Political Hay

Bad Kerry Day

He’s happy Saddam is gone, but not so happy Bush didn’t drown.

By 1.30.05

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Watching (still only a) Senator John Kerry's Sunday morning Meet the Press appearance, there seemed to be only one real question remaining: How would the Boston Brahmin have fared in the Iraqi election? After all, Kerry's rhetoric over these last couple weeks suggests that he has about as much respect for the American electoral system as for its (now) Iraqi counterpart.

Two weeks before urging the entire nation Sunday not to "over-hype" Iraqi elections that are, by any standard, remarkable, Kerry stood before a large crowd at a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Boston and declared that in the 2004 American election, "thousands of people were suppressed in their efforts to vote." Showing no understanding of proportion or tact considering that Islamic fundamentalists marked every voter in Iraq for death, Kerry went on to compare the democratic processes of America and Iraq: "In a nation that is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy we cannot tolerate that, here in America, too many people are denied that democracy."

As awful as it sounds, Kerry's Meet the Press appearance seemed timed to coincide with the election day disaster we all believed was coming in Iraq, but never materialized. While Iraqi Kurds and Shias were still dancing in the streets celebrating their first free elections after more than three decades of tyranny, Kerry could not have been more dour or pessimistic.

"It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and don't vote," Kerry told Russert. But what election was he referring to? Was it the one that was stolen from him or the one that was apparently being stolen from the Sunnis? The rhetoric is virtually interchangeable. Just switch the words "Democrats" and "Sunnis" around and he'll have enough material to go on for sometime.

Does this jab at Senator Kerry mean either our election system or Iraq's is perfect? Of course not. Personally, I'd like to see college students have to dip their fingers in indelible ink after voting as well so they can't canvas a state voting in every town along the way.

The only vote Kerry was not interested in talking about was the popular vote (granted Bush didn't want to talk much about this his first go around, either) and, more importantly, the Electoral College vote. The senator bragged to Russert that he won the youth vote, the independent vote, and the moderate vote. More bizarrely, Kerry enthused that "If you take half the people at an Ohio State football game on Saturday afternoon and they were to have voted the other way, you and I would be having a discussion today about my State of the Union speech."

Any conversation on Iraq could not be divorced from his personal loss in November. It all came back to him, his campaign platform, and the "very clear, four point plan for precisely how we could be successful" in Iraq, which he laid out in Fulton, Missouri, during the campaign. (Does anyone remember this besides Kerry?)

With an obvious eye on 2008, Kerry peppered his appearance with several un-waffle words such as "unequivocally," and "I've said it 100 times before," as in "I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone, and I've said that a hundred times." This last must be put in some context, however. Less than a minute before Kerry was asked, "Do you believe that Iraq is less a terrorist threat to the United States now than it was two years ago?" He replied, "No, it's more. And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was two and a half years ago." So why, again, is he glad Saddam is gone?

Nevertheless, the man looked so proud of himself for answering a string of questions about whether he agreed with Ted Kennedy's Over-the-Moon-and-Out-to-Pasture speech last week about abandoning Iraq with one simple "No" after another. John Edwards's barb at Kerry during the Wisconsin debates -- "That's the longest answer I ever heard to a yes-or-no question" -- apparently cut pretty deep. Even now, however, Kerry cannot avoid his ubiquitous covering of the bases, assuring Americans that both he and Senator Kennedy understood the American presence in Iraq was "part of the problem today, if not the problem."

So with all this genius, how did Kerry lose? Well, according to the senator, it basically came down to the "9/11 hurdle" and that "When a country is at war and in the wake of 9/11, it's very difficult to shift horses in midstream." Not so long ago, Kerry suggested to Wisconsin voters that "they shouldn't be wary of changing horses midstream when the horse is drowning" and joked, "May I also suggest that we need a taller horse? You can get through deeper waters that way."

Maybe so, but with so little faith in the electoral process on his part, what horse on the planet would want to attempt to tote John Kerry across the electoral river -- be it the Mississippi or the Euphrates?

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