- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 11, 2004

With the joyful experiences of summer vacations fading into pleasant memories, and commuters once again immersed in the fragrant exhaust of school buses, political banter intensifies while the nation finally focuses on electing a commander in chief.

But there’s a peculiar tone to the banter of my anti-Bush friends, who can barely conceal their resentment at the Clouseaulike caricature they feel compelled to support. They know John Kerry is a political strawman, a second-rate politico who was in the left place at the right time. So, little or nothing is offered about his specific qualifications, accomplishments, experience, temperament and (especially) personality.

Mr. Kerry is Not-Bush, and that’s good enough for people like my friend Jocelyn who, at a recent lunch, justified her support for the senator because her vacation was marred by repeated encounters with Parisians voicing hatred of President Bush.

In less than three years, the president has toppled the Taliban, sacked Saddam, and goaded Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi into giving up his nuclear weapons program. For 35 years, the “Boston Strangler” (John Kerry’s chosen call sign in Vietnam) has been staggeringly wrong about every global enemy the U.S. faced during that period.

Yet, remarkably, Mr. Kerry is more qualified than George Bush to lead the war against Islamist terrorism because some Frenchies on the Rue de la Mal Bouche hate our commander in chief for proactively defending America and bringing freedom to peoples previously enslaved.

It’s a waste of good breath mints confronting such otherworldly logic. Better to banter with the prospective voters who claim to be undecided, though at this point these folks are either terminally indecisive or waiting for Mr. Kerry to explain what he did in the Senate for 19 years. That’s bound to be a long wait.

With polls indicating a statistical dead heat, Mr. Kerry is not likely to spoil a good thing by directing attention to his barren senatorial career. So, what’s a fence-sitter to do?

Well, to see if you’re qualified to pull the Kerry lever (and with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy), consider the following:

• If you believe a medal winner in four Olympic track events who spent the next 30 years as a gluttonous, beer-swilling couch potato should serve as a national model for physical fitness, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• If you’re convinced terrorists can be transformed into rational, civilized humanists by engaging them in meaningful dialogue over a falafel-and-pita-bread lunch at the U.N. cafeteria, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• You might be a Kerry supporter if you believe obesity is a disease best treated with a generous dose of trial lawyering.

• Do you view brawny SUVs as a blight on the American landscape, heedlessly consuming inordinate amounts of limited resources? A SUV-driving fence-sitter, in an unguarded moment, told me she wished the government would outlaw her ownership of an SUV. If you believe a less draconian and more effective way to assuage her environmental guilt is explaining that the gas-guzzling vehicle actually belongs to her spouse, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• If you believe pacifists and peaceniks support the most liberal senator because of his Vietnam War heroics, you just might be a Kerry supporter.

• If you resent the tax cuts that enabled your employer’s owners to invest more so you and your coworkers could retain your jobs, you could use a remedial math class and a king-sized dose of common sense — and you might be a Kerry supporter.

• If you believe tthe $60 million-plus spent by 527s to promote the Democratic candidates is a healthy expression of First Amendment, freedom-of-speech rights, but the $3 million spent by anti-Kerry 527s is an illegal Republican National Committee conspiracy to circumvent McCain-Feingold campaign reform, you just might be a Kerry supporter.

• You might be a Kerry supporter if you agree with propagandist moviemaker Michael Moore that Mr. Bush is a greater threat to freedom and world peace than the megalomaniacal mother-of-all palace-dwellers who attacked his neighbors, used chemical weapons on his people, ground up live Iraqis and publicly beheaded women who dared complain.

• Perhaps you can’t see the rich irony in a left-wing millionaire pop star claiming an affinity for the blue-collar worker who forks over a day’s take-home pay to attend the pop star’s concert. But if you’re confident a politician on the public payroll all his adult life — who filled in his campaigns’ financial potholes with cash from his wealthy wives — knows more about the economics of employing the blue-collar worker than the company owner who signs the worker’s paycheck, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• If you believe the man who confused Lyndon Johnson with Richard Nixon, 1968 with 1969, Cambodia with Vietnam, and an east-west border with a north-south river, was otherwise capable of identifying shore-bound Asians celebrating Christmas in a Buddhist country, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• Still swaying on the fence? Imagine you’re a director at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., looking to hire a new chief executive officer after a recent merger with Brown & Williamson. You interview a prospective candidate who claims he would be a strong leader and expand the company’s market share. Then, you discover he worked for the last 30 years to put tobacco companies out of business. If you would recommend hiring the candidate because he smoked cigarettes for four months in 1969, you might be a Kerry supporter.

• John Kerry ends his Web site biography with the words “Let America be America again.” If you know to which of John Edwards’ “Two Americas” Kerry refers, and what we’re supposed to let the other America be, you just might be … John Kerry.

SAMUEL R. LEWIS

Mr. Lewis writes on current events from Oak Hill, Va.

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