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Concerning What's Left of Kerry's Candidacy

Commentary by Greg Lewis /
September 4, 2004

This August 2, 2004, USA Today news item reflected the head-scratching that Democrat operatives have almost certainly been doing over the passing strange poll results in the month following the Democratic National Convention: "Pollsters and strategists are puzzling over Kerry's failure to get a boost from a convention that even critics acknowledge went almost precisely as planned. Polls show it improved voters' impressions of Kerry as a strong leader and a potential commander in chief. It burnished views of the Democratic Party.

"Still, in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday [July 30 through August 1], Kerry's support dipped 2 percentage points among likely voters compared with a poll taken the week before the convention. Bush's standing rose 5 percentage points." (Compare this result, by the way, to an straw poll which showed that, if the vote had taken place the day after the Republican National Convention, President Bush would have captured a whopping 532 of the 538 total electoral votes to be cast in the coming national election. Talk about your — albeit seriously unofficial — bounce! Even disregarding the admittedly unreliable AOL results, both Newsweek and Time magazine polls showed President Bush with an eleven-point lead over Kerry immediately following the Republican Convention.)

In the month of August, following the Democrat National Convention, Kerry suffered even more egregious losses than not receiving a post-convention bounce. The Swift Boat Veterans' second commercial, which uses actual footage of Kerry testifying before Congress in 1971 after his return from Vietnam, and which features Vietnam veterans' excoriating responses to Kerry's testimony — responses which reflect the feelings in the hearts of a significant majority of Americans about Kerry's "selling out," not only of American soldiers still in Vietnam at the time, but of American prisoners of war then in captivity who endured torture rather than give the North Vietnamese the kind of testimony Kerry was happy to provide without prompting — this commercial has had a devastating effect on Kerry's ability to present himself as a patriot worthy of assuming the office of President of the United States.

But the second Swift Boat Veterans' commercial is not the whole story. Kerry has yet to establish himself as a viable candidate for the office of President of the United States based on his political record in the 30-plus years following his ignominious testimony before Congress in 1971. While Democratic campaign operatives have attempted to portray the speeches delivered during the Republican National Convention as "angry" (in particular with regard to Democratic Senator Zell Miller's keynote address and the speech given by Vice President Dick Cheney), they have been forced, in order to do this, to ignore the positive and uplifting performances by First Lady Laura Bush, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, not to mention the boffo speech delivered by President George W. Bush himself.

While Kerry's record subsequent to his service in Vietnam was attacked vigorously during the Republican Convention, the fact is that Republicans were attacking just that: his record. They referenced positions and statements and Senate votes that are part of the public record and to which Kerry will be obliged to respond as the campaign nears its denouement. The Kerry campaign's efforts to represent these Republican broadsides as attempts to impugn the Senator's character miss the mark widely. Republicans are not engaging in ad hominem attacks against Kerry. Indeed, to a person Republicans have been careful to positively acknowledge Kerry's service to his country in the Vietnam War.

At the same time, Republicans are not going to let Kerry off the hook with regard to his voting record in the Senate. What emerges, with Kerry's history as a public figure becoming more and more widely publicized, is the picture of a misguided, indeed, a tormented young person who allowed himself to be led, immediately following his service in the Vietnam War, into the position of spokesperson for a borderline traitorous group of disaffected former soldiers.

In the early 1970s Kerry spoke out vigorously and in unequivocal terms against his government's involvement in the Vietnam War. And his record as a United States Senator has consistently reflected his mistrust of both the U.S. military and the foreign policy of his country. Kerry's inability to see the larger picture, to understand that the United States was, during the 1960s and '70s and beyond, in the throes of a global struggle against the tyrannical and dictatorial foe that international communism had become to the interests of freedom and democracy . . . this blind spot in Kerry's vision has remained his single most obvious character trait. The question it raises involves whether Kerry is able even now to understand that our country is locked again in precisely such a conflict against, in this case, an international terrorist movement that would — as communism would have done, had it succeeded in its stated aims — destroy democracy and subject the world to the rule of a murderous and inhuman and tyrannical enemy.

We should not expect that Kerry's obvious unwillingness to stand up for the interests of the United States, which unwillingness he has demonstrated in his earlier anti-war rhetoric and in his more recent Senate votes against bolstering U.S. defense systems and policy . . . we should not expect that this unwillingness will somehow magically disappear should he — as now appears increasingly unlikely — somehow be elected President of the United States.


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