The Kerry Fiasco
It may be that Kerry intended to take a swipe at Bush, but political gaffes often involve statements that were intended one way but can be taken in another. If those statements can be understood to offend anyone of a number of minority groups, they become big stories, e.g., Ronald Reagan’s reference to “you people” at the NAACP convention or Trent Lott’s praise for Strom Thurmond at the old coot’s 643rd birthday party. If this isn’t a big story, doesn’t it reflect a judgment that young people who serve in the military are fair game in a way that certain minority groups are not?The irony, of course, is that Bush got slightly higher grades at Yale than Kerry got.
This will have political legs because it is consistent with what a lot of people fear about the Democrats, i.e., that they are anti-military. Whether or not that belief is fair, voters have been reminded of it on the eve of an election. My own sense is that the Democrat’s momentum is stalling. This won’t help.
Some people will suggest there is an irony here in that Kerry was a Yale man who joined the Navy. But the reason that this doesn’t insulate him is that people care more about what he’ll do now then what he did then. Kerry threw away the political advantage of his war record when he threw away his purple hearts. There is no getting it back.
The other reason that it won’t help him is that he exudes arrogance. Let’s say that he did mean to take a shot at Bush. He meant to say that the war has gone poorly because Bush is stupid. This recalls his presidential campaign in which he essentially said that, had he been running the war it would have gone better, not because of any particular ideas that he had about how it might have been more effectively prosecuted, but because John Kerry is oh so smart.
That also plays into a public stereotype of liberals, i.e, that they have this smug belief that they are smarter and morally superior to other people. It’s not attractive, guys. His refusal to apologize makes it a double-shot.
As we put it in a post dealing with the intellectual pretentions of liberals:
The simple fact is that assessments of intelligence are heavily culturally biased. We all tend to think that people who agree with us are smarter than those who don’t.
So the next time you hear a bunch of liberals deride Bush for being “dumb” or “stupid,” take note of the fact that you are hearing people who may or may not be reasonably bright, but who are certainly intensely provincial.