John Kerry’s Remarks

I know this has been all over the media, and I know it’s a bit aged now that Ted Haggard has taken center stage.  But I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts…

What happened?  In a recent commencement speech before a graduating class, John Kerry made the following ridiculous comment, “you know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”  Of course, many were outraged at the implication that our troops are all a bunch of dunderheads with no other (better) future, so they’re “stuck” in the military.  Here’s my analysis of the situation.

First, remember when Mel Gibson made his asinine, drunken remarks about Jews being the cause of every war in history?  Remember how people debated whether alcohol had caused him to say something stupid that he didn’t really mean or whether he was freed by the alcohol to say what he actually thought, with no inhibitions?  Well, I view the John Kerry thing in the same light.  I *do* believe that both Gibson and Kerry said what they were really thinking.  Mel Gibson was freed up by the booze to spout off, and what came out was a glimpse of the dark anti-semitic thoughts in his heart.  The Bible is clear, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”.  I think Kerry is in the same boat.  No alcohol involved, but I think the principle was the same.

Kerry said this was a joke gone wrong, and he’s probably right.  I’m also sure that he consciously intended the comment to be aimed more at Bush than at the troops (which is how many took it).  I think if he had really thought through the impact that this would have, he wouldn’t have said it.  But here’s the deal.  I think John Kerry does have a pretty deeply ingrained belief that our military leaders are corrupt, and that we generally go to war for invalid reasons (not just to Iraq).  I think he does believe that many of our troops are just that stupid.  And I also think that he is so rich and so privileged and so superior (in his own mind) that he doesn’t really have much of a grasp on the reality of who most Americans are.  Perhaps more inflammatory is this…  I also believe that John Kerry is a man of very little integrity, as demonstrated by his recent run for the presidency.  The whole “flip-flop” thing was very well-deserved.  Never once did I hear him state a principle and then stand by it.  I have very little respect for people, including politicians, who walk around with their finger in the air trying to determine which way the wind is blowing.  This has defined Kerry … except in the case of this particular comment, one might argue.  It’s also my experience that a man with little integrity will project that weakness onto others.  He will assume that others have weak characters as well.

So, do I think John Kerry’s comments really matter that much?  In most ways, no.  In two senses, yes…  First, they demean our military, which has for the most part fought  with honor not only in this war but in many past wars.  These brave men and women keep all of us safe and free, including John Kerry.  That he would make such a dumb comment reflects badly on him and on his political advisers (who should never have let something like that make its way into a speech).  Secondly, I think it has the potential to affect the outcome of this week’s elections.  I think the average American is pretty fed up with this kind of talk.  There’s just no reason for it.  It betrays an underlying bitterness and hatred (of Bush, mostly) that’s so bad that it overrules way too many other things.  Even people who are firmly against the war won’t want to hear Kerry demeaning the troops — even if that’s not really what he intended to do.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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10 Responses to John Kerry’s Remarks

  1. Brad Bull says:

    You are unwilling to accept John Kerry’s word that it was a slip-of-the-tongue. OK. I could fill your hard drive with Bush misquotes, but let’s stick with the meat.

    Will you encourage your children to join the military? Do you think most parents do? Regardless of the qualifications of our military personnel, which have been consistently dropping, the military is not a desired route for most people even in peacetime. The whole getting brutally killed thing puts a damper on it. Having a cowboy surrounded by war hawks makes it even less appealing. As you know I support bringing back the draft, or mandating military service to add value to our soldiers lives in the eyes of war hawks.

    RE: “I also believe that John Kerry is a man of very little integrity, as demonstrated by his recent run for the presidency. ”
    I have realized that both you and George Bush see things very, very black and white. If anyone postulates that an issue may be more difficult or involved then they are weak? I disagree, I think many of Bush’s stated views are far too simple-minded and don’t reflect the depth of the issue.

    RE: “I think John Kerry does have a pretty deeply ingrained belief that our military leaders are corrupt, and that we generally go to war for invalid reasons ”
    What are you talking about? where did this come from? I think John Kerry, like most veterans, has a huge amount of respect for military leaders but distrusts Bush. Military leaders do not make the decision to go to war, politicians do.

    I also personally feel that veterans, especially war veterans, are allowed to critisize the military in any way they see fit.

