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zoning out on the election

I first noticed it at my daughter's third birthday party. A hyperactive, shrilly woman in an oversized Mickey Mouse costume led the ten or so kids at the party in a flurry of activities. In the space of thirty minutes, they danced the hokey pokey, squealed over Disney-themed balloon creatures, chased bubbles, recited an ode to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and played Pin the Tail on Pluto. The party volume was on high; the low murmer of chatter from the adults, layered with the high-pitched laughter of Nat's friends, plus the tinny tape player emitting the Disney songs, all of which was no match for the constant, nasal drone of Mickey Mouse him, err, herself. I watched Nat the whole time with a twinge of worry. She didn't seem to be joining in any of the yelling or singing or chasing. Instead, she appeared to me to be behaving classic zombie traits. Stiff motioned, blank stare, seemed to be just following the herd on autopilot. I tried to remember what happened the night before the party. Sure, we had a huge snowstorm that dumped about fourteen inches of the white stuff on the ground (and still, everyone showed up for the party), but as far as I could remember, there was no zombie invasion. Finally, I turned to my sister and said, "Does Nat look sort of catatonic to you?" My sister, too, noticed the glazed eyes and zombie-like behavior. We chalked it up to being overtired, but I had this nagging feeling that Natalie did not have the best time at her own birthday party. Later, I watched the video with a friend, who happened to be a pre-school teacher. She cued in on Nat's behavior right away, without a hint from me. She said it was a defense mechanism. Nat was obviously overwhelmed by the cacophony of noise and movement and sort of put herself in a trance, blocking out certain sounds and motions. It explains why she was able to recall all the good parts of the party in great, breathless detail (leaving out the cousins fighting over a glass of spilled fruit punch), yet looked for all the world like she was on another planet entirely. This also explained why she was able to fall dead asleep at the Tom Chapin concert a few weeks prior to that third birthday party, even though every child around her was singing at a decibel level known to pierce eardrums. When the signal to noise ratio became so saturated with noise that the signal was lost, Nat would just shut down before her little head exploded. Later, we would discover this was just part and parcel of some other issues, but that's another story. So, why do I bring this up now? What could Natalie's zoning out at a birthday party eleven years ago have to do with the election (as per the title)? Well, it seems I have adapted my daughter's favored method of coping. I've zoned out, gone into a Swift Boat coma, had my brain eaten by blogs, etc. Choose your phrase. The noise coming from both sides has reached a level that should only be heard by dogs. To these ears, it's all turned into such a horrid screeching sound that I can no longer focus on all the myriad individuals making the noises - be they in newspapers, on radio or tv, whether they be official spokespeople or bloggers or the candidates themselves. Aurally, it's perhaps the sound of thousands of children blowing whistles at once. Visually, it's 1950's era tv, going static after the national anthem. I've tried to focus on single issues, but there's no one issue that can get through all the crap being hurled against the fan these days. Do you realize that, as of right now, this presidential election is about Vietnam? It's about a war fought thirty freaking years ago. Granted, Kerry was the one who decided to make Vietnam an issue but who knew that meant that just 71 days before November 2nd, it would be just about the only issue? And now everyone is micromanaging this issue down to little, bitty pieces, to the point where the campaign ads are about campaign ads about Vietnam. So while everyone - that includes both campaigns and most of their supporters - are flinging so much Vietnam-flavored feces at each other, I'm sitting here truly shocked that his election is about a thirty year old war. I had to stop reading blogs this weekend because it was all Swift Boat/Cambodia all the time. The major papers were no better, the chat at an online game I play was inundated with Swift Boat cat fights, I'm sick of the negative ads from the Bush campaign (Kerry is mentioned four times - all with graphics or pictures - on the front page of the GWB website, a tactic that irritates me). So when I overheard two women in the bagel store going back and forth about shrapnel wounds (You can really judge a person by this, you know. Oh, I know, but he does have the Purple Heart. No, he has three. Yea, but what about what the veterans are saying? Well, he's not Bush, he's got that going for him. Yea, he does.), I had it. I walked out of the bagel store in full zombie mode and lumbered towards my car sporting a catatonic stare. I wanted brains. BRAINS! Really juicy, meaty brains that were fused with nutrients like the war on terror, taxes, Iraq, health care, education, homeland security. I drove home in a daze. My brain is just going to refuse to acknowledge that this presidential election is about something so far removed from the American psyche that the most relevant voters have no frame of reference for it. While most bloggers are cheering that this issue is finally making it to big media, I'm cringing. Neither side will benefit from bringing the Christmas in Cambodia story mainstream. Neither side will benefit from behaving like monkeys in a zoo in regards to the Swift Boat vets. So now, my defense mechanism has gone into full effect. It's effectively tuning out the noise and letting in all the signal. While it may appear that I'm not paying attention, I certainly am. I'm just filtering out those things that don't need to get in and people may think I look dazed and confused but, like my daughter before me, I'm taking in only what's necessary. I want to talk about the Mickey Mouse lady and the funny balloons, not the spilled fruit punch. I'm going to slink away before this mixed bag of metaphors gets out of hand [yea, too late, I know]. If anyone needs me, I'll be sitting in front of the tv, looking for signs in the static.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference zoning out on the election:

