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Jewish World Review May 10, 2004/ 19 Iyar, 5764

Mark Steyn

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It takes a big man to blame everyone around him

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John Kerry said something amazing the other day. He was talking to the Wall Street Journal and was asked about his many attacks on ''Benedict Arnold CEOs'' — for example: ''We will repeal every single benefit, every single loophole, every single reward for any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation that take American jobs overseas and stick you with the bill.'' (Kerry in Virginia, Feb. 10)

Senator Flippy has now decided this line is nonoperative. As he told the chaps at the Journal, ''You know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said 'Look, that's not what I'm saying.' Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. I was referring to the people who take advantage of noneconomic transactions purely for tax purposes — sham transactions — and give up American citizenship. That's a Benedict Arnold. You give up your American citizenship but you want to continue to do business.''

Got that? When Kerry talks about ''any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation that takes American jobs overseas,'' he's not referring to someone who ''takes jobs overseas.'' Perish the thought! He's all in favor of taking jobs overseas. It wasn't him who attacked all those ''Benedict Arnold CEOs,'' just his ''overzealous speechwriters.'' And the minute he discovered it was going on, he called them to say, ''Look, that's not what I'm saying.''

I mean, OK, it was what he was saying in the narrow technical sense of words emerging from between his lips, day after day, night after night, all through primary season. I had a quick rummage through the Nexis database, and found a mere 746 citations for Kerry and the expression ''Benedict Arnold.'' I myself have personally been present on three occasions when he attacked ''Benedict Arnold CEOs'' who ''take jobs overseas,'' and on two of them he didn't have a TelePrompTer or even a script. He just stood in front of us and the words came out of his mouth, almost as if they were what he himself believed.

Happily, he's now explained to us that what he was saying is not what he was saying. He's like one of those sitcom actresses — Cybill Shepherd, say — who complain the writers didn't get her character right until the second season. But now Johnnifer Kerriston has got his character down pat. Although we all left those New Hampshire campaign rallies with the impression that ''Benedict Arnold'' was a term he reserved for CEOs who ''take jobs overseas,'' it's clear it now refers to CEOs who ''give up American citizenship.'' This is apparently a huge problem. Because of tax loopholes, thousands of CEOs find it advantageous to take out Mexican citizenship, swim back to America and work as ''undocumented executives.''


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Well, it's good to know the senator has finally found a way to neutralize the flip-flop question. Many of us assumed that, when he was for the war and then he was against it and then he was for it again, that he kept changing his mind. But now it's possible he was just being entirely consistent — he's always been for it, or against it, it's just that his ''overzealous speechwriters'' kept putting the wrong words in his mouth.

Boy, those Benedict Arnold speechwriters who take the hard-earned money of decent, honest American politicians and salt it away in their Cayman Islands bank accounts, there oughta be a law against it. Given their uncanny ability to make Kerry say what he doesn't mean at six campaign stops a day, is it possible these overzealous speechwriters are part of the ''Republican attack machine''?

Or is this a typically shrewd move by the Kerry campaign? Democratic operatives have long dismissed the moron Bush as incapable of stringing two words together without puppetmaster Dick Cheney shoving his arm up the back of the coat. By announcing that he too is merely a brainless stooge reading out whatever's put in front of him, the senator could seriously cut into Bush's base in key swing states. It takes a smart guy like Kerry to position himself as such a dummy. Unless, of course, it's the new speechwriters who did it for him.

Maybe that's why he (and they) did it again. Lawrence Kaplan reports in the New Republic about a meeting the senator had with Jewish leaders to assuage their concerns about his offer to dispatch Jimmy Carter or James Baker (both regarded as pro-Arab) to the Middle East. ''One of the first things Kerry did at the meeting was to blame his aides for the mention of Carter and Baker as possible envoys in his December speech,'' writes Kaplan. ''The names, Kerry said, had been inserted by mistake, and he had even asked that they be removed.''

But apparently his request to the overzealous speechwriters to remove the names was turned down. So Kerry dutifully went ahead and read out the speech complete with the mistakenly inserted names. ''There are a number of uniquely qualified Americans among whom I would consider appointing, including President Carter, former Secretary of State James Baker or, as I suggested almost two years ago, President Clinton,'' he told the bigwigs at the Council on Foreign Relations. ''And I might add, I have had conversations with both President Clinton and President Carter about their willingness to do this.'' So not only did he read out the mistakenly inserted names he'd asked to be removed from the speech but he even went ahead and met with one of the mistakes about offering him a key role he didn't want him to have.

Why would he do this? The New Republic obtained this explanation from the campaign: ''The candidate eventually did speak with Carter — but only after noticing that a draft of his speech said that he spoke with Carter.''

Those pesky speechwriters again! As Slate's Mickey Kaus mused, what's next? ''Kerry reveals he went to Vietnam after reading a draft of his autobiography that said he went to Vietnam?''

Who is John Kerry? They weren't his medals he threw away, just some non-name World War II vet he happened to bump into. Those aren't his four gas-guzzling SUVs in the drive, just ones owned by his ''family.'' They're not his words coming out of his mouth, just words wholly owned and operated by employees of a subsidiary unit of his wife's holding company, Benedict Arnold Heinz Kerry Campaign Rhetoric Inc., registered in Bermuda.

It takes a big man to blame everyone around him. Which is at last a rationale for the Kerry campaign: If you're the kind of fellow who likes blaming your underlings, at least when you're president there's no end of underlings to blame.

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

05/03/04: Don't count on Koppel for whole war story
04/28/04: Why the Palestinians are in such a state
04/26/04: Mideast instability? Bring it on
04/21/04: Stop whimpering, we're in a battle
04/19/04: Clarke apologizes, but not for everything
04/11/04: Don't let Iraq's tempest in a teacup rattle you
04/05/04: The flip-flopper hip-hopper: John Kerry gets down — and not just his poll numbers
03/25/04: We tried appeasement once before
03/16/04: The Spanish dishonored their dead
03/10/04: Beware of the fruitcakes in government
03/01/04: It's the war, stupid
02/23/04: So which would America rather have: Pretty Boy or Long Face?
02/17/04: The Default Democrat from another world
02/10/04: Kerry won't scare any of the big beasts
02/02/04: The Kerry biography: He's risen without trace
01/26/04: Mad Dr. Dean jolts Kerry campaign to life
01/21/04: Undoing the party herd
01/13/04: llIegals the political 'untouchables'
01/05/04: Don't leave Saddam trial to the 'jet set'
12/30/03: Doers and disparagers
12/23/03: Spates of denial
12/16/03: Defiant? He's a Ba'athist who won't bath
12/10/03: Rummy speaks the truth, not gobbledygook
12/02/03: War on terror can't stop with Iraq
11/24/03: It's not Vietnam and Bush is no Kennedy
11/12/03: There is a Cold War between the US and the EU
10/28/03: Muslim paranoia: Enemies made us impotent!

10/28/03:The CIA scandal is important not because it put an agent's life at risk — it didn't — but because it shows that US Intelligence is either obstructive or inept
10/08/03: Palestinian death cult
09/29/03: Bring on the capitalists
09/22/03: Here comes General Clark, his policies will follow shortly
09/17/03: Don't wait for government protection
09/11/03: Predators aren't looking for peace
09/02/03: This is Hillary's moment — You go, girl!
08/29/03: There are now calls for greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thatís the last thing the country needs
08/26/03: There's only one hyperpower — so everything is our fault
08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2004, Mark Steyn