John Kerry really stepped in it when he spoke at Pasadena City College this week. His remarks sounded like a direct swipe at the troops, painting them as uneducated losers who only join the military because they have failed at life and closed off better opportunities for themselves. Kerry later explained that he was talking about the president, not the troops.
Kerry said, "We're here to talk about education, but I want to say something before -- you know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you -- you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Geez, that's odd...there isn't a mention of George W. Bush anywhere in that quote. Kerry has fired back defiantly, saying that his comments amounted to a "botched joke". Kerry spoke at a press conference in Seattle, saying "Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how: I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the President and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp -- rubber-stamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families. My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops."
I was interested in knowing what Senator Kerry said, and in what context he said it. It's easy to create a false impression with a short soundbite, so I went looking for the entire recording of the speech. I found it, here:
Indeed, Kerry could have simply made a "botched joke". That is to say, that if it was in fact a joke, it was really, really botched, because it didn't sound like he was talking about President Bush; it sounded like he was talking about our servicemen. In all truthfulness, it sounds a lot like a very common argument heard from the Left--that our military preys on the poor and on minorities, and that no one with better opportunities would ever put on the uniform. It's all part of their philosophy that the all-volunteer military that has existed since the end of military conscription in 1973 is not really voluntary at all. It's an "economic draft". It provides health care and educational benefits to those who would have none if they didn't join the military, and therefor cannot be called "voluntary" for America's underprivledged. This argument sounds an awful lot like Kerry's remarks.
Prior to his statement about education and getting "stuck in Iraq", Kerry was indeed demeaning the president. "How many of you remembered to set your clocks back the other day? Democrats set their clocks back one hour, and the Republicans have tried to set it back to 1958 for us. It's really that extreme. Anyway, yesterday I was in the state of Texas. As you all know, President Bush used to live there, now he lives in the state of denial. [pause for laughter] The state of deception. [more laughter]"
Hardy-har-har, Senator Kerry. You're such a jokester. You really make me laugh, just like the clown that you are. Senator Kerry continued, "I'm glad to be here with you, I really am. Thank you. Thank you for the privledge of coming here." At this point, Senator Kerry made the infamous remarks that have caused such an uproar.
So the results are in and the they are...inconclusive? Honestly, watching the tape, it's hard to discern his true meaning. True, he had just been making snide remarks about the president and the Republican Party. But then it almost sounded like there was a break in there, as if Senator Kerry were changing the subject. Was the "stuck in Iraq" remark just a continuation of his previous smart-ass comments, or were they seperate? In other words, were they a shot at President Bush or were they exactly what they sounded like--a deep-cutting insult to our troops in the field? I guess we'll never know.
Just as it is important to know what Kerry was saying immediately before his gaffe, it's also important to look at what happened immediately afterward. Did an embarrassd look cross his face when he realized that his "joke" was "botched"? Did he stumble and correct himself? Not at all. Actually, Kerry's "botched joke" got a lot of laughs from the crowd, and a self-satisfied smirk blossomed on Mr. Kerry's esteemed face. What exactly were these people laughing about? I don't know about you, but I don't usually laugh at "botched" jokes. Did they discern the secret meaning in Kerry's joke, despite the fact that it was about as clear as mud to the rest of America? Or did they laugh because they fully agreed with Kerry, and Kerry meant exactly what he said?
It's hard to imagine President Bush making such a remark about Senator Kerry. I know that politics is a dirty business, and people from both sides throw some pretty harsh barbs at each other. But President Bush has always left that stuff to the bloggers. He's too gentlemanly to make comments like that about Senator Kerry, although he probably has license to do so.
The little known fact about the Kerry-Bush rivalary is that Senator Kerry is not the prodigy he portrays himself to be. Despite the constant assertions to the contrary, Kerry is not immeasurably smarter than Bush. I would certainly say that he's a better speaker than the tongue-tied Texan, but that doesn't mean that he's Einstein and Bush is the village idiot. If we want to talk about studying hard, doing your homework, and making an effort to be smart, we might want to talk about Kerry's less-than-stellar career at Yale. As we have been told over and over again, when Mr. Bush was a Yalie, he was a C student, and a C student shouldn't be sitting in the Oval Office. We need our best and brightest to hold that important position. The only problem is that the young Monsieur Kerry was a C student as well. According to the Boston Globe's Boston.com, Bush's average after his first three years was 77. And what was Kerry's? Well the brilliant junior senator from Massachusetts (who served in Vietnam by the way) earned an average of 76 in the same period.
