CONCORD -- This Wednesday, the Kerry campaign gathered heavy hitters on national security issues together to rail against the policies of George W. Bush and to endorse John Kerry as the best, sane alternative. Distinguished guests included retired Marine Corps General Stephen Cheney, Medal of Honor recipient Captain Paul Bucha, former Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers, and Kerry foreign policy adviser Nancy Stetson. The panelists took turns giving gracious speeches about their experience with Kerry, both in war and in government, and explaining why they had chosen to support him.
That is until former Ambassador Joe Wilson got a hold of the microphone. Before he uttered a single word, Wilson seemed out of place. His longish, surfer guy hair clashed with the closely cropped cuts of the military men on stage. A crass purple tie swung like a pendulum over his dark trying-too-hard-to-be-hip suit.
Wilson spoke for a full 20 minutes before he got around to even mentioning John Kerry. He began by rehashing the whole "sixteen words" Niger plutonium fiasco with a gusto the media, the general public, and even Democratic presidential candidates had long ago lost. Along the way, he romanticized his own role in shining the light on the way the American people and international community were "lied into war."
"When it became apparent after several months that the administration was continuing to stonewall and simply was not going to tell the American people the truth, I felt a civic responsibility to write a 1,500 word article, a modest piece entitled, 'What I Did Not Find In Africa,'" Wilson explained. Less modest is Wilson's spread in Vanity Fair, in which he details his sexual history and poses for glossy photos with his wife, the mysterious Valerie Plame, with a head scarf and dark glasses.
It was, of course, Plame, not Wilson's article, which gained him national prominence, when her cover as a CIA "operative" was blown by columnist Robert Novak late last summer. It's a fact that seems to rankle Wilson. He told the crowd that his canned obituary used to begin with a line about being the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf War. But the current one now reads "Mr. Valerie Plame, the husband of the spy who was exposed by her own government."
"Or outed by her own government, or whose name was leaked by her own government. She's not really into being exposed and she's not into being outed," he continued. Wilson is still in shock over the whole ordeal. He understood that the government would "diss" him, he said, "But I didn't know they would diss my wife, too."
Wilson then tore into the invasion and occupation of Iraq; a strange move for someone on hand to endorse a candidate who voted for, and continues to support, that policy. Wilson admitted Saddam Hussein had "hegemonic ambitions" and continued to seek weapons of mass destruction, but he tut-tutted that diplomacy was the only reasonable course in this case. "Basically, if you have to make war, you have to make smart war for the right reasons, not dumb war," he said. "Frankly, the invasion, conquest, occupation of Iraq was not the brightest idea we ever had."
Wilson then held up some nonviolent models for "regime change." Cuba was "a good example," he said. Also: "I think you can make a good argument that the government of Germany under chancellor Schroeder was a target of regime change in the lead up to recent elections there. And certainly this administration has harbored regime change ambition towards my home state of California, which they succeeded in doing."
The more he talked, the worse it got. The military guys started craning their necks. "So we do have examples of regime change policies and successfully pursuing them without having to put 130,000 troops massed on the Nevada-California border ready to march into Sacramento," he concluded finally.
When he did get around to talking about John Kerry, it was strictly in the context of Joe Wilson. Though not a combat veteran "I have been in enough wars to probably warrant some sort of status," Wilson said. "But like him, or like me, John Kerry also spoke truth to a hostile power." Wilson agreed with "everyone who says it is infuriating that it takes John seven minutes to clear his throat before he starts talking," but he had had "plenty of fraternity brothers in my life" and had no need of a frat brother as "my president."
The showboating continued during the Q&A period. One woman asked a question of the entire panel and Wilson took the microphone, explaining, "Well, I have to tell you, since you were looking at me..." The ranking military members on the panel were quite annoyed, so when the next question came up and Wilson asked "Do you want me to take that one?" he wasn't even acknowledged. The microphone was passed around over his head to literally everyone else on the panel.
At the close of the forum, Wilson couldn't help but take to the microphone one last time. "One thing I understand about leadership is...if you don't have any followers, it's hard to call yourself a leader," he said.
Despite the fact that John McCain will be in New Hampshire to campaign for George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman continues to publicly wish for some of "McCain's magic dust." A recent Lieberman television ad relays the following message: "Something's happening," an announcer intones. "McCain supporters are backing Joe Lieberman."
In the lead-up to the primary, Lieberman supporters are holding "McCainiac" house parties. "The Independents are going to play a very important, even decisive role in this primary," Lieberman told the AP. "We're going to combine Democrats and Independents and do what we've been saying all along. Surprise the pundits and get off to a great start in New Hampshire."
Er, how to put this? Yes, McCain beat George W. Bush by 18 points in New Hampshire four years ago, but he was out of the race a month later, smarting from his wounds. One might question the wisdom of Lieberman basing his entire strategy on a failed campaign whose candidate is not even endorsing him.
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