WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Readers of this column will remember, as apparently political scientists and pundits have not, that in the rancorous months before the Democratic primaries got underway, I identified that one dynamic new political constituency that would decide the winner.
In years gone by, the dynamic constituency was the youth vote. And there was the year of the women's vote. This year as we watched Dr. Howard Dean gain the role of frontrunner, the veins in his neck bursting, his face an angry gnarl of sneers and grimaces, it became obvious that the dynamic new force in the Democratic primary was the moron vote. That is to say the angry, stupid, political neurotic who has proceeded into middle age convinced that the world is against him-her.
These indignant morons saw Dr. Howard Dean tear off his suit coat, roll up his sleeves and approach the microphone as though he were about to chew on it, and they beheld Deliverance -- Deliverance from all the woe and perfidy that has held them back, given them lower-back pain, caused the seat of their pants to split the night they attended the professional wrestling match and brought George W. Bush to the throne.
Of course, Dr. Howard Dean's ascendancy could not last. His anger was directed too widely. He threatened the Democratic hierarchy and even Terence McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and winner of three purple hearts, six silver stars and the Campfire Girls' Award for a Clean Tent. Suddenly, materials were being leaked from Dr. Howard Dean's past, the most significant being his mid-1990s letter to President Bill Clinton. That letter along with other leaked materials fatally weakened the frontrunner's hold on the moron vote.
What is significant about that letter is that it clearly revealed the origin of all the other leaked materials -- to wit, the Clintons. They -- through their fund raising, their popularity with the Democratic rank and file, and their hand-picked chairman, the highly decorated war hero McAuliffe -- control the party. Dr. Howard Dean's reckless claims to "clean house" alarmed them. They recognized that with the new money and new dopes he was bringing into the party, he posed a threat to Hillary's presidential ambitions. Hence all those leaks emanating from Clinton servitors, particularly from the camp of Gen. Wesley Clark, the Clintons' stalking horse and yet another Democratic war hero.
Now Sen. John Pierre Kerry is the frontrunner, and he has developed a fine ploy for corralling the moron vote. He and McAuliffe have stirred up this controversy about how frequently the president attended National Guard meetings three decades ago. And they have transformed their entire party into the most heroic congeries of patriots and GI Joes ever seen on earth. The morons are entranced.
When Kerry first decided to make an issue of his Vietnam service surely there must have been a cautious advisor around to remind him of all the luridly compromising evidence on his record, evidence showing him to be a deeply flawed war hero. Anyone who remembers young John Kerry's prominence in antiwar and anti-American activities would caution him against making an issue of the easygoing George W. Bush's past. Yet Kerry is playing to the moron vote. He knows they need to be enflamed. Thus he has bemanured the military record of a guy who flew F-102s and whose flight instructor ranked him "in the top 5 percent of pilots I knew." Retired Col. Maurice H. Udell also ranked the president in the top 1 percent in the "thinking department."
Will the evidence that the president served dutifully and was discharged honorably damage Kerry's candidacy? It certainly will not hurt him with the moron vote. It will not even hurt him if his public record on Vietnam and national security in general becomes an issue. In 1971, this antiwar veteran told Congress that our Army in Vietnam was committing "war crimes on a day-to-day basis" that included rape, torture and murder "reminiscent of Genghis Khan." Now he calls Vietnam veterans his "band of brothers." Nor will Kerry be hurt by his 1992 statement that "we do not need to divide America over who served and how" in Vietnam. (He was defending Bill Clinton, a draft-dodger.)
The moron vote is unmoved by evidence. What might hurt Kerry is if the Republicans demand of him what the Democrats have demanded of President Bush, a review of his government records. The review of the president's records reveals that he was paid for all his Texas Air National Guard Service pursuant to his honorable discharge. Now, the Democrats want to see his IRS records from that period.
Fine, but it is time for the Republicans to demand public disclosure of Kerry's government records -- whether held by the military, the FBI or intelligence services -- with respect to his activities in the antiwar movement and for that matter with respect to his active duty. He brought the matter up, after all.