Give Kerry Some Love

Say what you want and vote your conscience in the primaries — but show him the money!

I have something of a policy of not responding to other DMY articles and writers — but when I’m responded to myself, that changes matters considerably. And while Dr. Aaron has some valid points, I disagree entirely with his basic thesis of not sending Kerry money (or sending less than you can give). Let’s go through point by point.

1. John Kerry is still the presumptive nominee. Not the nominee, however likely that seems to be; the presumptive nominee.

To be fair, this was true when he wrote it. Today, however, Kerry has enough delegates to win at the convention:

WASHINGTON (AP) – John Kerry locked up the Democratic presidential nomination Saturday, reaching the magic number of delegates needed to become President Bush’s chief rival in the general election, according to an Associated Press tally.

The four-term Massachusetts senator reached the 2,162 delegate mark Saturday afternoon, the AP count found, just as Democrats in Kansas headed to party caucuses.

Dr. Aaron’s next point:

2. The Democratic National Committee appears to be entirely controlled by Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic Leadership Council, the Clintonesque corporate wing of the party. They have not paid any attention to the progressive wing of the party in a very long time.

I agree with the second part but disagree strongly with the first. While they have not listened to us in a very long time, they are unquestionably listening to us now. Read the excellent official Democratic blog, Kicking Ass. They quote regularly from such liberal and progressive luminaries as Daily Kos, Atrios’ Eschaton, Talking Points Memo, and more. A brief perusal of their “readme” column of blogs shows that they’ve got a clue — it includes, among other luminaries, personal favorite Tom Tomorrow. Tom has consistently worked to keep Democrats honest while hammering at the GOP, sparing neither party.

As for the first half, with Dean For America looking to become the voice of progressive Democrats seeking to organize, Al Gore (former poster child of Republicrat-itis) forcefully speaking out on our behalf with no apparent motive other than to fight for what’s right, and Nancy “no retreat, no surrender on the Hate Amendment” Pelosi as the House Minority Leader, the Clintonistas are by no means in control of the party now.

Now, on to the doctor’s most important and damning point:

Everyone knows that no one is perfect. And I personally am probably less of a far-left purist than much of the DMY readership. But many people were against the war in Iraq; several candidates, including Kucinich and Dean, knew that the evidence smelled fishy and stated their opposition early. The two Johns voted for the Patriot Act. They voted for No Child Left Behind, a disaster for our educational system. And they didn’t bother to vote on the Medicare bill.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing most of these complaints, because they almost always lack a very important element: perspective. It’s easy to complain about these positions in retrospect, but while some people have opposed all of these actions, there were valid reasons for liberals to support all of them. The one mistake that such liberals made was to believe the Bush administration might actually be honest. Let’s go through them in order.

First, Iraq. Yes, some part of Kerry’s vote was clearly an effort to neutralize the subject in 2004 (“I voted for it too!”). Yes, I’m deeply disappointed in this naked political calculation. But looking at Kerry’s record and history, I honestly believe that his decision was not solely political. No less a luminary than William Rivers Pitt agrees with me. I’ll quote from that article in a moment, but first, Dr. Aaron’s next point:

Now John Kerry says he’s against all these things, and that is swell, but he needs to demonstrate convincingly that he made some mistakes and errors in judgment and that he has had a genuine change of heart.

In short: he has. From the aforementioned Pitt article on truthout, published on December 10, before Kerry’s amazing Iowa comeback:

He is peerless on the environment, a staunch defender of a woman’s right to choose, completely reliable across the whole spectrum of gay rights issues, totally solid on education, an advocate for campaign finance reform and health care reform, and will fight to the death to keep Social Security fully funded and reliable.

John Kerry’s liberal record in the Senate is remarkable in its depth and consistency. His public stand against the Vietnam war, augmented by his status as a decorated veteran of that conflict, made history. His attacks on the Reagan administration, his fight to expose the Iran-Contra/BCCI scandal, are among the main reasons the public became schooled on those travesties. His time on the Foreign Relations Committee places him head and shoulders above the other Democratic candidates in terms of real-world foreign policy experience.

How did this happen? Kerry has all the components of a flat-out frontrunner. When did the wheels come off?

Ask virtually anyone who accounts themselves a member of that liberal Democratic base, and they’ll answer in a heartbeat. The wheels came off on October 11, 2002, the day John Kerry voted ‘Yes’ on George W. Bush’s Iraq War Resolution.

The gathering could not properly be called a meeting or a luncheon. It was a trial. The journalists served as prosecuting attorneys, jury and judge.

“Senator,” said [Eric] Alterman, “I think you may be the most qualified candidate in the race, and perhaps also the one who best represents my own values. But there was one overriding issue facing this nation during the past four years, and Howard Dean was there when it counted, and you weren’t. A lot of people feel that moment entitles him to their vote, even if you have a more progressive record and would be a stronger candidate in November. How are you going to win back those people who you lost with your vote for this awful war?”