According to the same Boston.com article, "The transcript shows that Kerry's freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class. Under Yale's grading system in effect at the time, grades between 90 and 100 equaled an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, 60 to 69 a D, and anything below that was a failing grade. In addition to Kerry's four D's in his freshman year, he received one D in his sophomore year. He did not fail any courses. 'I always told my Dad that D stood for distinction,' Kerry said yesterday in a written response to questions, noting that he has previously acknowledged that he spent a lot of time learning to fly instead of focusing on his studies."
What? You mean he wasn't studying hard, doing his homework, and making an effort to be smart? I'm shocked!
Often overlooked in the Bush-is-dumb tirade is that young George was a C student at Yale, an elite Ivy League University. This is usually dismissed off the cuff with the counterargument that Bush only got into Yale because he came from a wealthy, well-connected family. Actually, that description probably applies to most Yalies, and it certainly applies to Senator Kerry. Kerry is also the son of privledge, having ancestors who came from the aristocratic Forbes and Winthrop families. As a young man, he spent his spent his time in France, hanging out with the Kennedys on Cape Cod, and studying at upper-crust boarding schools. Kerry had every advantage in life.
So we have two rich white guys who both went to Yale, and who both got C's. And one of them is making smartass remarks about the other one's intelligence. And they aren't even funny smartass remarks, and they come out "botched", and...people laugh anyway? I'm having a hard time following this. Am I really supposed to believe that Kerry's joke was about President Bush, and not about our soldiers?
Some might say that Kerry's remarks are awfully inconsequential in light of the fact that we're "bogged down" (their words, not mine) in a long struggle in Iraq. But they aren't inconsequential, because they're representative of a pattern of disrespect for the military in the Democratic Party. I sometimes wonder what the Democrats would say about the military if we just slipped them some truth serum.
Yes, I am aware that Senator Kerry is a Vietnam veteran. It's actually quite difficult not to know that, because I don't think I've ever heard him deliver a speech in which he didn't mention his wartime service at least five times. From one veteran to another, I would just like to say thank you, Senator Kerry. But does that mean that he can use his service as shield to deflect all criticism? Does that mean that he can just bash our troops with impunity? Kerry and his supporters have tried to stifle all criticism with his wartime service record.
Just like it's important to know what was said immediately before and after Kerry's "botched joke", it's also important to know about what Senator Kerry did before and after the Vietnam War. Contrary to popular belief, Kerry did not "turn against the war" after he served there. He was in fact against the Vietnam War before he ever stepped foot in Southeast Asia. At his 1966 Yale graduation ceremony, Kerry delivered an anti-war speech. According to Boston.com, "It is noteworthy, however, that Kerry received a high honor at Yale despite his mediocre grades: He was chosen to deliver his senior class oration, a testament to his reputation as a public speaker. He delivered a speech questioning the wisdom of the Vietnam War, in which he would soon see combat."
Why would someone who was against the war go off and fight it? Well, that's awfully peculiar. Is it possible that he went there only so that he could return home and become a leading "anti-war" activist with the distinction of also being a veteran of the war? Is it possible that he was already considering running for Congress as he did in 1972, as an "anti-war" candidate? Is it possible that Ensign Kerry got in and out of the combat zone as fast as he possibly could so that he could get back to America and start working with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)?
Then we can look at Kerry's post-war activities. He went on to be president of of VVAW, an organization that was since been proven to have had fake veterans among its ranks. I wonder how this might have been done. How does a person with no military service fool a veterans group into thinking that he is a veteran? As a former soldier myself, I know that it's awfully difficult to fake such a thing. There are just certain things that servicemen and veterans know that those who haven't serve do not. What's the difference between an 11B and an 11M? Which post is home to US Army field artillery? Which division is known as "The Big Red One"? What is the name of the Army song? Such things cannot be faked. Civilians don't know the difference between body armor and a flak vest. Civilians don't know the meaning of PMCS, BII, BDU, NCOIC, or MOS. Civilians can't tell the difference between an Abrams tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle, and a Palladin artillery piece. They foolishy refer to all of them as "tanks", when in fact they are three different vehicles with three seperate purposes.
Did these "veterans" falsify discharge paperwork? Or did Kerry's organization simply permit any yahoo to join who had a story (fact or fiction) that they wanted to hear? It kind of reminds me of faux-Iraq War veteran Jesse MacBeth, who marched with Iraq Veterans Against the War, and claimed that he had committed horrible attrocities as an Army Ranger in Iraq. Later, it was discovered that MacBeth had never been a Ranger, as would have been clear to anyone who has served a week in the US Army. IVAW disavowed Macbeth and claimed that they had been tricked. The proposition that MacBeth (the phoniest Army Ranger I have ever seen) "tricked" IVAW is about as believable as some hippie tricking John Kerry (who served in Vietnam, by the way) into believing that he had was a Vietnam veteran. Sorry, but MacBeth didn't snooker IVAW any more than these counterfit Vietnam vets fooled John Kerry and VVAW. They knew they were presenting phonies to the American people and the US Congress, and they didn't care.
