Monday, December 05, 2005

Damn Shame

There is not enough time in the day to point out all the inaccuracies and ridiculous assertions in What Would J.F.K. Have Done? by John F. Kennedy sycophants Ted Sorenson and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. about President Bush's speech at Annapolis last week. So let's just do the first full paragraph:

Sorenson and Schlesinger write: "We did not hear that the war in Iraq, already one of the costliest wars in American history, is a running sore." Assuming that they mean that the war is a running sore for Americans, and assuming that they mean that it is a running sore because Americans are questioning the effort in Iraq, the president explicitly made the speech an explanation of the war in Iraq: "the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity, and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror."

Of course they are right, the president didn't say the phrase "running sore." He also didn't say "lanced boil," "cancerous tumor," "bleeding ulcer," or "impacted colon." I suspect most presidents aren't inclined to use inapt medical analogies to describe their foreign policy, in part because they aren't trying to make their audiences puke. Speechmaking 101.

(It seems that as JFK's speechwriter Sorenson once knew this, since nowhere in the Public Papers of Kennedy does the phrase "running sore" appear. To be fair, the word "ulcer" does show up in no less than fifteen Lyndon Johnson speeches, but then this was a guy who used to have meetings with aides while he sat on the can.)

Sorenson and Schlesinger do not explain what they mean by "costliest" in that first sentence, and I do not want to get into rates of inflation, comparisons of the cost of previous wars plus the costs of the reconstructions/postwar occupations, etc., so let's follow where Sorenson and Schlesinger go next: "We did not hear that it has taken more than 2,000 precious American lives and countless - because we do not count them - Iraqi civilian lives." Assuming, then, by "costliest," they mean in American lives, which is the most important category of cost, then it should be pointed out that more Americans died in combat or of other causes in each and every one of America's previous wars, except the Gulf War.

But I'm being uncharitable--they were making the case the President Bush did not acknowledge American dead in the war. Except that he did: "Before our mission in Iraq is accomplished, there will be tough days ahead. A time of war is a time of sacrifice, and we've lost some very fine men and women in this war on terror. Many of you know comrades and classmates who left our shores to defend freedom and who did not live to make the journey home. We pray for the military families who mourn the loss of loves ones. We hold them in our hearts -- and we honor the memory of every fallen soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine."

Sorenson and Schlesinger conclude the paragraph: "We did not hear that the struggle has dragged on longer than our involvement in either World War I or the Spanish-American War, or that by next spring it will be even longer than the Korean War." Even longer than the Korean War?!? Even longer than America's seventh longest war?!? A couple of paragraphs down, they assure us that unlike other foolish presidents, Kennedy would not have declared victory in Vietnam: "No, in 1963 in Vietnam, despite assurances from field commanders, there was no more semblance of "victory" than there was in 2004 in Iraq when the president gave his "mission accomplished" speech on the deck of an aircraft carrier." I guess that means we get to scratch the Spanish-American War off that list of shorter wars than this one. Unless we are to believe they would not have criticized President McKinley for declaring an end to major combat operations with a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him in the summer of 1898, even though the insurgency in the Philippines continued for at least four years after the end of the war. Hey, at least they got the date of President Bush's speech wrong.

And that is just the first paragraph (plus a sentence). The article is riddled with similar distortions, hostility, and falsehoods. We haven't even got to the highly questionable version of Kennedy and the outdated interpretations of Vietnam.

What a shame that this is the best we seem to be able to get from two men who were serious players in the age of muscular liberalism.


Paul said...

'Muscular liberalism' is becoming an oxymoron.
Leading liberals:
Kerry: troops are terrorists
Kennedy: war was concocted in Texas for political gain
Durbin: compared U.S. military to Nazis and Stalinist regimes
Dean: we can't win this war
The list goes on. It's scary that Kerry came close to being the president. He and Gore have provent their instability with their statements over the last 5 years. Think Horace Greeley defeating Grant in 1872. What a disaster that would have been.

Stephen said...


Paul said...


Stephen said...


The Copperheads, or "Peace Democrats," vexed Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans during the Civil War, campaigning against the war as a failure and opposing many military appropriations. The term Copperheads apparently came from the habit of some midwestern, hard-money Democrats of wearing copper pennies around their necks. Like most Democrats who supported the war, the antiwar Copperheads were opposed to the emancipation of the slaves. They were unhappy with the war effort, and reflecting their Jacksonian heritage, they disliked Republican economic policies, especially a national banking system.

The most notorious Copperhead was Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio congressman who gave up his seat to campaign for peace. In 1863, the writ of habeas corpus having been suspended, Gen. Ambrose Burnside had Vallandigham arrested; Lincoln released him, but exiled him into Confederate territory. He made his way north by ship and then across Canada. He ran for governor of Ohio in 1863, but lost, as did many Copperheads in state elections that year, in the wake of northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Still, the Copperheads retained some power. With Confederate agents, they subsidized several Democratic papers throughout the war, as well as freeing prisoners and capturing ships. They opposed the Democratic nomination of Gen. George McClellan for president in 1864 because he refused to accept their demands for an immediate peace; but they still had enough standing in the party to force the selection of Ohio Copperhead George Pendleton as the vice-presidential candidate. Their actions lent added credence to the Republican party's postwar use of the "bloody shirt" to charge Democrats with disloyalty.

Paul said...

I know what a copperhead is, but didn't know what you meant by it.
Kerry resembles Horace Greeley in that his opinions drifted with the direction of the political winds and he was unstable. I agree with some of Greeley's positions, but the problem is that who knows how committed he was to those positions?