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Monday, February 23, 2004

Kerry, McCain and the Chickenhawks

Ronald Brownstein's February 16 column in the Los Angeles Times offered some interesting analysis of John Kerry's political acumen.

Brownstein begins with a compelling anecdote:
The year was 1996, and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry was seeking his third term against charismatic Republican Gov. William Weld. In a debate, Weld was hammering Kerry over his opposition to the death penalty, even for cop killers. Kerry silenced the room with his response.

"I know something about killing," Kerry said simply. "I don't like killing. I don't think the state honors life by turning around and killing."

That exchange vividly demonstrated how much Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, relies on his experience as a Navy combat veteran in Vietnam to define his political identity.
It sounds like Kerry actually learned something from the Michael Dukakis flameout.

Nonetheless, some Vietnam veterans are apparently still angered by Kerry's post-service anti-war stance and congressional testimony. Brownstein, however, quotes Republican Senator John McCain's take on this point: "John Kerry, by virtue of his service in Vietnam, earned the right to oppose the war if he chose to."

My guess is that most of the American electorate (and virtually anyone who might even consider voting for Kerry in November), will agree with McCain.

The oddest element of all this is the attempt to link Kerry to "Hanoi" Jane Fonda by fabricating a photo showing the activists together on a podium at an anti-war rally. Brownstein notes that the two did meet two years before Fonda went to Hanoi, but Kerry quit the anti-war Veterans movement because he thought it was too radical.

Fonda's public relations have been almost completely rehabilitated since her "Hanoi Jane" days. Of course, she has apologized profusely for her trip to Hanoi. During the 1980s, she emerged as a fitness queen. In 1983, 1984 and 1985, Fonda had the top-selling video in the United States (hers was 10th best in 1982). In 1986 and 1987, she had the two top-selling videos in the land. In 1988 and 1989, she had to settle for third. Look at the lists, she was surrounded by big budget Hollywood movies.

Then, in 1991, Fonda married CNN mogul Ted Turner and started showing up annually for Atlanta Braves (self proclaimed as "America's team") post-season baseball games. The left started criticizing her (and former President Jimmy Carter) for doing the "tomahawk chop" during those games.

Fonda and Turner lived in Montana, which is a Red state. She stopped making movies for more than a decade and reportedly became a born-again Christian.

Is this the best they've got?

No wonder Kerry keeps saying, "Bring it on."

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