» I don't care if Kerry spent Christmas in Cambodia in 1968 from IndustrialBlog
Regarding this and others.

Do we have to chase every little red herring about every candidate's past?

What exactly is this Cambodia thing supposed to de... [Read More]

» Zoning out on the election from beancounter daydreams
AMEN. This is a long but excellent description of one blogger's burnout on the mind-numbing noise of the Presidential campaign. Does it sound like she's suffering from a variant of the Existentialism Virus? It does to me, and I can [Read More]

» GWB Denounces Outside Group Ads from The Moderate Voice
President George Bush condemned Swift Boat Vet anti-John Kerry ads today, but continued to link that to a demand to ads by all outside groups: CRAWFORD, Texas Aug. 23, 2004 — President Bush denounced campaign commercials aired by outside [Read More]

» The face of the future from sisu
"waaaaaaah I miss my baby . . . " (meep photo) "I've got a baby and a husband and a job. I'm happy with them all," says blogger meep (Mary Pat), a gen Xer who caught us up short [Read More]

» Silence Is Golden from Piquant : Engagingly Spicy
As much as I'm addicted to news -- and blogs -- it's time to shut out the white noise. The Kerry/Cambodia/Swift Boat fray is reaching a decibel level even I can't stand...and I've sat through more heavy metal concerts than... [Read More]


I'm thinking the same way, though I can't get upset at the Bushies: they've avoided saying much of anything about Kerry until after the convention, while Kerry, MoveOn, the Deaniacs, Ted Kennedy, etc. have been calling Bush every name under the sun for months. I'm more annoyed by the horrible media coverage of the whole thing than the fact of its existence.

You raise an important issue about the subject matter of the election. It seems to me that what has happened is the choice of conversation is symbolic. That is, scandals and topics raised in an election are not literal, and are not meant to be taken as literal. They are symbolic, and thus, ritualistic. Whether they are irrational or not -- I haven't decided.

These thoughts aren't that fleshed out. But I think we continue to act as if candidates are going to come up with a plan of action and present it to us, the voters, as if we were fellow directors on a corporate board and we were choosing a CEO. But we haven't had that kind of discussion in a long time, and I'm not sure given the size of the country and the complexity of the subject matter involved in running a government that we could manage a national discussion on the issues in the context of a political campaign.

So we take a shortcut ... and these shortcuts involve symbolic issues -- often trivial or side issues -- and watch how the campaign handles the debate. It's a game, and the candidate who manages the debate best often becomes the winner.

Does that make sense? Certainly someone else can clarify this more -- if anyone agrees with me.

The Kerry/Cambodia thing is not about John Kerry in Cambodia -- it's about how John Kerry and George Bush manage the public debate about this topic. But the topic itself isn't that important. What's important is the reactions and what they tell us about the candidates.


This will free you up to come have steak and beer with me. ;)

McCain-Feingold bans 527 TV ads after the first weekend of September, so the Swift Boat Vets' ads pretty much had to run now if they were going to run at all. Combine that with the Kerry campaign's focus on touting their candidate's Vietnam record, and it was inevitable that a 30-year-old war would dominate the news in the run-up to the Republican convention.

The 527s like the vets' group or MoveOn may be able to run ads on the Internet after Sept. 3, but they won't have the same impact, so we might actually start talking about issues less than 30 years old after Labor Day (though to do that Kerry is going to have to be willing to talk about his voting record for the past 20 years in the Senate).


I agree. I haven't heard much of subtance in this election. The thing is, for many this election isn't about issues. It's about "Anybody But Bush," and the Republicans have been more than happy to leap into the sewer alongside their opponents. It's only going to get worse (though it should make for some interesting debates).

As for Vietnam, it was inevitable that this would happen; Kerry seemingly couldn't go five minutes without mentioning Vietnam, so he shouldn't be surprised that his service there is now under the microscope.

