Friday, August 27, 2004

Mark Steyn double

Here's a nice daily double from Mark Steyn on Kerry's non-existent band of brothers and how Kerry has miscalculated in basing his candidacy upon his Vietnam service.

First, Steyn in the Jerusalem Post on the absence of a band of brothers:

For 25 years, [Kerry] told The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the United States Senate, and all manner of other well-known saps about his covert Yuletide operations inside Cambodia gun-running to anti-communists with his lucky CIA hat. To verify any of this would have required a trip to specialist reference libraries, looking up stuff on eye-straining microfiche, etc. So it was easier to let the old blowhard yak away and just nod occasionally.

Senator Kerry couldn't have foreseen that Al Gore would invent the Internet, and there'd be this Google thingy, and all you'd have to do is tap in a few words and a nanosecond later it would all be at your fingertips – veterans memoirs, Cambodian history, declassified Johnson administration documents, previous Kerry "stretchers" (as Mark Twain called them).

The Kerry campaign has now conceded that, by his own contemporaneous account, the young lieutenant was nowhere near Cambodia in Christmas 1968 and, if he was ever on a covert gun-running operation across the border during his four months in Vietnam, he seems to be the only rookie Swift boat lieutenant to land in the territory and get entrusted with such a mission, and it was evidently so top secret that neither his commanding officers nor the men on his own boat knew a thing about it.

Steyn also takes a good crack at the NY Times and the mainstream media:

So for two weeks, as the Swiftees exposed Kerry's Cambodian fantasies, the networks and the "newspapers of record" were like Sherlock Holmes's dog that didn't bark – or, in this case, the sheep that didn't baa. Now the silence of the lambs has been broken. The editorialists at The New York Times have deigned to sully, belatedly, their hallowed pages with an acknowledgment of the existence of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, if not the substance of their charges. And this is what the sniffy editorialists – or at least their headline writer – have to say:

"Politics as usual."

Well, I should hope so. This is an election campaign, not a coronation – though you may be confused on that point if you get your news from the Times and the networks. Let us stipulate that the snoots at the Times are right – that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a "Republican-financed group of partisans." Just as the handful of Swift boat veterans prepared to support John Kerry are a Democrat-financed group of partisans. After all, it seems unlikely that they're picking up their own hotel bills and air fares as they travel around the country as his loyal, if small, "band of brothers."

So both groups are "politically motivated." Good for them. That's what multi-party democracy is all about. The New York Times and CBS News are also "politically motivated." So is this column. It's a political column, and it's "politically motivated." One day I'll start a ballet column, and that will be balletically motivated.


Meanwhile, in The Spectator, Steyn remains the one stalwart conservative who hasn't gone wobbly. HIs editorial for this week is a long stem-winder discussing Kerry's tactics, personality, etc. But two observations stand out for their acuity:

The flaw in the Senator’s strategy to run for president as a plucky 24-year-old Swift boat lieutenant was an obvious one. The argument that his Swift boat command demonstrates his superb qualities of leadership falls apart once you notice his striking lack of the first ingredient of leadership: followers. Aside from the three or four Swiftees who’ve been persuaded to travel around the country with him, all the hundreds of other Swiftvets loathe him, and many of them are determined to stick to him like DNA to Monica’s dress. This was entirely foreseeable — I’ve been getting emails from aggrieved veterans for two years now, so I’d guess the Democrats have too.

But the party that likes to sneer that Bush never had a plan to deal with Iraq’s inevitable insurgents doesn’t seem to mind that Kerry never had a plan to deal with the Swiftees’ equally inevitable insurgents. A guy awash in gazillions from Barbra Streisand and co. who can’t see off a couple of hundred middle-aged ‘liars’ and their minimal ad-buy? Is that really the fellow you want to put up against al-Qa’eda, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il?

* * *
The risk in running on biography is that voters won’t find your life story as compelling as you do. They might be churlish enough to be more interested in, say, health care or terrorism than what you were doing in 1968. That risk becomes a certainty when your appealing soft-focus narrative comes under attack and your campaign degenerates into a defence of your biography. The minute you start running ads demanding that voters ‘tell George W Bush to stop telling lies about what a weally weally big war hero I am’, you sound ridiculous. Especially when your opponent is a guy who’s never complained about anything – not the ‘Bush is Hitler’ stuff, not the ‘Bush knew about 9/11 in advance’ stuff, not even the comparatively mild Michael Moore slur that he’s a moron so paralysed without his minders that he continued reading My Pet Goat to Florida grade-schoolers for a full seven minutes on September 11. Kerry himself made sneering cracks about the pet goat business, and Bush didn’t whine about it.


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