“This was the hardest vote I have ever had to cast in my entire career,” Kerry said. “I voted for the resolution to get the inspectors in there, period.” … “I believed we needed to get the weapons inspectors back in. I believed Bush needed this resolution in order to get the U.N. to put the inspectors back in there. The only way to get the inspectors back in was to present Bush with the ability to threaten force legitimately. That’s what I voted for.”

“The way Powell, Eagleberger, Scowcroft, and the others were talking at the time,” continued Kerry, “I felt confident that Bush would work with the international community. I took the President at his word. We were told that any course would lead through the United Nations, and that war would be an absolute last resort. Many people I am close with, both Democrats and Republicans, who are also close to Bush told me unequivocally that no decisions had been made about the course of action. Bush hadn’t yet been hijacked by Wolfowitz, Perle, Cheney and that whole crew. Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You’re God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake.”

There you have it, in Kerry’s own words. He trusted the President of the United States — not a terrible sin under any other presidency. He now admits it was a “terrible mistake.” And be honest — almost every one of us can be surprised, even now, by this administration’s capacity to shock and awe with its unilateral nature, foul corruption, and theocratic leanings.

This is what he had to say to those who think he’d have done what Bush did:

Kerry completed his answer by leaning in close to Alterman, eyes blazing, and said, “Eric, if you truly believe that if I had been President, we would be at war in Iraq right now, then you shouldn’t vote for me.”

I can’t recommend this article enough — I urge everyone who has their doubts about Kerry to read the whole thing. One more point: this article is mirrored, in its entirety, on John Kerry’s official website.

As for the Patriot Act, it was passed shortly after September 11th, rushed wildly through Congress during a time of fear of the enemy and bipartisan trust. Do you remember what it was like to watch smoke billow from the ruins of the Twin Towers? Do you remember that horrid, gaping wound in the Pentagon? I do. Now, do you remember how long it was before you heard what a menace this thing was? Kerry’s site goes into detail on exactly what he’d do to end the Patriot Act’s negative effects on our freedoms. Read points III and IV in particular. The most important pieces: “Stop Using Terrorism Laws For Political Purposes. … No Unwarranted Seizure Of Library Or Business Records. … Stop Unchecked Roving Wiretaps. … No Blanket Preemption Of Existing Checks On Local Law Enforcement.”

Quite frankly, No Child Left Behind is easy. It was supported by Ted Kennedy — that would be the senior senator from Massachusetts — who was “proud to stand with President Bush” during the signing. Kerry may not have trusted Bush, but he probably felt safe trusting Senator Kennedy. For that matter, the law isn’t nearly as much the problem as that the president is blocking funding called for by the act itself. (Who knows, it might even work if the money were actually there.)

In the case of the Medicare bill, Dr. Aaron’s information appears to be mistaken. If this vote and this one are the relevant ones on the Medicare bill from the Senate — the “Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003” — Kerry is listed as a “Nay” vote in both cases. These were the final votes in the Senate before the bill was sent to the White House to sign. Kerry may have voted for or abstained from earlier Senate-approved versions of the bill, but seems definitely to have opposed its final, corrupt form.

Mind you, I agree with most of Dr. Aaron’s calls to action. By all means, support progressives in Congressional races. If you live in a state where primaries have yet to occur, vote your conscience (I voted Dean in mine). Most importantly, write to the DNC and the Kerry campaign — hell, don’t stop there! Get involved! Go to meetings and caucuses, join Democratic clubs, and voice your opinion at all opportunities. For starters, the Senator’s site is very interactive. If Kerry’s had a gift in the primaries, it’s been raiding the best parts of his rivals’ ideas in campaigning, and his site has duplicated Deanie activism admirably.

But with Republicans moving to block 527s from advertising, laws forbidding said organizations from coordinating with official campaigns, and most importantly, the desperate importance of getting Bush out of office — regardless of our success (or lack thereof) in Congress — there’s one organization you can donate money to, confident that it will be used to defeat George W. Bush. The John Kerry campaign.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t also donate to other liberal and progressive movements to the best of our ability. (My wife and I will.) But I cannot urge DMY readers enough to give whatever they can, when they can, to the Kerry campaign. While I admit that I’ve liked him to some extent from the beginning of this election cycle, whether you agree with my assessment or not, from a sheerly practical standpoint he’s all we’ve got.

Besides, to borrow a Deanie phrase, when Kerry wins, we will be his special interest group. And he will be the one worrying about reelection. Do you want the attention of a President Kerry? If your name is on his donor list, his team will be that much more responsive.

(/) Roland X
Captain ABBA
(Not related to Brutus in any way ;^)
[ed. note: image “love-kerry-175.gif” is no longer available]

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