Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Jan 22 2004

Kerry me back to old Vietnamy


The last time a Massachusetts Senator with a good head of hair and medals on his chest, for commanding a small boat in enemy waters, ran for President he won. On Monday the Democrats in the state of Iowa opened the door to a little déjà vu. In doing so they may have saved the party from Howard Dean and self immolation.


The Bush Administration scheduled the State-of-the-Union speech for the following day. This may have seemed like good timing while the Democrats were holding fast to the Dean campaign. The unexpected elevation of Kerry and South Carolina’s John Edwards, however, changed the odds for the President. The 2004 campaign is less likely to be a cakewalk.


Bush was obviously not cowed. He delivered his speech with relish and lots of squint-eyed western can-do. At one rare point when the Democrats stood up to applaud him quicker than the Republicans he smiled. He was having a good time.


Bush had nothing to fear from the lame Democratic counterpoints delivered afterwards by the over articulating Nancy Pelosi and sugary Tom Daschle. Nonetheless, the following day a Zogby poll suggested a continuing even split by American voters about the Bush Presidency.


When Saddam Hussein crawled out of his spider hole I said, to no one in particular, that George Bush had just won reelection. I was premature. Back then Governor Dean was heating up the Internet and seemed a shoo-in for the nomination. Wes Clark, with his ambiguous politics, seemed the Democrat’s only alternative to the mindless Bush-haters. Iowa has changed that.


It is possible that the Democrats could end up nominating John Edwards. I haven’t heard him on the stump. I’ve only heard sound bites. He has a formidable reputation having made a fortune persuading juries that incompetent obstetricians botched deliveries leaving infants with cerebral palsy. (Since almost every American obstetrician has been sued for malpractice I can only speculate that there is no such thing as a competent doctor.) It might be nice to have a President with the charisma to unite America in the same way that Edward's woos juries.


John Kerry is not so charismatic. When I suggested that he might be the next Democratic nominee I was told that he was a “stuffed shirt.” Yes, despite that head of hair John Kerry is dour and cerebral. He also has the homeliest political puss since Abraham Lincoln. Kerry’s eyebrows are permanently arched and aloof. His long droopy face could belong to a bloodhound. When I saw him unshaven, in an interview after Iowa, he just looked haggard. His pedantic, Wilsonian speeches make him sound like a Presbyterian minister.


On the other hand I’ve only been in an audience once when someone gave a really great speech. It was over thirty years ago in a packed student union at Mankato State College. The speaker was from the Vietnam Veterans against the War. It was John Kerry. Of course, I was young and impressionable but Kerry’s simple eloquence stunned me and I was not alone.


In my estimation we are in Iraq for the long haul for better or worse. I believe beating a hasty retreat would be terrible. I’m not likely to vote for any Democrat who threatens to turn America’s back on the Iraqis just because some guerillas are harrying our beleaguered soldiers. I’m also inclined to pay for Iraq now rather than leave the bill to my children. I’ll be watching to see if John Kerry will be the kind of President who does the right thing by the Iraqis as well as by our soldiers.


Just as 9-11 made America look at police and firefighters with new respect our losses in Iraq have reminded America of the courage and sacrifice of our military men and women. George Bush traded on this popularity when he put on a flight jumpsuit and co-piloted a jet onto an Aircraft carrier to announce the end of Iraqi hostilities. With all this patriotism in the air it will be interesting to see if Bush bothers to explain a mystery vastly more intriguing than his alleged brush with cocaine.


During the Vietnam War lots of war hawk congressmen made sure that their sons stayed home. George Junior was the son of a Congressman and a war hero to boot. While John Kerry enlisted in the Navy, friends of Bush Senior helped get the young Bush a much coveted placement in a National Guard outfit that was unlikely to go overseas. Then, while the earnest Kerry captained a patrol boat on the lethal Mekong River, Bush Junior apparently stopped reporting to his guard unit long enough for there to be speculation about whether he had gone AWOL or not.


For the eight years of the Clinton Administration a great many Republicans howled in outrage over Clinton’s successful attempt to dodge the draft. They made it clear that Bill Clinton was a sorry excuse for a Commander-in-Chief.


In a fifty-fifty election its worth pondering how these same patriots might vote should our current President’s past turn out to be less than stellar. A real war hero, even a dull and pedantic one, might hold some appeal to a nation hungry for honor.


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com