Wednesday, February 23, 2005

BKBA - The Re-Awakening of Young John Kerry

(Throwback blog...)

October 22, 2004

The Re-Awakening of Young John Kerry

I recently realized I liked John Kerry, after realizing that I wasn't supposed to. On television he seemed verbose, and yes, a flip-flopper, as the soundbite evidence was compelling. And sure, he did 20 years in the Senate, but could he speak to the common man? Compared to President Bush's strong binary clarity, it was embarrassing to hear Kerry's nuances disappear into incoherence. He also seemed to promise to do everything the same as Bush, except "better". I wondered: how the heck did this guy get out of the Primaries?

I recently watched a young Lt. Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and was shocked by his calm confidence in speaking truth to power. A 27-year old with three Purple Hearts, he knew he wasn't going back to Vietnam, and yet he unselfishly sabotaged his long-desired political career for one purpose: to save the lives of American soldiers. No matter what you think of his position you cannot fault his passion, nor the passion he inspired in his men. Kerry lead them to defy the Nixon White House, winning veterans the victory of visibility they deserved, and a voice to explain the real human cost of going to war the country needed to hear, and one still relevant today.

So, who is John Kerry?

Today, we see a man who’s been wading through the Senate-sludge of passing complex legislation, with age and bi-partisan bridge-building having softened his youthful self-righteousness, as he learned to compromise with Republicans. He's a logical extension of himself as a young man, and easy target for critics: thoughtful begat ponderous; eloquent begat rambling; concerned begat "liberal"; and so on. Still, as a child of privilege and millionaire lawyer with a billionaire wife, he didn't have to commit to a life of public service, so he probably really wanted to. But, I wondered: where is the man who bravely served in, and then bravely condemned, a war that’s now universally recognized as a mistake? Is he beholden to special interest groups? And how exactly does one bribe a billionaire?

In surviving his Senate seat by serving conservatives tax-cuts and liberals social programs, Kerry is now an extremely political animal, careful with words and deeds, responsive to his electorate, and infuriating his most liberal supporters, who decry his voting for the war despite 70% of the country then supporting it. Contrasted with President Bush's private and public career of power unchecked by the need to compromise, and you can see how the history of each man contributes to their current personalities. Bush is obviously more self-assured quicker, relying on his famous instincts; Kerry is obviously more reflective, reviewing solutions before taking action. This close to the election it's a public wash, as both men trade carefully researched barbs for the widest spectrum of soundbites. But the broader question remains: who would make a better President and Commander-In-Chief?

Unbelievably, this may also be a simple question of what you prefer: war or peace? We know Kerry has a historic aversion to war, and as President he can’t betray his youthful feelings on Vietnam or government honesty about war as a last-resort, without suffering brutal public repercussions. We also know Bush says the country must "stay on the offensive to win the war on terror", and with the all-volunteer army exhausted by Iraq and growing slower than expected, plus many countries supporting terror and stockpiling WMD's, the only possible way to stay on the offensive is by using a draft.

An older and wiser John Kerry has put himself under the biggest spotlight in the world, and thus in the prison of his younger and brasher public opinions. He knows intimately the price of war, the options for peace that were ignored in 1971, and the ones being ignored today. He has been leading and fighting all his life, surviving both Vietnam and his reputation as a radical protestor to become a highly unlikely candidate for President. If America really needs to fight, he's had the years of practical military and political experience to win. He's now come full-circle, once again caught in the middle of war the world condemns as a mistake, and with a greater obligation to voice his opinion. One has to believe that if elected President, a young John Kerry will re-awaken, and on the grandest stage in the world resume his lifelong mandate: win the war when necessary, but whenever possible, win the peace.


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