Some people just don’t get it. John Kerry couldn’t figure out why his fellow swift boat veterans attacked him so vehemently after he launched his presidential campaign with that “reporting for duty” line. Jane Fonda confesses to being “befuddled” about why Vietnam vets, many even older than she is, hurl epithets — and more — when she shows up to hawk her books. And now, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, and his colleagues wonder why so many people refuse to accept his “apology” for slandering the men and women of our armed forces by likening them to those of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Cambodia’s Pol Pot.
In failing to comprehend the consequences of their words and actions, the Fonda-Kerry-Durbin trio is an archetype of the far left in misunderstanding the antipathy most Americans feel toward those who aid and abet our enemies.
Of the three, Mr. Durbin’s June 14 verbal assault from the well of the U.S. Senate is the most egregious. Miss Fonda’s self-gratifying capers with the communists in Hanoi were those of a private citizen. Mr. Kerry was in a similar status when he made his unfounded, attention-grabbing atrocity accusations in 1971 before a congressional subcommittee.
But Mr. Durbin is no private citizen. He’s the minority whip, the No. 2 ranking member of his party in the Senate. His were no “off the cuff” remarks. His unsubstantiated accusations of “barbaric treatment” at our terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo came before an assembly that arrogantly describes itself as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
Thus it could not have surprised him or his fellow-travelers that his words flashed around the world, demoralizing our troops in the line of fire, and offering our enemies a propaganda windfall.
Every major media outlet throughout the Middle East gave “lead story” status to Mr. Durbin’s unconscionable remarks. Two days later, after he refused to recant, Al Jazeera, Saudi Television, Al-Arabya, Lebanon TV, and other mouthpieces for our Islamo-fascist adversaries gleefully reported, “U.S. senator stands by Nazi remark.” And, unsurprisingly, Mr. Durbin’s belated, tearful, pseudo-apology on June 21, has been ignored by that same media. And he still doesn’t “get it.”
Those who now say “we can put the situation behind us,” because Mr. Durbin has finally done “the right thing,” are wrong. First, the serious damage done to our country and our military will not be easily undone. Second, what Mr. Durbin offered was no apology or act of contrition: “I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings.”
That’s not a “sincere expression of regret for an offense” — one of the definitions for an “apology.” It is, instead, a further affront to those of us obtuse enough to have “misunderstood” his true feelings. Apparently, we should have perceived that comparing young Americans in uniform to mass murderers like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot were terms of endearment.
For the record, the combined dead from Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, Soviet gulags and the Nazi death camps approaches 40 million. To date, the death toll at “gulag” Gitmo is a hefty zero.
As if to prove he might really regret offending some people, Mr. Durbin says, “I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time.”
But as to the men and women of our military, it’s a different story. Mr. Durbin claims, “I never ever intended any disrespect for them.” But he adds, “Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apology.”
Try unpacking that. “Some may believe” doesn’t confess he believes his “remarks crossed the line.” This is hardly an acknowledgement he knows how wrong, offensive and damaging his words were to our armed forces and our country.
I confess having done the same thing in a recent television interview. In response to a question, I said, “Sen. Durbin is Jane Fonda without the tummy tuck and face-lift.” Immediately after, I was called by a “colleague” and asked if my comment was “over the top” and if I would “like to apologize?”
Only partly tongue-in-cheek, I replied, “I really don’t know if Miss Fonda has had a ‘tummy tuck.’ If my remark offended her, I’m sorry.” But I wasn’t sorry for an affront to Mr. Durbin. Nor has he been able to express regret for attacking our forces.
Sadly, Mr. Durbin’s colleagues have rushed to defend the indefensible. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “I stand by the statement he made.” He then added wishfully, “We are not going to discuss this any more.” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tried blaming Republicans, whom he said, “will do anything for a diversion.” And California’s Dianne Feinstein now claims things might get better if President Bush gives “regular progress reports to Congress and the American people,” and says of Mr. Bush, “It’s his war.” Perhaps Mrs. Feinstein wants us to forget not only Mr. Durbin’s unconscionable attack on our troops — but her own affirmative vote on Oct. 11, 2002, in favor of the Iraqi War Resolution. It’s her war, too.
The far left uses the same tactics that worked during the Vietnam War: Overheated rhetoric and the vilest slander are acceptable if they tarnish the president and hurt our war effort.
The leftists have no shame. They play politics like the Islamo-fascists conduct warfare — dirty, ruthless, reckless, with no discernible rules, no regard for fact and no compunction about stabbing people in the back.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.