The good news is that I strongly suspect that the Bush camp is planning to blow all the Vietnam stuff off the front pages with the GOP convention (note how little of newsworthiness the Bushies have done the past 10 days or so). The bad news, from your perspective, is that the convention will likely go very heavy on bashing Kerry, principally his Senate record and his positions on the campaign trail.

As for who's to blame, let's remember that Bush didn't run on Vietnam in 2000, or in 1998, or in 1994.

Kerry ran on Vietnam in 1972, 1984, and 1996.

You do the math.

It's posts like this that remind me that your writing and thinking can be head and shoulders above the blogging fray.

The sad thing about all this is that yeah, it's got to be said that Kerry is the one who brought up Vietnam, and it's important that the SwiftBoat Vets get heard in the pronews media, but -- nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to penetrate the inch-thick titanium helmets shielding the brains of the "Anyone but Bush" crowd. It wouldn't matter if the Republican Party unearthed authenticatable photographs of John Kerry in a Vietcong uniform torturing American POWs. It wouldn't matter if Kerry went on an insane rampage of tossing babies over cliffs while wearing a yeti costume. The Bush-Haters have already made up their mind: Bush Must Go. At this point it's come down to the way you feel about the husband or boyfriend soon to have ex- in front of that term: you can't stand the way he combs his hair or sits down or chews his food or anything, you just want him OUT. Purely visceral hatred, the psychological reasons for which are no doubt legion but I've become too BHFSed to give a damn. At least half the country is run by people who base their choices in life solely on how they feel, and are in fact incapable of "thinking" as we know that term.

I hope the convention won't be a bash-fest. It needs to be hollywood-celebrity free, upbeat and focused on the issues.

A few tangential points. One is that I think an implicit Kerry/media goal is this "overload" on the Swift Boat issues. At this point, their best bet is to force the whole thing to degenerate into a "he said/he said" thing, causing people to turn away in disgust with thoughts of "a plague on all their houses." And hope that it's all a wash in the end, hurting each candidate about equally.

I think there are real issues here - the story of Cambodia and the Magic Hat is kinda small, but IMO extremely telling about Kerry's character. And it's at heart a factual matter, and the facts are bad for Kerry, so better for him to have endless shouting about disputed accounts of medals, Purple Hearts, damage reports, etc. from 35 years ago.

On another tangent, I think presidential elections are really very seldom about "the issues" anyhow - and that's not an especially bad thing. Elections are usually more about figuring out the character of the candidate. Sure, having a detailed 20-point plan to "fix health care" or whatever is all well and good, but what we're really interested in is how he'll respond to things he doesn't control. How he reacts in a crisis, for example. A guy like Kerry can say all the right things on "the issues," but if you don't trust him, the deal's off.

I beg to differ with Michelle, of whom I am a fan. I don't think the discussion revolves around Vietnam, per se. I think the discussion is about Kerry's character, hence, his ability to lead.

But discussions of character have to have focal points. It turns out that the issue of Vietnam, Kerry's behavior then and his response to his behavior now, is a window into his character.

That's why Vietnam dominates the conversation...because it helps us explore Kerry's character. And I, for one, am glad that we are doing it.

By the way, who was it that led the discussion down this path? John Kerry. At the convention, he invited America to judge him fit for office based on his performance in Vietnam.

By God, that's what we are doing.

---Tom Nally, New Orleans

michele, unrelieved stress leads to burnout. Get a hammer, a board and a bag of nails. Pound nails into the board (imagining little faces on the heads of the nails is optional) until you feel better.

Or slug back a bottle of tequila, whatever works.

Camp Kerry has been operating on the Vietnam issue in a virtual vacuum for months. Millions of dollars spent touting his "chest full of medals" and surrounding himself with his Band o'Bros at the convention and that salute.

Swiftvets spends $500,000 and all hell breaks loose. And the "MSM" only starts dipping its pro-Kerry/anti-GW toe in it almost two weeks after a Very Kerry Christmas breaks in the blogsphere. And the MSM still doesn't want to deal with the substance of issue (they barely even mention 12/24/68) but are going after those damned Swifties who dare challenge His Anointed Holiness Kerry with every innuendo they can imagine. Good god, you have the usually respectable cartoonist Pat Oliphant fully crossing the border into Ted Rall territory.

All that said, yes, I can understand your overload. It was 30 years ago. But Kerry can't (won't) run on his 20 years in the Senate because there really is no "there" there. That's why Kerry has chosen to cast himself as a modern PT109 Kennedy (and forgetting that even Kennedy did not run on his war record).

Personally, I'll tell you why I'm not overloaded; why, in fact, this has really got under my skin. I'm sure you've seen the second Swiftie ad with Kerry's own April 1971 Senate testimony. Months ago CSpan ran that whole testimony and I watched it.