    RE:”I think the average American is pretty fed up with this kind of talk. ”
    Other than this one comment what are you referring to?

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  2. Jeff Block says:

    > slip-of-the-tongue

    I agree that Bush has made a LOT of “slips of the tongue”. This is something like saying “broccoli” when you mean “cauliflower”. Kerry said what he meant to say. I think he probably meant it as a joke and/or a biting remark directed at Bush, but either way (and this was my point), I think it betrays what he really believes.

    > Will you encourage your children to join the military?

    Yes, under a few conditions. If that’s what they want to do. If they’ve considered other options, and those options don’t seem right. Admittedly, I would rather have a child go to college and be a professional, but that doesn’t mean other paths are bad. Are *you* saying that you believe most soliders are morons? Clearly not. My father was in the army and was a blue collar worker all his life. Technically, my IQ is probably higher than his, but that doesn’t make him dumb, and it doesn’t make me superior to him … nor does it make what he did with his life unimportant or less valuable.

    > The qualifications of our military have been consistently dropping.

    On what do you base this? I would be discouraged to learn that this was true. Our educational standards in the US are plummeting in some areas. I’d hate to learn of yet another place where this was the case.

    > Getting brutally killed

    Of course, nobody wants to die. But I believe that many of our fighting men and women understand that freedom comes at a very high price. All through history, there have been those who get that and those who don’t — in all walks of life.

    BTW, I agree that Bush is too much of a cowboy. I think he’s learned some lessons in this regard over the last few years. He doesn’t make nearly as many foolish “let’s get ’em” statements as he used to.

    Also, have you considered that this time (the war on terror) is a time we need to be somewhat hawkish. Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with people with whom we can negotiate. As a result, I don’t think we can just talk or just separate ourselves by an ocean any longer, and expect not to get hit by more 9-11 style attacks.

    > > RE: “I also believe that John Kerry is a man of very little
    > > integrity, as demonstrated by his recent run for the
    > > presidency. ”

    > I have realized that both you and George Bush see things
    > very, very black and white.

    What is added to the discussion by this comparison? There are a billion things about George Bush’s policies with which I disagree. Nor do I view much of anything in the war on terror as black and white.

    > If anyone postulates that an issue may be more difficult
    > or involved then they are weak?

    It’s amazing how you hear what you want to hear. What makes you think that I feel Kerry lacks integrity because he disagrees with Bush? Actually, I like disagreement. I disagree with Bush on a million things. The reason I feel Kerry lacks integrity is that – over and over – he seems to have whatever opinion he thinks will be the popular one. Like many democrats these days, I don’t seem Kerry standing for much of anything accept “the war, and particularly Bush, is bad!”. As I stated in a previous post, that’s no more of a vision than “stay the course”. This is a different topic, but what I really want from the dems is an alternate plan, not just criticism of the current one.

    > I disagree, I think many of Bush’s stated views are far too
    > simple-minded and don’t reflect the depth of the issue.

    I think I would use the word “naive” to describe Bush, not “simple minded”. He’s far smarter than he appears given his typically-ineffectual speaking skills, and has surrounded himself by a highly-educated cabinet. However, I think their assumptions are flawed. Great example is that they thought the Iraq’s would fight for their own freedom, and get along now that Saddam is gone. Instead, they immediately jumped on the killing-each-other bandwagon. Not what we expected, and we should have.

    > > John Kerry does have a pretty deeply ingrained belief that
    > > military leaders are corrupt

    > Were did this come from?

    I guess I’m basing that on the way he responded to the end of the Vietnam war. And he seems to have the same attitude now. And there’s no doubt that he distrusts Bush (also a military leader, no?).

    > Military leaders do not make the decision to go to war, politicians do.

    So, you think Bush ignored the advice of all his military advisors when making the decision to go to war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan?

    > > “I think the average American is pretty fed up with this kind
    > > of talk.”

    > Other than this one comment what are you referring to?

    I probably shouldn’t have made this comment, since it’s off-topic. I also wasn’t very clear. What I meant was that every single day you can watch on TV how bad the war is going, how stupid and incompetent Bush is, how wrong we were to go to war, etc. But nowhere do you hear actual plans for how to get us out of this mess – from either party. And I think Americans are sick of it. I certainly am.

