John Kerry's remarks yesterday, unintentionally picked up by a microphone, that the Bush Campaign is "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen," was hardly surprising. Indeed, Kerry has shown a growing tendency to behave as though any attack on him is wholly unwarranted. Last Friday Reuters reported on the "royal genes" theory of the presidency, the idea that the candidate with the bluest blood in his veins is most likely to win the election. Whatever the validity of the theory, can anyone doubt that the Massachusetts Senator isn't a genuine royal?
Kerry's thin-skinned refinement comes into play each time anyone deigns to disagree with him. On Monday in Des Moines, Vice President Dick Cheney took a jab at Kerry: "Indecision kills. These are not the times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another thing the next." Now, Cheney was not saying that Kerry had actually killed anyone, but that did not stop Kerry from responding as though he did: "Well, let me tell you something Mr. Cheney, Mr. President, bad, rushed decisions kill too. And not giving American citizens health care kills too." Had Kerry responded with, "Cheney's remarks were unfortunate and inappropriate," he would have been seen as taking the high road. Instead, he came off as petty.
Kerry also has a tendency to think that he is better than most and, thus, the rules do not apply to him. Consider the dustup Kerry created two weeks ago when he sent a letter to President Bush in response to remarks made by Senator Saxby Chambliss. "Over the last week, you and your campaign have initiated a widespread attack on my service in Vietnam, my decision to speak out to end that war, and my commitment to the defense of this nation," Kerry huffed. "I will not sit back and allow my patriotism to be questioned."
The problem for Kerry, of course, is that he brought up these issues first. He's made his war service a centerpiece of his campaign, but he wants to suggest that it's not okay for the GOP to criticize what he did after Vietnam. His letter implies that it's okay for Kerry to attack Bush's handling of Iraq, but not okay for the Bush campaign to go after his record on national security. Although the Republicans weren't questioning Kerry's patriotism, Kerry would hardly be in a position to cry foul if they had. Back in January, he took a not-so-subtle dig at Bush's patriotism. Referring to the inaccurate charge that the Bush Administration was cutting Veteran's benefits, Kerry said, "The first definition of patriotism is keeping faith with those who have worn the uniform of the country."
If a candidate brings up an issue to use against his opponent, the rules of fair play dictate that it is okay for his opponent to use that same issue against him. But Kerry seems to think that he plays by some "higher rules." That sort of thinking derives from a belief that everything you say and do is noble and pure. Only the most venal and nefarious would question it, let alone attack it. Such people must be the most crooked, lying folk you've ever seen.
Kerry's style has already attracted a lot unflattering labels: waffler, panderer, condescender. The last two inspired pundit Mickey Kaus to the coin conjugate "Pandescender." After yesterday, another term needs to be added to the lexicon of Kerry description: whiner.