Where was I in early 1971? High school. Junior year. Watching some of our own "activists" organize a Vietnam protest day; handing out black arms bands, being upfront and vocal that they weren't just protesting the political aspect of the war, but were calling US soldiers war criminals and "baby killers." I was shocked at that. No matter how one felt about the political prosecution of the war, how could they be so hate-filled about the soldiers; about some of their own classmates who had gone, or were in, Vietnam? After the shock passed, the anger set in. My friends and I started organizing a counter protest; we passed out red/white/blue arms bands and we made our support of US soldiers quite clear. We also were upfront in letting the invited speakers on the protest day know we were there and we challenged them on the "reception" so many American soldiers received when they got home from Vietnam. We refused to let these guys operate in a vacuum.

I would be more than happy to let those years lay in misty memory. There was more than one bitter very-Leftist teacher I confronted and challenged during those years (not just on Vietnam, but also when our school's first "La Raza" club was organized) and I look back at those raw emotions and would like to just blow it off.

But it is Kerry that has made me go back and revisit those years. It is Kerry and his pretense at being a "proud Viet vet" today when he was as anti-vet in 71 as some of my fellow students and the speakers they invited were.

It is Kerry who as awakened all this and I will not let it go until it runs its course. And I was just a high school student! I can only imagine the emotions of the former POW's who were made to listen to that patrician, holier than thou, voice pronouncing them the raping, murdering heirs of Ghengis Khan (and then 20 years later watch as Kerry frustrated any efforts to find out the fate of their missing comrades).

I don't know if the Swifties will be able to run their ads past Sept 2 (I've heard since they are unincorporated, they may be able to) ... but I'll be damned if the "MSM" will then operate at will in the last 60 days to try and redeem Kerry without challenge. The man is dangerous, and how he has reacted to this episode more than proves it.

Ray, I'm not stressed at all. In fact, since I decided to tune out, I've been feeling great. Got the entire garage cleaned out this weekend. And I didn't bite a single nail today.

Darleen, I just want to know where all the other important issues went to. This is a presidential election, surely there must be more at stake than what month John Kerry swam to Cambodia in?


Kerry backed off the issues. The GW campaign is running ads on Kerry's flip flops, contrasting his words with his deeds. And the Kerry response is to shout "liar!"

And really.. Kerry has spent over 20 years repeating again and again, that spending Christmas in Cambodia was his political turning point, "the" pivatol moment of his life.

And it's a proven and admitted lie.

Kerry can talk himself blue in the face about "issues" now. On what basis can I believe anything he has to say about them? How much damage has he caused to people for over 20 years, how much damage are we going to allow him to inflict in the future?

I'm sick of the negative ads from the Bush campaign

Um...you're kidding, right? You're aware MoveOn et al have spent $62 million in ads calling Bush every filthy name under the sun, right?

Just checking...

Darleen, you missed the entire point of my post. I'm talking about the media, bloggers, people in general harping on this one issue. I'm wondering why we are all so fixated on something that happened 30 years ago. I'm wondering why the official Bush website devotes an inordinate amount of its space to bashing Kerry instead of addressing the major issues of this campaign. Two months before the election, and very few people are talking about terrrorism, security, health care or education.

RMC - Kerry isn't running the MoveOn campaign so that's not at issue here.

Great post, and I know what you mean but am not sure it's true that this story is "so far removed from the American psyche that the most relevant voters have no frame of reference for it." Listen to the comments from one of my readers, fellow blogger and Vietnam Era vet Frank LoPinto:

It also seems to me that Kerry has opened a wound that never healed. To whatever extent the country moved on from Vietnam is far in advance of where the Vietnam Vets themselves stand. "And as the word spreads, I wouldn't be surprised if Vietnam Vets and all of their brothers in arms, past and present, make it their mission to defeat the one who has become the icon for all they suffered.

I've posted his entire comment, well worth reading, here:

"The icon for all they suffered"

oops.... "pivotal" sorry PIMF


Sissy, what I meant when I said "so far removed from the American psyche that the most relevant voters have no frame of reference for it" was that the Gen X voters (for lack of a better phrase) know very little about Vietnam. See here.


GW announces a major shift in US military deployment

Kerry screams it's political and reckless (even though he had floated a similar tact not long ago)

GW ads refer to his major Fed education program "No Child Left Behind"

Kerry screams "fraud!"

GW puts more money in AIDS in Africa in a shorter amount of time than any US President

Kerry screams "it didn't happen! not enough!"

GW signs a major expansion of Drug benefits for Seniors

Kerry screams "fraud!"

