Blogs > Cliopatria > Those Kerry Ads

Aug 11, 2004 12:42 pm

Those Kerry Ads

As once there was a public dispute over JFKennedy's war record in the Pacific, so now there is a fight over JFKerry's record in Vietnam. Click here to read a pro-Kerry statement. And here for an anti-Kerry statement.

After reading the anti-Kerry statement I was tempted to think there may be more here than I at first suspected. Perhaps Kerry really did angle for a Purple Heart he didn't deserve. But how is one to know whom to believe? Douglas Brinkley's account of heroism or the critics'?

When historians in 20 or 30 years look into this perhaps we'll get the truth--or some semblance of the truth. But don't bet on it. Historians are still arguing about JFK's war record, thanks mainly to Garry Wills, who argued in a book about Kennedy myths that Kennedy, though obviously brave, had apparently let his little PT 109 boat get run over by a lumbering ship through malfeasance.

Maureen Dowd on Meet the Press this past Sunday said it is distasteful to be arguing about Kerry's war record. She's right. A mature democracy shouldn't. What a President Kerry would do in office is more important than what he did 30 years ago. The Republicans argue that it was Kerry who made this page out of history relevant by running on his war record. And they're right about that. But questioning his integrity seems to me beyond the pale.

Folks: this is no way to run a democracy.

But alas it is the way we have run ours ever since the masses won the right to vote. Go back to the election of 1840, the first to feature the kind of ugly politics common to systems of mass suffrage. William Henry Harrison had no business running for president. He was too old and too feeble. But he had that war record from 30 years ago. So the Whigs ran him. The Democrats had run a war hero (Andy Jackson) and won and now the Whigs would run theirs--and win.

This is in other words all about image. It's about manipulating the public by selling a candidate as a war hero and manipulating the public by trashing his record as a hero. What it all has to do with the war on terrorism, healthcare, the creation of jobs, looming budget deficits, or any of our other issues facing the country is impossible to determine. But you can bet it is what we'll be talking about until election day because Kerry's war record makes him an attractive candidate. And Bush isn't a war hero .... making him an _______. You fill in the blank.

So let the yakking begin.

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