Kerry and VVAW organized the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit. Participants in this event have admitted that they were coached and pressured to exaggerate and even lie about what they actually saw in Vietnam. Later, at Operation Dewey Canyon III, young Mr. Kerry testified before Congress. Kerry testified that, "[participants in the Winter Solider Investigation] told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
The participants of Winter Solider may well have said such things, but John Kerry knew full well that some of them were not telling the truth. Some of them had been pressured to exaggerate or lie. Others were not Vietnam veterans at all. They had told lies, and Kerry reiterated those lies to Congress.
So really, if Senator Kerry would compare US troops to those of Genghis Khan, is he really incapable of insulting our troops? Actually, I would say that this most recent "stuck in Iraq" slight is much milder than what he said about American soldiers in Vietnam. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that Kerry would insult US troops, because he's done it before.
Actually, Kerry has already said something almost identical to his remarks about uneducated soldiers being "stuck in Iraq". He said it when he was running for Congress in 1972. As John Solomon of the Assocaited Press writes, "In 1972, as he ran for the House, he was less apologetic in his comments about the merits of a volunteer army. He declared in the questionnaire that he opposed the draft but considered a volunteer army 'a greater anathema.' 'I am convinced a volunteer army would be an army of the poor and the black and the brown,' Kerry wrote."
Kerry brings up an interesting point, and one that I am not actively trying to dodge. Is our military underprivledged, underclass, and undereducated? It's a question worth asking, but irrelevant to Kerry's comments, because Kerry insists that that was not what he was trying to say. According to Kerry, his comments were aimed at the president, not at the troops. It does seem however, that his audience received his comments that way, and it gave them a little chuckle.
So what kind of military do the Democrats want? It seems that they aren't pleased with any type of military, whether all-volunteer or otherwise. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), a World War II veteran, proposed legislation that would have required all young Americans, male and female, to perform two years of national service. That service could be in armed forces, or young people could opt to perform alternative public service. Rangel later voted against his own bill. Representaive John Murtha (D-PA), a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, has come out in favor of a draft and actually voted for Representative Rangel's bill.
Do we want a draft? I'll entertain the notion; plenty of European countries have conscription, including Germany, Poland, and Sweden. It isn't asking too much to ask a person to give something back to the country that has given us so much. But I know that a draft would work about as well as it did in Vietnam, if not worse. You can't force a person to fight who doesn't want to. A draft is a bad idea.
It just seems that nothing ever really pleases the Left. The Vietnam-era draft was "racist" and "classist" because young men who stayed in school in perpetituity could recieve deferements. Actually, that kind of sounds like what Senator Kerry was talking about. Those who didn't to college--i.e., the working class--got drafted and went to Vietnam. But when the draft ended in 1973, they still weren't happy, because the new all-volunteer military would only appeal to...the working class? Isn't that the same reason that they opposed the draft? So it seems that the only system they would support would be a system of conscription with no college deferments. That would give all Americans, regardless of race and class, a stake in American wars.
Or would it? Under the Rangel plan (which almost all Democrats voted against, including its sponsor, but not John Murtha), there would be no college deferments, but there would be alternative civil service for those who don't want to fight. I would argue that nearly all young people who have not joined the military today would not join the military under the Rangel plan either. They would just take the civil service option instead, and there wouldn't be very many more military families than there are now.
So obviously, if we want all Americans to share the responsibilities of military service, we need to draft all young people, no exceptions. That means no college deferments and no civil service alternatives. Does anyone really want that? I know that I don't. No, the all-volunteer military is the best option. We've had such a system for the last thirty-three years, and it's worked quite well. We've had that system since September 11th, and the military has met recruiting goals every year. We've had a force of about 130,000 troops in Iraq since 2003, and we haven't had to crank up the Selective Service System yet. That's because we have a great country, with a significant number of young Americans who are willing to put on the unifrom. I support the all-volunteer military, despite its flaws, real or imagined.
With that in mind, I would say that Senator Kerry's remarks about our troops (and I surmise that they were really about our troops) were a low blow. Shame on you, Senator Kerry. The only "botched joke" here is you.