not immune any more than President Clinton's infamously self-righteous declamation was, as his apologists maintained, beyond consideration because it was "just about sex." Christmas in Cambodia, like the 1971 testimony, is worthy of exploration because it is a barometer of basic honesty, raising the specter of a core lack of conviction and authenticity — one embedded in character, not developed over time.

Therein lies the problem for Kerry. Americans did not form their lasting impression of Clinton's pathology until after he was already elected president [twice]. Removing a president is a much different proposition than choosing not to elect him... Clinton, in addition, had many things going for him that Kerry does not . . . Clinton is charismatic, instantly likable, a tremendous communicator, and a politician whose opportunism (on welfare reform, a balanced budget, stiff anti-terror laws, etc.) could often connote a prudent pragmatism whereas, at this point, Kerry's (on Vietnam, Iraq, abortion, gay marriage, troop reduction, etc.) seems nakedly craven.

Clinton also had the good fortune of governing a pre-9/11 America, in which an otherwise competent leader's lack of probity could be sloughed off by the masses as a peccadillo — the stuff of late-night comedy monologues, not consequence. That world, however, is over.

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