Ride The Donkey

Posted on July 29, 2004


I never imagined it would come to this; the Democratic presidential candidate is such a mess that Republicans can air extended clips of his interviews, in context, with questions and responses included, and make him look bad to progressives! An 11 minute spot posted on the Republican Party website, shows the history of Kerry’s public pronouncements on Iraq, from 1998 to 2003 (I actually saw this via the Washington Post website–you should check it out if the link’s still alive. Look for the the column entitled “Confronting the Iraq Issue, with a link that simply says ‘here’) . Incredibly, Kerry is shown on This Week (2/22/98) in 1998 admonishing the Clinton administration for only bombing Iraq and not mounting a full invasion of the country. Kerry proudly boasts that he is not only “ahead” of the current presidential administration in this opinion, but also the American public. This was not just a one-time misstep or hyperbole; Kerry is quoted suggesting the use of ground troops in numerous articles from that period. In the Boston Globe, the next day, 2/23/98, Kerry again advocated invasion:

“I think there is a disconnect between the depth of the threat that Saddam Hussein presents to the world, and what we are at the moment talking about doing…we will not eliminate the problem for ourselves or for the rest of the world with a bombing attack,”

And again he implied that he would carry out this policy over the objections of the general public, congress and the senate, again repeating his line that his strategy put him,

“way ahead of the commander in chief, and I’m probably way ahead of my colleagues, and certainly of much of the country. But I believe this.”

Kerry was no fan of diplomacy at the time insisting that whatever action was taken on Iraq at the time it should include a commitment to “oust Saddam” (Knight-Tribune News Service 2/23/98). Kerry’s goal, long before Bush Jr. ever publically mentioned Iraq, was regime change.

In the months following 9/11, Kerry is shown publically goading President Bush into invading Iraq, “no matter what the evidence is about September 11” (on the O’Reilly Factor 12/11/01). On Hardball 2/5/02, Kerry states that a diplomatic engagement on Iraq was necessary, but only to legitimate an inevitable US invasion. On Face the Nation 9/15/02, Kerry argues, with John McCain, that Saddam is so dangerous the US should invade regardless of the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

Then, of course, Howard Dean comes along, revealing the untapped reservoir of popular resentment against the war within the Democratic constituency and Kerry begins changing his tune. Again, the most remarkable fact revealed here is that Republicans can make the anti-war candidate look bad to those opposing the war.

The Democratic Party has truly hit one of its lowest points in history. If you’re a cynic, you might want to look at the entire battle over the Democratic nomination, in hindsight, in this way:

1. The Democratic Party supports the war

2. They see wildcard Dean gaining momentum by opposing it

3. The Democrat establishment, represented by Kerry, opposes the war to steal Dean’s thunder

4. Kerry and Democrats then quietly go back to supporting the war once Kerry is the only option.

5. Yuck.

Speaking of hypocrisy, Al Sharpton wins the Keeping-Your-Head-up-in a-Sea-of-Bullshit award for his amazing speech last night at the convention. Perhaps the only politician to realize that most people, particularly African-Americans and other of-color groups, have gotten the shaft ( a somewhat thinner shaft than under Republicans) in previous Democratic regimes, Sharpton artfully walked a tightrope between calling the Party to task and expressing support for Kerry. Referring to George W. Bush’s adress to the Urban League last week, where Bush had the temerity to chide Democrats for ignoring black needs and called the Republican party, ‘the party of Lincoln’, Sharpton responds:

You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule.

That’s where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres.

We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.

Referring to African-American support of the Democrats (and perhaps, specifically, of Kerry) as riding “this donkey” is perhaps the most honest sentence uttered at the Boston Fleet Center this week. (read the transcript here, though the impact of Sharpton’s speech was felt through an incredibly passionate and moving delivery. Say what you want about that man, he is probably the only politician today working without a teleprompter.)

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