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  3. Neva says:

    My first reaction on this one is to chime in with a solid “Who cares?” Why does it matter if John Kerry screwed up and insulted the military along with Bush? I’m not saying I agree with or even really like him. I’m certainly not saying ignore it and don’t let it affect your opinion of Kerry. I just don’t see why it really matters otherwise. Was Kerry speaking on behalf of any organization? If not, he’s welcome to say whatever he wants and should be judged, as an individual, for what he says.
    As far as I’m concerned, Kerry really wasn’t a good choice as a candidate to begin with. People voted for him in the primary because all they were focused on was beating Bush, and they thought he could do it. They wanted a chameleon, someone malleable enough to be whatever people wanted and appeal to moderates while still keeping liberals happy enough to fund his campaign. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they got: someone malleable who spent a campaign chasing public opinion instead of having a firm set of goals and plans of his own. Anti-war sentiment (or at least concern and dissatisfaction with the war) is a big driving force in the current set of elections, so why should anyone be surprised that’s what Kerry is trying to talk about now?
    I admit I’ve been busy and sick for the past week or so, so I haven’t actually heard any of the news coverage on this. (No, I haven’t even been listening to NPR much the past few days, despite the post I made in its defense earlier today.) So I’ll readily admit to not having all the facts or details here. I’m just tossing out my opinion based on the post and ensuing conversation.

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  4. Jeff Block says:

    In an unprecendented turn of events, I have to say that I agree with EVERY word you just said, Neva. Everything. Rock on!

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  5. Brad Bull says:

    It sounds more like you would accept if your children join the military more than encouraging them to. It is facile to compare the worth of one’s life to another. A career in the military is honorable and noble, but typically not highly desired.

    The military standards have been dropped to meet recruiting goals, a quick google can get you this info. This includes physical, intellectual, and moral standards.

    As I have stated before, I disagree with the “war on terror”. I think we have taken a civil issue and militarized it. We should be handling this with police, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. So, much of my view on the politicians who created this “war” is slanted by this view. That means I don’t think we need hawks in office.

    The comparison to George Bush was low, but your statements consistently push a black and white, right or wrong view. And I am aware you disagree with Bush on many issues.

    As I said many issues are difficult and deep. they require a case-by-case decision in some cases. To come out strong on a view limits your options severely. I am not attempting to defend John Kerry, but you are saying that trying to represent the people (popular opinion) is a sign of weakness.

    President Bush is not a military leader he is a politician! It is not the place for military leaders to decide to go to war. They tell you how to win. Many of them are now actually coming out in public about how they were ignored in the run-up to this war. Many have resigned.

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  6. Jeff Block says:

    > Military recruitment standards dropping

    Googled. Read an article by the NY Times (definitely no bastian of conservative bias). I’ve also read articles from CBS and MSNBC. ALL of these articles say the same thing…

    1) They confirm that recruitment is down. Makes sense, given we’re in a long, bloody struggle that few believe in and that nobody seems to have a way out of.
    2) The standards for recruitment have been lowered slightly in the last year (first year since ’98). 90% must be HS graduates, instead of 92%. 2% allowed to have low aptitude scores, instead of 1.5%. Etc. Hardly the freefall you implied.
    3) The biggest approach the military is taking to increasing recruitment is monetary… Big bonuses and raises for recruiters (dangerous, because it could incent some of lesser character to cheat, as the MSNBC article above points out), and higher wages for the personnel themselves.

    I couldn’t find anything either on the Marines site or the Department of Defense. Would love to see their official position if you can find it.

    > the draft

    We talked about this already.

    > “I think we have taken a civil issue and militarized it. We should be handling this with police, CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.”

    Don’t you see that we *did* take this approach for a long time, and that in that time we were attacked by terrorists repeatedly, culminating in 9/11? Since then, we haven’t been hit. It’s at this point that I agree completely with the Republican talking points — that taking the offensive has made a huge difference. We are still doing the policing action with the agencies you mentioned. In fact we’ve beefed this action up to the point where some are screaming “threat to our rights”. But we’ve added a military component that’s taking the fight to them, freeing millions of poeple in the process. The problem is that these people might be so steeped in their philosophy that they don’t want to be free — at least they won’t for another generation or so. And there’s no way the American people will be patient enough for that.