Kerry cannot point to anything in his 20 years in the Senate that he authored or passed. He runs about the country channeling Michael Moore about "seven minutes" when he was paralyzed for 40!

To borrow a movie line

Issues? Kerry can't handle the issues.

Darleen, try to follow me here. I'm talking about the MEDIA and, to a lesser extent, bloggers following the important issues.

I'm glad to hear this Michele, because I think your sensitivities and sensibilities in this matter are spot on.

It's time the voting public finally ate its fill of this type of campaigning, and threw it back up. So, unfortunately, I want it to continue a little while longer so they can either do so or wallow in the defamation all the way to the voting booth.

It won't be pretty. But it will tell the world and us far more about the realities of our great "democracy" than anything else.

Of course, the problem with ignorance is that it's... ignorant. And people (cough Kerry cough) can play on that. But I don't think it's that Gen-X'ers or whatever don't know much about Vietnam, I think it's that the people who have basically been allowed to frame the argument about the Vietnam War (ie: it was Wrong, a Horrible Mistake We Made, etc.) are starting to panic because it has occurred to them that in their smug assurance that they totally owned Vietnam and in the thrill of getting the upper hand in that one little argument they forgot to reinforce the larger, more important idea -- that Military Intervention by the US is Bad, Wrong, Not to Be Done Ever Ever Ever for Any Reason -- in the minds of their offspring. People weren't supposed to go "well, sure, Vietnam was a mistake, maybe, but Iraq, Afghanistan -- this is a different issue, and we've learned from our mistakes what not to do in a war" -- people were supposed to be denouncing the entire idea of the US doing anything with its military except providing free college education for Newly Empowered Minorities, diapering starving children in Haiti, and beefing up the German economy.

And of course there is not much else going on at the moment though I could blog more about the leak in my walls and my financial woes. The Olympics is kind of boring -- make that totally boring -- and I haven't watched them anyway because I don't do sports. Hm. Maybe a good movie is coming out? Well -- I finally watched the second Harry Potter movie, now to watch the third... Oh how long before the Return of the King extended dvd is out? I wait with bated breath.

David C. makes an interesting point on media coverage, the objective being to make us sick of the Vietnam thing.

Vietnam has been an issue in presidential elections since 1968 - but hey, this might be the last election driven by it.


Bloggers were ahead of the media here. It's only been in the last few days that the story has even been broached in the MSM (there are tons of people out there with no internet access who probably have read the nasty ad homenim attacks on the Swifties that carefully avoid what the Swiftvets are and wondering "WTF?")

I'm sorry if I'm coming off here as if I don't get what you're trying to say. I, too, would rather there be an issue oriented campaign. But I'll say again, how do we have an issue oriented campaign when Kerry refuses to deal in issues? When, even if he did, he cannot be trusted on them because his whole political life is based on a fraud?

Marshall, I swear, the next time you put scare quotes around democracy in regards to the USA, I will slap your face.

[now channeling the passion of a 17 y/o high school junior of 1971]

Well, I've endured a few virtual slaps in my time, and a shin kick or two, like on my last post further down the blog. Hasn't dented my opinions in the least.

Don't mess with Marshall, man. He's tough. He ate the brownies and smoked the weed!

Heck, michele, get the hammer anyway!

Frankly, I see the point of your post. I'd love to see this campaign run on real issues.

Frankly, I don't see that Kerry is capable of doing that. He doesn't seem to have any issue he can't stand on both sides of.

But I also think it is good for the country to see Kerry's response to all this. Ask yourself: Do we want a President who's first response to any criticism is to lawyer up?

I see desperation in the Dem's attempts at spin and damage control.



It just gets on my last nerve, people who sneer at our political system. They are quite welcome to emigrate anywhere else in the world.
Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. -Winston Churchill

Well that's good Joseph. Opinions are best dented by data, rather than statements describing 1/2 the country as incabable of thinking. Of course data can be hard to find when hyperbole masquerades as critical thinking. Like Michelle, when so much time, energy, and attention is spent on a cacophony of exaggeration and embellishment it's enough to make anyone with critical focus zombie-like.

RMC - Kerry isn't running the MoveOn campaign so that's not at issue here.

No, MoveOn has merely donated millions of dollars to Kerry, and one top MoveOn exec just resigned to join...the Kerry campaign. Nope. No connection there.

I just think it's hilarious you would accuse Bush of "negative campaigning" and not Kerry...I mean, hello...?

RMc, you are aware that I'm a Bush supporter, right?

