- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

For Howard Dean’s Iowa concession speech, the decibel level was off the meter but the content was unexceptional — a list of states of the Union, in no particular order, but still reasonably accurate.

For his New Hampshire concession speech, the decibel level was much reduced but the content was a lot wackier. As Gov. Dean told his dwindling army of groupies:

“The biggest loss that we’ve suffered in this country since George Bush has been president is our loss of our sense of community.”

Really? The loss of “our sense of community” is a bigger loss than, say, the loss of 3,000 civilians?

Howard Dean was speaking from a script and, after the previous week’s debacle, you can bet his remarks were examined beforehand by his various campaign gurus. And apparently not one of them thought that this was an odd formulation, and that in itself is sadly revealing. In the Democratic consciousness, September 11 has shriveled away, dwarfed by the greater evil of George W Bush and his assault on “our sense of community.”

Well, Howard Dean is done: Like his fellow Vermonters Ben and Jerry, he couldn’t manage the transition from a niche boutique speciality to a mass brand. He has been whipped by John Kerry. But just because the Massachusetts senator is a mediocre establishment weathervane pol whose rhetorical style is a model of sonorous monotony doesn’t mean his statements aren’t just as goofy as Mr. Dean’s.

When I caught him on the stump in New Hampshire, he was still using his line about how, instead of building a “legitimate coalition,” President Bush “built a fraudulent coalition.”

“Fraudulent”? Mr. Kerry makes much of his rapport with veterans, but I would love to see him tell the brave British, Australian and Polish troops who helped liberate the Iraqi people that their participation was “fraudulent,” just as I would love to see Maureen Dowd, who dismisses the coalition as “a gaggle of poodles and lackeys,” tell Britain’s Desert Rats or the big beefy Fijians escorting Iraqi Currency Exchange convoys that they’re “poodles.” Indeed, I would gladly fly Mr. Kerry and Miss Dowd first-class to Iraq and put them up in the best hotel in Basra (separate rooms, I hasten to add) just for the privilege. The reaction of these allies might even startle Mr. Kerry’s features from their present allegedly Botoxicated immobility.

But just to make it simple: The G7 comprises the world’s major industrial democracies. Aside from America, there are six other countries. Three — the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan — have troops in Iraq. Three — France, Germany and Canada — do not. So a majority of G7 nations are members of this “fraudulent coalition.” Eleven of the 19 NATO members have contributed troops to the “fraudulent coalition.” Thirteen of the 25 members of the newly enlarged European Union have forces serving in the “fraudulent coalition.”

So, when John Kerry pledges to rebuild America’s international relationships, what he means is he disagrees with the majority of G7 governments, NATO governments, European governments and key regional players in Asia and the Pacific, as well as the people of Iraq.

On the other hand, Mr. Kerry’s position has the support of a majority of the Arab League.

So the question all self-respecting multilateralists need to ask themselves this November is whether America can afford the immense damage that would be done to its key international relationships by electing an arrogant Massachusetts cowboy with a reckless tendency to shoot from the lip. It’s all too easy to picture the Ketchup Kid swaggering into a G7 summit, his nimble fingers reaching for his E-Z-Squeeze bottles and squirting the red stuff over the British, Italian and Japanese delegations while Jacques Chirac shouts “Bravo.”

President Bush tried gently in his State of the Union speech to draw attention to the contribution of America’s allies. Perhaps, like Howard Dean listing states, he would have been better to shriek them out: “And we have troops from Ukraine And wehave troops from Honduras. And we have troops from Thailand. Eeeeaaarrrrggghhhhh.” But it’s doubtful whether even that would penetrate the psychological isolationism of the Democratic candidates. They’re the ones who are disengaged from the world, not Mr. Bush.

In that sense, Mr. Kerry is the perfect embodiment of the nullity of the modern Democratic Party. It was once said of the British TV host David Frost that he had “risen without trace.” That’s John Kerry, a man who’s risen without trace, from lieutenant-governor to senator and maybe to president, with no accomplishment to show for it other than his own advance in status.

John Kerry the soldier was a brave man in Vietnam. But John Kerry the politician uses his military record as cover for his public-service record, which boils down to a quarter-century of finger-in-the-windiness passed off as “bold” and “courageous.” How typical the senator is of Vietnam veterans I leave for others to judge. But he’s an all too apt embodiment of the Vietnam era — of the fatal lack of resolution that damaged America’s standing in the world and emboldened its enemies. And, if John Kerry genuinely believes Tony Blair is “fraudulent,” it helps explain a lot of what’s wrong with the modern Democratic Party, which would be in much better shape if it was headed by a Blair rather than a Kerry.

No doubt the senator would say that is not what he means. No doubt he has some convoluted answer to explain that when he sneers Mr. Blair and Australia’s John Howard are “fraudulent” allies, it is in fact a sign of his great respect for them. That seems to be his standard explanation — that all his big votes mean the exact opposite of what they appear to.

His vote against the first Gulf war was, he says, a sign of his support for the first Gulf war. Whereas his vote in favor of the Iraq war was a sign of his opposition to the Iraq war. And his vote against funding America’s troops in Iraq is a sign of his support for America’s men and women in uniform.

On the same principle, I think the best way voters this November can demonstrate their support for John Kerry is by voting against him. Just a suggestion.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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