…to become the official blog of the unofficial John Kerry Defense Committee (been there, done that - see the archives), but when this kind of stuff comes up, well, somebody's gotta say something. Steve Clemons writes
Senate Foreign Relations Committee incoming Chairman and just declared presidential candidate Joseph Biden is avoiding John Kerry's political problem and not planning to say "I voted for it before I voted against it" by opposing the President's plan to surge troop levels in Iraq on the front end.
Of course, the situation Joe Biden finds himself in isn't really analogous to the situation that led to the infamous Kerry quotation. After all, Joe was for the war, or the use of force authorization, at least, before he was against the escalation. There's nothing contradictory there, of course, because they are two very different issues arising at two very different times. Invoking the Kerry story here is completely gratuitous, a cheap dig that does nothing to illuminate Biden's tough stance against a so-called American 'surge' in Iraq.
Worse, perhaps, is the continued implication that John Kerry said or did something wrong when he made the original remark. By now, many, perhaps most, folks have completely lost track of why and where Kerry would have said something like that in the first place. It's become imbedded in the general consciousness as a key piece of evidence in Karl Rove's '04 flip-flop spin.
In order to make it fit his story line, not only did Rove have to extract the line from its context, he had to count on the willingness of a compliant press and punditry to forget that context as well. As usual, he had no trouble getting their cooperation. Some of us remember, though, and refuse to let the nonsense go unchallenged.
When Kerry was asked by an attendee at a town hall style appearance why he, a consistent supporter of our military forces, would have voted against a defense appropriation, he pointed out that he had, in fact, voted for the authorization. When the Republicans stripped the funding mechanism (a roll back of tax cuts for high incomes) out of the bill and simply piled the costs onto the birth tax that future generations will inherit as a legacy of Bush's war, Kerry, as a matter of principle, voted against the amended appropriation. His answer made sense to the town hall audience, but it was edited by the Bush campaign and their media allies to make it sound as though Kerry didn't know which side of the issue he was on.
Sadly, may of Kerry's ostensible allies bought the spin and it's become widely accepted as a gaffe, something Kerry should never have said in the first place. The problem with that way of thinking is that if we're going to ask our candidates, any of our candidates, to make sure that they never say anything that can be truncated, extracted or otherwise distorted by their opponents, well, we're going to have to ask them never to say much of anything at all, aren't we?
The reason we remember the line at all is because the Republicans lied about what John Kerry meant and their lie was reported as Kerry's mistake. It will happen to our next nominee, whoever that might be, and the one after that and every one until they're called on it every time they do it.
I generally consider Steve Clemmons a cut above the journalistic pack, but he's done not only John Kerry but his readers, our democracy and my Party a disservice by perpetuating this bit of Rovian spin.