I couldn't agree more, Michele. It's slightly tangential, but I also have to point out how bizarre it is that everyone knows John Kerry was in Vietnam, but that even after the Democratic Convention, I'm practically certain most people still aren't aware of his tenure as Lt. Governor under...who was that again? Oh yeah, Michael Dukakis.

RMc, you are aware that I'm a Bush supporter, right?

Yes, indeed I do, which is why I can't figure out your attitude about this...ah, well.


I just wanted to say that we gen-Xers do know about Vietnam... but in no visceral way. It's purely a matter of history to us, like WWII or the Civil War. We don't have our feelings caught up in it. Heck, we barely have our feelings caught up in the Cold War -- I remember being afraid of the Soviets in the 80s as a child, but the Berlin Wall had fallen while I was in high school, and the Soviet Union was gone before I went to college.

Heck, people my age probably have more gut feelings about O.J. Simpson than Vietnam.

Oh, and people my age know O.J. Simpson as that guy from the Naked Gun movies...

I'm curious what RMc really wants or expects of Michelle. She expresses an opinion that she's sick of the negative ads that are being run by a candidate which she supports (many people don't like negative ads in general, regardless of who they support). RMc dismisses her opinion (as in "You're kidding, right?") because she doesn't equalize her sentiments, and then rephrases her opinion, referring to it as an accusation of negative campaigning. I think this is the kind of twisted path that leads to zombie-ness. The message seems to be, "Don't express your opinion unless you express it in some normalized balanced way, and then prepare to have it mischarazed and distorted."


I agree with the substance of your original post. The election needs to be about the issues that confront us in the future.

But, as you can see, most of your commenters aren't really getting it. And, that's because you're laying blame right where it belongs -- on both sides. And they don't want to hear that, especially from you. They can only understand the black and white world, where one candidate represents good and the other evil. How silly and immature that is! But, it's that way on a lot of blogs.

What I'd like to hear from both candidates is specifics on what they've accomplished in public office, what their plans are for our future, and what they believe in.

I get what you mean about the All Vietnam - All The Time lately from the media, both traditional and non-traditional (blogs). In defense of the media, however, the election is one of the biggest events occuring right now and they can only "report" or "editorialize" on what the candidates and campaigns give them.

You are correct that it dodges some critical issues that should be getting more light. Some of the bigger issues you mentioned, however, are War on Terror, Homeland Security, and Iraq. Bush's position on those issues is a simple "I've done a good job so far and I'm gonna keep on truckin'". Not much to really report on there.

Kerry's position is that while bush is doing a good job and has a good plan, he is a better suited person to be implementing that plan, or a different plan. It would be nice if Kerry actually gave us a plan to talk about, but he just reverts back to "I'd be a better CIC". Why? "Because I served in Vietnam and won medals, etc." That is all he gives us to examine, so the media does.

The media has already decided who they are for. So they take what is given and they either pick it apart or the defend the picking apart. Kerry gives us Vietnam. Bush gives us the DMA. Not much to discuss on the DMA...what are you gonna say to the left about that? "It's a dumb idea." "Yeah, I agree." End of discussion. Vietnam, there is so much to discuss that I believe we have only just scratched the surface.

As for the other issues, healthcare, taxes, deficit, education, circumcision for squirrells...unfortunately for us Americans I don;t think either candidate has a real clue about what they will do with those issues.

Eh, I saw this coming the minute I started writing this in the morning.

This is what happens when I step outside of the clearly defined Bush Supporter box that some people think I need to exist within in order to be a True Believer.

Don't be a "true believer." Questioning is the sign of a more highly evolved person. Although I disagree with your stance on many issues, I can see that you're an intelligent person who doesn't come to a position without a lot of forethought.

I'd love to talk about substantive issues, instead of a war that was pretty much over when I was born. But what shall we talk about? I already know Bush's policies, but I have no idea what Kerry plans to do about anything. He's getting a free ride from the press. All we have to go on are Kerry's nebulous self-contradictory statements and talk about "secret plans", his character and personality, and his past voting record. Is it wrong to discuss those things?

I think we can all agree that Bush's latest ad, the one with the Olympic theme, is headed in the right direction. But the Kerry stuff on Bush's web site seems pretty relevant to me, too. The criticisms of his senate voting record on taxes and intelligence spending, for example.

Good Post. Sorry about some people are so into not seeing it for what it was for.


Heck, if you're outside the 'true believer' box, so am I. So are the majority of GW supporters. We all have our own areas of disagreement (me..it's education cuz I don't think the Feds have any business in it at all).

But as different Bill points out it is Kerry whos answer to everything thing is "you do know I served in Vietnam, right?" as if that magical phrase, like his magical hat, should Explain.All.And.Engender.Awe.

