John Kerry is polling at 56% in Michigan, with Dean at 9% and Edwards at 7%. This substantial lead and the general genuflection toward Kerry as the Democratic nominee, combined with his continual reminders that he is a part of a "band of brothers" crafted by their Vietnam experience should begin to focus our minds on who John Kerry is, what he has done, and what his purposes have been, and whether or not hey have chnaged over time. This examination will not be necessarily in Kerry’s interest, I’ll wager. As the Democratic primary campaign crawls on and ends up handing the nomination to Kerry, a couple of things have become clear.
First, striking though it may seem, his nomination may be made possible because the Democrats (at least unconsciously) realize that their party has to show its serious side regarding national security. They don’t like to admit it, but we are in a war. Kerry was in Vietnam and served honorably. Many have stated over the years that the Democrat Bill Clinton got elected and re-elected (the first Demo to do so since FDR) only because the Cold War was over, and the voters’ mistrust of Demos on foreign policy over the previous decades could be placed in a jar. That is why Christopher Hitchins (not exactly a conservative) could say of the Clinton presidency, "It was a brief sexual interlude between two Bushes." Crude, but revealing. Now things are serious and they need someone with some military credentials who will have some authority to attack Bush’s foreign policy and the way he wages war. It was going to be Clark, but it turns out to be Kerry. Oddly, the Democrats now think that Bush can be attacked as, well, a kind of draft dodger, because he only served in the National Guard.
Second, because Kerry is the choice. Vietnam will be rewound and re-played.
Kerry is a Vietnam vet who, immediately returning to the U.S., became an anti-war spokesman. He wasn’t attacking only American policy in Vietnam, however, his was a full blown attack on the barbaric and uncivilized U.S. military, and by extension, America itself. As William F. Buckley notes in a speech on John Kerry he delivered at West Point in 1971 (that’s right, 1971), that Kerry talked about Vietnam as the place and symbol "Where America finally turned." Buckley reflects on the meaning of "turned." This is not to Kerry’s advantage, and it will be replayed many times during this campaign year, even though he will try to re-interpret it and change its meaning. Kerry will fail. The "band of brothers" he claims to represent is not the band of brothers we hear in Henry V where the king inspires his men--"we happy few"--to sacrifice and risk on behalf of victory against a foe that greatly outnumbers them, but rather a band of brothers that is defined by a kind of shared misery in the fight without understanding why they fought. And that is the crux of the matter and this will be revealed over time, and the real band of brothers will have something to say about this during the campaign, but for now they are allowing Kerry to slowly dig his own political grave. See, Mac Owens--a member of the real band of brothers--on this theme.
So, by the end of the campaign we will re-live Vietnam and its meaning--as we did not do when Bill Clinton was running and acting the president--because, well, he only dodged the draft during Vietnam and ran against, and defeated, a hero from World War II, but it didn’t matter because nothing important was going to happen under his watch. Things are different now, large things are happening in the world, both the preservation of freedom and honor are at stake, and the story that the good man will end up teaching his sons, will not be the story that John Kerry will want to hear. Yet, it will be told, and our brothers will tell it. Their names and their cause is what will be remembered, not John Kerrys assault on America.