Betsy’s Page directs readers to the latest David Brooks column in today’s New York Times, where Brooks takes John Kerry to task for playing politics with the new Osama bin Laden videotaped message. Brooks reaches the same conclusion that I did last night after reading Kerry’s response during a radio interview a few hours after the OBL tape aired on Al-Jazeera and American news outlets:
Kerry did say that we are all united in the fight against bin Laden, but he just couldn’t help himself. His first instinct was to get political.
On Milwaukee television, he used the video as an occasion to attack the president: “He didn’t choose to use American forces to hunt down Osama bin Laden. He outsourced the job.” Kerry continued with a little riff from his stump speech, “I am absolutely confident I have the ability to make America safer.”
Even in this shocking moment, this echo of Sept. 11, Kerry saw his political opportunities and he took ’em. There’s such a thing as being so nakedly ambitious that you offend the people you hope to impress.
What has emerged about Kerry during this campaign cycle is that he is extraordinarily incautious about what he says. People used to critique Ronald Reagan for requiring round-the-clock “handling”, but Reagan in fact was an accomplished extemporaneous speaker who rarely needed corralling to keep him on message. Kerry not only needs handlers, but the ones he currently employs appear to be less than competent at their job. His frequent rhetorical stumbles on the stump have handed Republicans a treasure trove of campaign material this election cycle, and his statement last night should keep his campaign somewhat on the defensive in the final 96 hours.
Brooks notes, and I agree, that these stumbles are not the harmless spoonerisms that simply cause a chuckle. They reveal the real John Kerry, the man behind the antiwar war hero facade that Kerry carefully built for this campaign. They reveal Kerry to be a man who blames others for his mistakes (remember the Secret Service “son of a bitch” who tripped him on the ski slopes?), a narcissist who cannot resist exaggerating his exploits to impress others (meeting with the “entire UN Security Council for hours”) and to score political points (Christmas in Cambodia being “seared — seared” into his memory to argue for abandoning the Nicaraguan contras), and a conspiracy theorist bordering on the paranoid (“most lying, corrupt group of people”).
Given this, it’s no wonder that Kerry the political opportunist weighed in last night to push his wild notions that the military allowed OBL to escape Tora Bora in some sort of Islamist version of Dunkirk. It’s especially egregious since, as Brooks points out, Kerry publicly supported the use of Afghanis at Tora Bora as the effective way to handle the conflict there and encouraged the admnistration to continue that strategy at the time of the operation.
Kerry has been one of the most incompetent major-party candidates in decades, perhaps ever. People point to George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Kerry’s former boss Michael Dukakis as similar or potentially worse candidates, but all three of those men stood for their beliefs and values. Kerry stands for himself and nothing else. The only thing keeping Kerry afloat is the high tide of Bush hatred among the Left and an increasingly desperate mainstream media that will do almost anything, including sacrificing their credibility, to keep Bush from being re-elected. Hopefully, that will not be enough.