From CBS Breaking News:

President Bush denounced a TV ad attacking John Kerry's war record and
called for a halt to all such ads by outside groups.

Now if some of your readers on the right would follow suit....

Michele, I completely agree with you. At this point, I'm no more eager to hear the rantings of the people who support the side I nominally support than I am to hear those of the other side.

What I have trouble understanding is why there aren't more people on both sides, like you and I, who've been driven into quasi-catatonia by the shrill cacaphony. I guess it's possible there have been, and being in a catatonic state, they're just not saying much.

What I fear is that if Kerry wins the election, the very next day the right wing folks will go into attack mode, the same way that the left-wing is now. If these constant shouting matches go on indefinitely, I think it could burn a lot of the non-shouters out on politics altogether, leading to even LESS rational debate as the uber-partisans come to be the only folks willing to participate in politics.

It's not a rosy scenario, no matter who wins the election...


I question the timing of your post.


Fox took the headline down.


You commented: "I'm talking about the MEDIA and, to a lesser extent, bloggers following the important issues."

The media are in the bag for Kerry. Evan Thomas of Newsweek said in an interview that he is hoping that will contribute 15 % to Kerry in the polls. Therefore, what Kerry talks about is what they talk about. So if Kerry is talking about Vietnam, his obedient servants in the press go all Vietnam, all the time. If Kerry is slamming the Swift Vets, then his obedient servants slam the Swift Vets all the time.

It is to the point that in the phrase "objective news media" the words "objective" and "news media" are a contradiction in terms. Of course, it has been that way for some time. There may or may not be collusion between 527 groups and the Kerry campaign. If anyone doubts the collusion of the press, then they are not paying attention.

Agree with your premise Michelle, as the topic of Kerry and Vietnam is getting as old as "the 16 words in the SOTU" story. At some point, it becomes a pointless fight. I for one "get it", and now ready to talk about something else.

I do disagree with the idea that this is beyond the Gen-X crowd. My Father served in Vietnam. I know he and his buddy soldiers never talked about it in pride. Many Veterans of wars don't boast, but Vietnam Veterans for years kept it down.

I know Kerry was an important part of why Vietnam Veterans are treated differently than others who served. He testified that they were different. I think the latest Swiftie ad with "He gave for free what we would not give under torture" sums it up well.

I'm glad that story is out. I'm excited the record is being corrected. I could never support Kerry. I'm ready to talk about the next 4 years.

PS Andrea... the third Harry Potter film is badly done. A real let down for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of Rowling's stories.

Well, that's a bummer. I was going to go see it next week.

Maybe I'll go see Shrek 2 instead.

Oh... just hear an audio clip of GW on the radio

He's calling on Kerry to join him in condemning all "soft money" in the campaign as being "bad for the process."

I've lost all respect for McCain over this. He was told time and again that his (and Feingolds) "reform" was worse than the problem they were trying to correct.

Story is here

Did Bush say anything before the sentence
"That means that ad and every other ad" specifcally referring to the Swift Boats ad? I'm guessing it was in response to a question from a reporter? But, yeah, it seems basically to be the same thing he's been saying for a while, saying the ad is bad because it's a 527 ad, not addressing its content.

Leland, "He gave for free what we would not give under torture", I don't think this sums it up well at all. I think it actually distorts and clouds the issue, unless one wants to establish a new McCarthyism. The ad in question is deceiving in that it portrays Kerry as directly making accusations of atrocities, when he was actually repeating testimony of others. Even Bob Dole is continuing the misrepresentation. We all know that atrocites occured. We're all (i hope) sophisticated enough to realize that admitting to or discussing such doesn't diminish veterans in general, or invalidate a military action. We're fortunate and intelligent enough to be united against an enemy and self-critical at the same time. (some of us believe those are not mutually exclusive)

Mike R:

I really don't think you need to fear a continued feeding frenzy if Kerry does, by chance, happen to win.

Most, if not all, of the poison will be out in the open and every concievable form of nasty invective will have been done to death.

At that point maybe, just maybe, we can build a consensus of 54% or so of the country and the Congress to start fixing what's broken.

And the other 46% will have to start talking sense about why it shouldn't be fixed rather than what a "bad, bad, man" is trying to fix it, because nobody will want to hear the word "swiftboat" again.

Chris, I think Kerry did make some of those accusations about the atrocities himself. [warning, pdf file]

Leland: re Harry Potter 3 -- Well, I've read good reviews and bad reviews of the movie, so I guess I am stuck seeing it myself and making up my own mind.

