Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 2004/ 16 Kislev 5765
Let's put our hands together for Kerry no, really
All Americans with an interest in government and politics owe a round of applause to John Kerry.
Not even a month has elapsed since Kerry's narrow electoral loss, and rather than sulking at one of his wife's vacation resorts, the Massachusetts senator has returned to public life with a bang, criticizing the Bush administration and conservative media with as much bravado as he did in the waning days of his presidential campaign. This is not a facetious compliment: I thought Kerry was a disastrous choice on Nov. 2, with his class warfare-based domestic platform and especially his apparent incomprehension of global warfare.
But at least he's not a hypocrite. The dichotomy presented last week of Kerry's blistering email to supporters and the blarney-filled dedication of Bill Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock was appalling. Just one day after Presidents Bush (current and former), Clinton and Carter took turns toasting each other and the majestic ideals of democracy that transcend differences between Republicans and Democrats, Kerry attacked the man who defeated him. Obviously, the Senator wants to keep his 2008 options open, but his dislike of Bush is real.
Kerry wrote, just two weeks after a polite concession speech, "Despite the words of cooperation and moderate-sounding promises, this administration is planning a right-wing assault on values and [the] ideals we hold most deeply… This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles. It is a time to stand firm." He added this broadside, not included in The Washington Post's Nov. 20 article about the email (but not surprisingly highlighted in a Nov. 19 online Fox News story): "I want to thank you [his supporters] personally for what you did in the election you rewrote the book on grassroots politics, taking control of campaigns away from big donors. No campaign will ever be the same. You moved voters, helped hold George Bush accountable, and countered the attacks from big news organizations such as Fox, Sinclair Broadcasting, and conservative talk radio."
Kerry's message is pure demagoguery, but voters who can't stand Bush must have lapped up those words. Kerry's not fooling anyone with his baloney about eliminating "big donors" has he forgotten George Soros already? and the GOP's "grassroots" effort was more successful than the Democrats', but let that slide. The importance of his combative stance is that politics shouldn't be friendly, not when there are issues that Americans deeply disagree about.
The party out of power ought to be contentious. So when Kerry and his compatriots complain about Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, I say what about The New York Times, CBS, CNN and The Sun, just to name a few left-leaning media outlets.
This is a healthy, if acrimonious, debate that should continue.
The presidential lovefest in Little Rock on Nov. 18, by comparison, was nauseating. This isn't to say that political rivals need to be excessively nasty, and certainly not at a benign event like the opening of a library, but a simple acknowledgement would suffice. Instead, President Bush, who can't stand Bill Clinton, was effusive in praising his predecessor. "President Bill Clinton led our country with optimism and a great affection for the American people," Bush said. "In the White House, the whole nation witnessed his brilliance and mastery of detail, his persuasive power and his persistence. He was a tireless champion of peace in the Middle East… And in all his actions and decisions, the American people sensed a deep empathy for the poor and the powerless."
Talking about laying it on thick. Bush's criticism of Clinton's presidential tenure is well-documented, ranging from the coddling of Arafat to the inattention paid to Osama bin Laden, even after numerous terrorist attacks, to a wandering domestic policy.
Jimmy Carter was nearly Bush's match in his unctuous remarks. Carter, who publicly feuded with Clinton in the 1990s and was considered a meddlesome pest by the administration, has become even more shrill in his pronounced criticism of George W. Bush, not only about Iraq but virtually every aspect of the President's agenda. Nevertheless, he heartily congratulated Bush on his reelection and then shined up former President Bush, saying: "I also want to express my personal admiration for a contemporary of mine, former President Bush, who has had a career of service to this country that is almost unmatched in history: as a solider, a legislator, a diplomat, an administrator, vice president, and president. And he still continues to serve our nation for which I, and I know all of you, are very grateful."
Absolutely, Jimmy, I'm sure all the Hollywood celebrities and former Clinton officials who were in attendance that day, hold the first President Bush in very high esteem.
And Clinton himself, besotted by the occasion, was every bit the equal of his fellow fraternity members. Commenting on the election, he related a conversation with a friend in which he said, "You know, am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George Bush and John Kerry, who believes they're both good people, who both love our country and they just see the world differently?"
What hooey. Clinton probably didn't want Kerry to win, since that would clog up Hillary's plans, but he doesn't like Bush, even if he respects his political skills.
I'll take Kerry's indignation, as distasteful as it is to me ideologically, any day.
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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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© 2002, Russ Smith