Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Has John Kerry Come Full Circle?

I admired John Kerry prior to his voting for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. The early years of his senate career were terrific. During his first term, Kerry went to Nicaragua and his determined pursuit of the truth resulted in the first exposure of the Iran-Contra scandal.

His Senate elders didn’t appreciate being upstaged by the upstart Kerry and they refused to give him a seat on the joint House/Senate congressional committee that investigated the affair. Kerry didn’t make friends easily in the Senate but he did good work.

He especially captured my attention in the 1980s when I was a teenager. Kerry fearlessly tangled with the feculent Jesse Helms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as I watched him on CSPAN. I observed how Kerry's Democratic colleagues were far more subservient with Jesse Helms and far less aggressive about uncovering the truth of Reagan's criminal foreign policy.

In today’s context it sounds absurd but in those years Kerry appeared authentic, articulate and assertive. Kerry’s investigative work during the BCCI scandal in the early nineties and his joint effort with John McCain regarding prisoners of war in Vietnam were also important contributions. As the years passed I regarded Kerry as a statesman and hoped he would run for president.

Kerry articulated a forceful critique of the Bush Administration’s failure to capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan while other Democrats remained timid. Watching Kerry on Meet the Press in the early months of 2002, I believed he was the best Democrat to challenge Bush in 2004. Alas, he opted to support Bush’s war in Iraq and my estimation of him changed.

In my opinion Kerry voted for the resolution out of expediency and not principle. I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton and Kerry’s running mate John Edwards. Consequently, I haven’t been kind to Kerry in my blog writing on this site or the community blogs.

Nevertheless, I worked my butt off for Kerry in 2004 once he earned the Democratic Party’s nomination. Kerry was flawed but at least he wasn’t Bush. I truly believed until the last days Kerry would win. Indeed, I believe Kerry really did win. What happened in Ohio was a disgrace.

But the Kerry campaign resembled an armless swimmer. He waited too long to respond to the Swift Boaters For Truth. Democrats have known since Mike Dukakis’ defeat in 1988 that failure to respond to the Republican slime machine was a recipe for disaster. Incredibly, Mike Dukakis’ former Lt. Governor didn’t heed the lesson.

This war veteran who went to Yale and could’ve opted for a draft deferment, was defined as a soft effeminate individual who “looked French.” And George Bush won re-election in spite of an approval rating under fifty percent. Even defeating Bush decisively in three debates didn’t help.

Since that campaign Kerry became a symbol of ineptitude. The gaffe about a “botched joke” towards the end of the recent mid-term election was the last straw. Thankfully, Kerry is not self-delusional and he dropped out. It’s my hope Kerry has taken a step toward becoming an elder statesman for the Democratic Party. In announcing he wasn’t running for president on the Senate floor Kerry said,

"As someone who made the mistake of voting for the resolution that gave the president the authority to go to war, I feel the weight of a personal responsibility to act, to devote time and energy to the national dialogue in an effort to limit this war and bring our participation to a conclusion."
I believe he means it. Hopefully, not running for president in 2008 will liberate Kerry to be the assertive champion of truth of his early years in the Senate and the young man who testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his return from Vietnam. In life we sometimes have to come full circle before we can move forward. Today, John Kerry took a step in the right direction.
ADDENDUM: Click here to review comments from a crosspost of the above topic on Daily Kos. One of the commenters named "fly" provided this link to the Bill Moyers 1987 documentary, "The Secrete Government: The Constitution In Crisis. "Among those interviewed in the documentary is John Kerry as a young Senator. It's been twenty years since I first watched the Moyers documentary. It's even more relevant today. Watching it again online, I can't help but resent the so called "moderates" who allowed our national security to be hijacked by insipid sociopaths.


BobsAdvice said...


Thank you for your kind words on behalf of Senator Kerry.

I believe that Senator Kerry's story is only mid-way. That he has a future in this nation beyond his current role as Senator. That his ability to grasp difficult and often critical facts about this nation is important for all of us. And that his passion for the ideals that make us American brings us home to the highest ideals of this nation.

Unlike you, I was very disappointed about his decision not to run. He has been treated badly by both the opposition and his own party members. But I believe his eloquent speech on the floor of the Senate may well have garnered him some new admiration from those who have been so hard on him recently.

For that I am thankful.

Robert Freedland
John Kerry for President 2008

Ron Southern said...

Very nice piece.