Friday, August 13, 2004

Unbelievable, yes, an unethical mess; Nonetheless no one's very contrite

Well. That wasn't unexpected, I guess. John Kerry seems still not to have grasped the essential difference between real life and a movie - in real life, you can't just go back and rewrite a key scene because it tested badly in focus groups. That's fairly shameless spin, as spin goes, and awfully convenient. If the supposed secret mission to Cambodia in January can be concretely disproved, will the date change again? This seems to be fairly indicative of a key and somewhat creepy aspect to the Kerry character - he's incapable of admitting to being wrong. But the campaign, instead, has missed another opportunity: Imagine if Kerry apologized. "Yes, I did lie about being in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. I was never in Cambodia. Like many veterans throughout history, I inflated my service record to make myself appear more heroic than was actually the case - and what's worse, I didn't do it to cadge free drinks at a bar or impress my grandchildren, but to lend myself added credence in a nascent political career. I am deeply sorry for this shameful braggadocio, and wish to apologize to all those I served alongside in Vietnam, for tarnishing their good names with the original lie as well as my campaign staff's attempts to embarass and discredit them on standing firm in upholding the truth. Now let us speak no more of what happened thirty years ago, in a confused and confusing war, and instead concentrate on the real and chillingly immediate issue: the war we fight today against an implacable and murderous foe, who would see all Americans dead given the slightest opportunity." Of course, he could never say that; too much time and effort has been sunk into building the campaign's Vietnam mythos. To admit that Kerry's veterancy was inflated for political gain (and is rightly a non-issue in the here and now) would return the Democrats to square one, and without a lot of screen time to start building a new persona until the debates. But imagine if he did. I'd have a lot more respect for him, anyway; it would prove a real seriousness on the part of the Democratic Party, rather than cynical strategizing to rely on the mere perception of seriousness. As Instapundit notes, the NYT and WaPo still haven't picked up on this story, and seem instead to be holding out for the official campaign rebuttal before they're willing to raise the issue at all. Fine; with the latest change to the narrative, barring the arrival of a new witness who can disprove the new details, the game is now stalemated. But I think the Kerry campaign must understand by now that the damage is already done; the candidate has been effectively exposed as a self-aggrandizing braggart with a faulty memory for somewhat important details. If nothing else, perhaps it'll discourage him from relying so heavily on his service record for the rest of the campaign.

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