Sen. John F. Kerry has been citing his valorous Vietnam record more often than Gen. George Patton cursed. It's a good theme for him. With Bush rounding up al-Qaida and clearing out the terrorist swamps, the greatest danger now facing the nation is that liberals could somehow return to the White House. Whenever America is threatened from outside, Republicans have a lock on the Oval Office. No matter how secure the world seems, after 9-11 you have to vote for the better man on national defense. That is always the Republican.
Moreover, as long as liberals keep loudly proclaiming that they support "the troops" – while simultaneously running sneering articles that portray the troops as coarse, semiliterate cads – a tax-and-spend Massachusetts Democrat like Kerry could finally provide them with one "troop" they really do like. (Meanwhile, for the first time ever, I find myself in favor of the war but against the troop.)
Consequently, Kerry has been aggressively brandishing his military service with the bristling connotation that if you didn't fight, you can't quarrel with him on war and peace. Kerry got into a catfight with former Vermont governor Howard Dean during the Democrats' first presidential debate in South Carolina last weekend. The high point was when Kerry snarled at Dean, "I don't need any lectures in courage from Howard Dean." If John Kerry had a dollar for every time he bragged about serving in Vietnam – oh wait, he does.
Though Kerry makes liberal ladies' bosoms heave with his self-advertisements about his Vietnam experience, the Democrats might not want to let Kerry pursue this particular line of argument. According to Thomas Ricks' bookMaking the Corps, the vast majority of officers currently serving in the military are conservative Republicans – "largely comfortable with the views of Rush Limbaugh."
Citing a series of studies expressing alarm at what they viewed as a disquieting trend, Ricks says that "open identification with the Republican Party is becoming the norm – even, suggests former Army Maj. Dana Isaacoff, part of the implicit definition of being a member of the officer corps." Why the officer corps would take a dim view of a party that has spent the last three decades systematically trying to emasculate the military in pursuit of every conceivable social cause is anybody's guess. Still, there it is. Assuming the country has not already realized it by then, by Kerry's own logic, in a few years only right-wing Republicans will be eligible for the presidency.
But that's the Democrats' problem. For now, there are other more urgent implications to Kerry's argument.
As long as we're going to get self-righteous, why is John Kerry allowed to have an opinion about taxes? He has spent his entire life marrying a succession of heiresses and living off the fortunes amassed by other men. It must be the luck of the pseudo-Irish. How can Kerry claim to understand the anguish of people who pay high taxes? What does this pompous, whining, morally superior, mincing habitue of Boston drawing rooms know about confiscatory taxes on hard-earned money? (Not that his nuptial path to wealth is not also hard-earned.)
If Kerry doesn't need to be lectured on the military by Howard Dean, do the rest of us need to be lectured by this sponge on how much we should be willing to pay in taxes? What is this male Anna Nicole Smith's expertise in average people paying taxes? I don't have a rich wife supporting me. And I don't look French.
There was a firestorm of indignation when an unnamed Bush adviser recently remarked to the New York Times that Kerry "looks French." Up until five minutes ago, the entire Kerry family used adjectives like "European" as statements of the highest praise.
Kerry's sister cited her brother's cultured refinement in a 1994 profile of Kerry in the Rhode Islander Magazine by saying: "Our parents felt deeply that we needed to absorb the culture and know the Europeans as friends." In his 1996 Senate campaign, reporters were dazzled and awed when Kerry responded to a Canadian reporter in French, snootily noting that Kerry's French was much better than his opponent's.
In a profile of Kerry's current heiress wife, Teresa Heinz, in the upcoming issue
Even after Kerry was attacked for looking French, Heinz thought the best course would be to defend her husband by haughtily snipping that the Bush aides "probably don't even speak French." Take that, you boorish Americans! If the Democrats nominate Kerry, Bush should take the high road and pledge not to raise the issue of his opponent looking French. But on the basis of Kerry's own logic, the question of his fitness to discuss taxes while living off rich women is still on the table.