Judgment and Character - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Judgment and Character

WASHINGTON — Is it not curious that in major media there is not a trace of humor or even irony perceptible in the hullabaloo over Senator John Kerry’s latest self-inflicted wound, to wit: the controversy over his Vietnam record? Oh, one fellow has shown a proper sense of the absurdity of it all. James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal‘s “Best of the Web Today,” has for months made a running joke of Kerry’s reckless boasts about his service in Vietnam. Whenever he introduces this insufferable braggart into his column Taranto is wont to write “who by the way served in Vietnam” or “whom I am told served in Vietnam.” Now, as a growing number of Vietnam veterans file their objections to Kerry’s boasts, the suave Taranto e-mails me, “Have you been following the news the past couple of weeks? And are you finally ready to admit I was right about John Kerry serving in Vietnam?”

As the waggish Taranto knows, I have never doubted that Kerry served in Vietnam, for I remember with the utmost clarity his return from Vietnam whereupon he played a star role in opposing the war, often disloyally. I even recall his appearance before a Senate committee where he accused his fellow veterans of “war crimes” — or, as he said then: “Crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” He even said on Meet the Press that he had committed war crimes. I rather doubt that he did, but here is still more evidence that Kerry is a fraud.

He is another of the politicians visited on us recently who lie flagrantly, get caught in their lies, and are given a dispensation in the media because the media’s journalists somehow believe that the liars are preferable to their opponents. That is how Bill Clinton got his many passes in the 1992 election where he lied about dodging the draft, about demonstrating against his country in London, about smoking marijuana, about Gennifer Flowers and general philandering. Notwithstanding all those obvious lies, Clinton went on the White House and to eight years of lies and scandals — or, to continue my theme, self-inflicted wounds. In nominating Kerry as their presidential candidate the Democrats have nominated another fantasist.

You can be sure that the absurd controversy over his Vietnam record will not be his last. Any sensible observer has by now perceived that Kerry’s opponents among the Swift boat veterans have proven that Kerry wildly exaggerated his service in Vietnam. The more important question is not his veracity but his judgment, and that word has not even been mentioned in the media’s debate. For that matter there has not been all that much talk about Kerry’s mendacity, though he has been caught in petty lies since the primaries, lies that contribute to the perception that Kerry is a man of very poor judgment.

There was his early lie that he never made an issue about being Irish. Then there was his lie to feminists that his first speech in Congress was in support of abortion rights. In both instances fact checkers exposed him. Then there was the imbroglio over his skiing exploits where he denied that he suffers the occasional mishap while skiing. At an Idaho ski resort in his boastful (and vengeful) mode Kerry claimed, “I don’t fall down. That son of a bitch ran into me.” From his bruised gluteus maximus he pointed to an embarrassed member of his Secret Service detail. His falls were a matter of record. And forget not the dispute over his claim that “foreign leaders” told him they endorsed his presidency, though his travel records revealed his claim to be preposterous. Since then Kerry has been caught lying about the vehicles he owns. He has been ensnared in lies about policy and legislation. There have been other scrapes, schedules revised for $100 haircuts, scrapes where he has been overheard calling the Bush Administration “crooked.” And now we have all his conjurings with his Vietnam record and the records of his combat critics.

What ought to be raised is the issue of his judgment. What does it tell you about this fantastico that he has made his controversial service of 35 years ago the fulcrum on which he wages his campaign for the presidency? Surely he remembered the dishonorable and untrue things he said about Vietnam. Surely he should have had the self-awareness to recognize possible dispute arising over his medals and that obvious lie that he spent a faraway Christmas in Cambodia. Yet this megalomaniac blundered on, boasting of an episode in his life that had best be referred to only in passing.

Now he is in the running to be president. Do we really want a reckless self-promoter governing us in time of war? Do we want a man with so little judgment and regard for the truth overseeing American foreign and domestic policy? The vast majority of those who served with him in Vietnam do not. Those in the media who continue to give him a pass do. I hope that they are not surprised or offended if President Kerry presides over another presidency of self-inflicted controversies. Yet who will conduct our war on terror while President Kerry schemes to disentangle himself from one scrape after another?

Character was the issue never weighed in the 1992 campaign. Character and judgment are the issues that ought to be weighed in this campaign.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
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R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief ofThe American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: The Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn’t Work: Social Democracy’s Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. He makes frequent appearances on national television and is a nationally syndicated columnist, whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, National Review, Harper’s, Commentary, The (London) Spectator, Le Figaro (Paris), and elsewhere. He is also a contributing editor to the New York Sun.
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