August 17, 2004
(Here from Kausfiles? See the update at the bottom.)
THE INSTADAD ON KERRY: My dad's a Kerry supporter, an Iraq war opponent, and a rather devoted Bush critic. But when we were talking the other night, he offered his worries regarding Kerry.
He thinks that Bush will cut and run in Iraq within six months of the election. (I disagree, unless it's via Tehran). But -- though I stress he still supports Kerry -- he says that his big worry about Kerry is that Kerry will be like LBJ, anxious to prove his manhood through greater military involvement rather than risk looking weak by withdrawing.
When we had this conversation a couple of weeks ago, I was skeptical. And I guess I still am. But lately, I've started to wonder if he isn't on to something. (He often is.) People in the pro-war camp worry that Kerry will pull a cut-and-run. And it's true that Kerry has been known for his anti-war sentiments, and actions.
But it's also true that Kerry really wants to be known as one badass mofo. Look at the secret hat. ("He pointed his finger and raised his thumb, creating an imaginary gun. . . . He smiled and aimed his finger: 'Pow.'") The war stories. The combat home movies. The constant photos of Kerry with Harleys, guitars, guns, and soldiers. The military posture of the DNC acceptance speech and salute. If Kerry were a Republican, the bargain-basement Freudians among the punditocracy would be having a field day. (As Joan Vennochi wrote: "Clearly, 'modest hero' will not be his epitaph.")
So what does this mean? Lyndon Baines Johnson was another President with a silver star and a short combat career who seemed to feel that he had a lot to prove. Might Kerry's rather clear desire to be seen as a tough guy make him a surprisingly resilient warrior? Or might it backfire, as it most likely did with LBJ?
I don't know. A tough-guy presidency under Kerry seems unlikely to me, but then so did a major George W. Bush commitment to nation-building four years ago. Should people in the anti-war camp be worrying that a President Kerry won't pull a cut-and-run? I don't really think so, but it's just perverse enough to seem plausible. . . .
UPDATE: Oliver Willis seems to think that the above post means that I think Kerry is "too tough." Er, no. Read it again, Oliver.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing has related thoughts. He also notes: "Harkin himself claimed to have battled Mig fighters over North Vietnam while a Navy pilot. He was a pilot, but never went to Vietnam." Funny, I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere else in relation to Harkin's recent remarks.
SPECIAL KAUS UPDATE: Mickey Kaus is linking to this post in reference to LBJ's Silver Star. I think he meant to link to this post instead, which cites this column by Roger Franklin drawing a Kerry / LBJ connection, and this lengthy CNN assessment of LBJ's Silver Star.
I will note, though, that even if Kerry's harshest critics are taken as true, his Silver Star isn't in the LBJ league in terms of bogosity. The CNN narrative is quite interesting, though, and there are parallels in terms of behavior, as opposed to military record, between the two.
There's even a reference to "rare home movies, from a camera Johnson carried on that tour."
So why didn't I just tell Kaus to fix the link? Because judging by his post yesterday he's driving across Utah at the moment. I, on the other hand, am comfortably ensconced in my study. I'd rather be driving across Utah!