    *gulp* Having said all that, I’m worried I’ll change the topic here. Don’t intend to.

    > trying to represent the people (popular opinion) is a sign of weakness.

    That’s ridiculous, Brad, and I’m surprised to hear you say it. Are you honestly saying that you believe John Kerry was not (as Neva puts it) “malleable enough to be whatever people wanted”? There’s a difference between caring what the people you lead want and need, and being a political cameleon. Surely you recognize that. And surely you recognize that I was talking about the latter, not the former.

    > President Bush is not a military leader he is a politician!

    Isn’t he the Commander in Chief? He’s both. And he makes recommendations to congress related to war / combat based on the advise of the Joint Chiefs, I would think. Wouldn’t you? Other than John Murtha and Colin Powell, which of Bush’s staff related to the military or the Joint Chiefs or senior military officials have resigned? I’ve been all over Google and the only other one I could find was Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who resigned from the Joint Chiefs back in 2002. But nothing recent. Can you point me to the rash of resignations your describing?

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  7. Brad Bull says:

    The military is also allowing convicted felons to enlist and lowering their physical requirments, admittedly not a freefall, but an indication that people are not lining up to join.

    “attacked by terrorists repeatedly” I disagree. Israel, Phillipines, these are places that are repeatedly attacked by terrorists. A dozen or so attacks over a decade does not merit repeated attacks. How many U.S. terror attacks have come from people in Iraq or Afganistan? Unless you are saying that we have artificially created fronts to draw terrorists too, as opposed to U.S. soil, then I don’t completely believe that we are “fighting them over there”.

    I will concede that a person can be so malleable that they are an ineffective leader if you concede that a person can also be so rigid they are an ineffective leader. I would personally find an optimum about exactly between Bush and Kerry. What I am saying is Bush’s rigidness and Kerry’s malleability are the same order of magnitude from ideal.

    Technically Bush has a military leadership position, but he is very much a politician first and foremost. Wearing a flak jacket and hiding you military service records does make one a military leader to me.

    You are right that the number of generals resigning is not that high. What I was remembering (now that I actually looked it up) is the number of retired generals who have come out publically against Bush.

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  8. Jeff Block says:

    > “attacked by terrorists repeatedly”

    So you consider embassy attacks, the world trade center (twice), the Cole, etc to be what? Want the list? I’m not saying there aren’t other places that have it much worse in this regard than we do. What’s your point in comparing us to Israel or the Philippines?

    > artificially created fronts

    I do not believe we artificially created a front in Iraq. I believe we acted on faulty information bolstered by a generally good theory (spread freedom) and an arrogant, niave underestimation of how hard it would be to spread that freedom. That’s what led us to war in Iraq. The catch is that we’re no longer fighting Iraq… The Iraqis are fighting each other, and we’re fighting Iran on Iraq’s soil. Sucky situation all around. But yes, the “artificial front” in Iraq means that we don’t have to fight them at the corner of Barclay and Church.

    > Bush is too rigid to be an effective leader

    I actually don’t think Bush is rigid. I know that will shock and appal you, but let’s debate it elsewhere.

    > Wearing a flak jacket and hiding you military service records does make one a military leader to me.

    No, being the COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE MILITARY does. Read the constitution. And what’s with the superfluous cheap shots, Brad? Really.

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  9. Brad Bull says:

    “And what’s with the superfluous cheap shots” ???

    My point of comparison is to demonstrate that (in my opinion) we are not under a constant terrorist treat and we never were. We had 1 horrible incident and a dozen or so smaller incidents. These do not warrant the response we have made.

    I didn’t mean to imply that our leaders had the foresight to turn Iraq into a front away from the U.S., but it wouldn’t be a hard sell that we have used it as that over the last 2 years. And maybe we are just fighting Iran over there, again how many U.S. terror attacks have been conducted by Iranians?

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  10. Jeff Block says:

    So, really, the debate is over the policy of pre-emptive war. I’m not sure there’d even be much of a debate there. If I had known then what I know now, I would not have been supportive of going into Iraq. I don’t think almost anyone would have been – including Bush.

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