Kerryisms

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 01, 2004 12:00 AM

Ever since 2000, Slate has poked fun at George W. Bush for his "torture" of the English language, saying its "Bushisms" collection "captures the president's ignorance, incuriosity, laziness and thoughtlessness expressed in frequent gaffes."

Democrats, meanwhile, say they have a candidate who speaks more clearly than Bush.

Does he?

"Now that Democrats have settled on a presumptive presidential nominee," Slate's editors write, "it's time to cast a cold eye on the pomposity and evasiveness of John Kerry."

They even explain "how to read a Kerryism," presenting one new caveat each day (or until such time the likely Democratic presidential nominee stops trying to explain his policies).

A few of our favorite Kerryisms:

-"I would never reduce the happiness of any two people. I've been to a commitment ceremony," he said when asked whether he'd attend a homosexual "wedding" if invited by someone close to him.

-"Even the generals in Iraq said the money in that bill had no impact on their ability to continue to fight. We had money all the way, and you know that we would have sat down at a table, we (would) have worked out exactly how we were going to do this intelligently, and we would have had a better bill," he said when asked by NBC's Tim Russert if he would vote a second time against a bill to provide additional money for U.S. troops.

-"I would be against that. I don't think we need it. (The president ought to) reduce the overexposure of America's commitments. A proper approach to the Korean Peninsula, for instance, should include the deployment of troops, the unresolved issues of the 1950s, and could result in a reduction of American presence," he said when asked whether the over-extension of U.S. troops around the world will ultimately lead to the reinstitution of the draft.

-"I will not appoint somebody who's about to undo Roe v. Wade. I've said that before. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't be prepared to appoint somebody who has a different point of view. I've already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge (Antonin) Scalia." (A self-explanatory comment, we think.)

TAGGART'S TREE

Rep. Joe Taggart of Kansas, his family at his side, thought he'd picked out the best spot on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol to plant a pin oak in his honor in 1916.

Surely the congressman, who died in 1938 at 71, never thought his tree would have to be chopped down years later to make way for an underground U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (not to mention a large bunker to keep members sheltered from terrorists).

So, recently, U.S. Capitol senior landscape architect and horticulturist Matthew Evans, along with Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Ka.) grabbed a shovel and planted a new pin oak memorializing Taggart, who upon leaving Congress at the start of World War I joined the quartermaster corps of the Army. After the war ended, he became a prosecuting attorney and judge.

The young tree, donated by the Kansas Society of Washington, D.C., is now taking root on the east grounds of the Capitol near Independence Avenue Southeast.

ALL GAS

"While I did not hold high hopes for the Bush administration in general, I certainly thought that with two former oil executives running the country, the one thing they could get right would be the supply of affordable gasoline." - Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) referring to former Texas oil men George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

HOMELAND DEFENSE

A Canadian journalist for the London Observer dyed his hair black, obtained a fake Iraqi ID, and left for Fallujah in the back seat of an Iraqi doctor's car.

Patrick Graham pretended to be the doctor's mentally ill brother, able only to mutter his pretend Iraqi name should anybody ask. Several did, sometimes at gunpoint.

It was "like slipping into a shark tank," Graham writes in a Harper's article,"Beyond Fallujah: A year with the Iraqi resistance."

A resistance made up not of foreign fighters or al Qaeda terrorists. The Iraqis he lived among don't care for Osama bin Laden. As one observed, Osama is "not a good Muslim." They dislike Saddam Hussein even more, as all "good" Muslims should "hate" him.

So why are these "holy" Iraqis battling - and frequently killing - American troops?

"When we see the U.S. soldiers in our cities with guns, it is a challenge to us," says an Iraqi resistance fighter named Mohammed, a well-spoken member of his community and "a bit of a Texan," writes Graham, who once was invited into Iraqi homes and family celebrations.

"America wants to show its power, to be a cowboy," Mohammed says. "Bush wants to win the next election - that is why he is lying to the American people saying the resistance is al Qaeda. ... I don't know a lot about political relations in the world, but if you look at history - Vietnam, Iraq itself, Egypt and Algeria - countries always rebel against occupation.

"The world must know that this is an honorable resistance and has nothing to do with the old regime," he says. "Even if Saddam Hussein dies, we will continue to fight to throw out the American forces. We take our power from our history, not from one person."

Later, the Canadian found himself standing beside Mohammed as he prepared for five separate attacks against U.S. targets.

"Did you see the 'Braveheart?'" (he Iraqi asked of the Mel Gibson movie. "(The Scottish) throw out the British and the corrupt nobles. It is about hope. The people in the movie want freedom, and so do we."

BENCHWARMER

"I just don't think I've heard too many folks, if any, point out that he really hasn't stood out in the Senate," says Capitol Strategies PR president Cheri Jacobus, who provides us her timely take on the Senate accomplishments, whatever they may be, of likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry.

"There's so much focus on his military service, but what about his Senate service?" she asks.

So Jacobus, a Capitol Hill veteran who's orchestrated numerous Republican congressional campaigns, undertook two decades' worth of legislative research to come up with a title she considers befitting of Kerry: "The Benchwarmer from Massachusetts."

"As kids, when my siblings and I were torn between visions of greatness and fear of failure, my father would tell us that in sports and in life, 'The only way to avoid making mistakes is to stay on the bench and never get in the game,'" she says.

Kerry, according to the campaign strategist, is in desperate need of a "sit-down" with her dad.

"In his nearly two decades as a U.S. senator, John Kerry has not stood out as a leader on any key issue," Jacobus finds. "There are pieces of landmark legislation - some we like and some we don't like, but at least we know about them - from senators who ... left their mark because they left the bench and got in the game.

"So where is the legislative legacy of Sen. John Kerry?" she wonders. "Absent are the stories of the pain, the glory, the blood, sweat and tears from a Sen. Kerry dedicated to an issue close to his heart that he believed in with every cell of his being. Lore of this nature is Washington's version of the stories of sports legends."

LIBERAL LEGIONS

We wrote last week that a majority of newspapermen and broadcasters who cover the national beat in Washington "are more liberal, and far less conservative, than the general public."

Findings by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press revealed that the Washington press corps is "notably different from the general public in their ideology and attitudes toward political and social issues," with 34 percent labeling themselves "liberals."

At the same time, only 7 percent described themselves as "conservatives," compared with a third of all Americans.

Curious how today's breed of reporter stacks up against those of past decades, we dusted off a 1981 survey conducted by S. Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman published in that same year's October/November issue of Public Opinion.

The two pollsters interviewed 240 of this country's most influential reporters, editors and bureau chiefs. The findings:

In the 1964 presidential race, reporters voted for the Democratic candidate by a margin of 15 to 1. In the 1972 and 1976 presidential contests, they voted Democratic by more than 4 to 1.

In addition, 90 percent of the reporters said they were "pro-abortion" (changed in later years to read "pro-choice"); 86 percent said they seldom, if ever, attended religious services (only half claimed any religious affiliation); and 80 percent said they favored strong affirmative action.

That same year, a follow-up poll was conducted among 28 candidates for master's degrees at the Columbia School of Journalism to see whether the liberal trend might continue in the fourth estate. Those results, published in the December 1982 issue of the Washington Journalism Review, help explain the political stripes of reporters today. A whopping 85 percent of grads described themselves as liberal. Only 4 percent voted for Reagan in 1980, 59 percent voted for Carter, and 29 percent for John Anderson.