Since we broke the falsity of Kerry's Christmas in Cambodia story first (way back on May 21, to the sound of crickets chirping), we're not going to say it's been covered too much. It has dominated the blogs for almost 3 weeks now because the mainstream media tried to avoid covering it for the first two weeks.

I agree that the issue should not be Vietnam; now convince John Kerry's campaign that's not the issue. Kerry's stuck in a spiderhole trying to avoid any media questions on Cambodia, because he knows that nobody, not even his crewmen who are supporters, back him up on the story of ever</em< being in Cambodia. And Kerry has told that lie for something like 25 years, each time embellishing it a little more to fit whatever current point he's making.

Yes Michelle I'm sure he did. But here is a case where context and accuracy are everything. The message in the swiftboat ads, and the message in that pdf document are not the same thing. In the pdf he speaks (his own words, not recounting those of others) of the collective "we", and is reacting to the (necessary) atrocities of war in general. He comments that we must remember the horribleness so that we don't un-necessarily commit those in the future to have to do the same thing. It is completely abstract - everyone knows and accepts that war means un-necessary death and atrocity. By raising awareness, he is trying to raise the standards. He is attempting to learn from experience. The message of the swift boat ads is far different from this, and seems to paint discussion of the negative side of war as akin to traitorship. A misleading oversimplification.


And if "everyone knows and accepts that war means un-necessary death and atrocity" then how is Kerry "raising awareness"? A hear the faint strains of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" playing in the background...

By the way -- not all deaths in war are "un-necessary." The deaths of enemy combatants who refuse to surrender and who keep on using civilians as human shields seem to me to be very necessary. Then again, maybe all they need is a hug. You try it out and get back to me with how it works out.

In March 1992 already, Christopher Hitchens wrote: "How dismal it is to realize that the standard for the Vietnam generation is now at the level of 'What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?' "

What you're seeing is Clintonism, Michele, rolling down through the decades. In the case of Kerry, it is now manifest in the greatest hypocrisy ever known in the times of anyone now living. We're talking about a whole generation of rotten brats who had everything they could have wanted, granted to them by sweet people (their parents) who had fought through the Depression and World War II, and who would have done anything and everything on earth to ensure that their children would not suffer like that. Eveything, that is, except to teach them that reality means that they cannot have their cake (this appalling pose of patriotism) and eat it (like they did since 1968), too.

Now, that's what this fight means. You're not going to find a single Republican able to articulate it in its most basic terms. (Which fact is too bad, because a full explication of this issue would destroy every single "policy" proposed on the Kerry side of the ticket -- and not a few on the Republican side, as well. This is about reality. It is not simply a political or even ethical or epistemic dispute. It is really about the nature of the world.) And I know you're tired of it. I am, too.

The thing about it that just makes me bone-tired, however, is the fact that not one in ten thousand of my countrymen can understand this horseshit as a symptom, far less what the real disease is.


What is it about this testimony (text source document republished hmtl) that makes you think Kerry is saying "hey, man, I'm not saying this... I'm just reporting what others say. Don't hold me responsible."
not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

Understand, Chris? Kerry's not offering up stories of horrible, tragic instances of war, but of war crimes as policy.

As a veteran and one who feels this anger, I would like to talk about it.
Kerry includes himself in this testimony. He is not testifying to what "others" have said, but testifying with them, adding his credibility to the stories he relates.
My feeling, Senator, on Lieutenant Calley is what he did quite obviously was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing and I have no bone to pick with the fact that he was prosecuted. But I think that in this question you have to separate guilt from responsibility, and I think clearly the responsibility for what has happened there lies elsewhere.

I think it lies with the men who designed free fire zones. I think it lies with the men who encourage body counts. I think it lies in large part with this country, which allows a young child before he reaches the age of 14 to see 12,500 deaths on television, which glorifies the John Wayne syndrome, which puts out fighting man comic books on the stands, which allows us in training to do calisthenics to four counts, on the fourth count of which we stand up and shout "kill" in unison, which has posters in barracks in this country with a crucified Vietnamese, blood on him, and underneath it says "kill the gook," and I think that clearly the responsibility for all of this is what has produced this horrible aberration.

Why yes, the more stuff has changed, the more it remains the same. The Vietnam war, just like 9/11, is the fault of America.


Yes Andrea, traitorship. (not in most abridged dictionaries, probably OED) Characteristic of being a traitor.
How is Kerry raising awareness? Precisely because he DID talk about it. The difference in awareness before Vietnam and after Vietnam is stunning. Beforehand, the idea of shooting civilians (i.e. women and children) would be virtually unfathomable, whereas once we learn that vets faced some women and children who came running up to them with bombs the story changes. The line between atrocity and self-preservation is not so clear. With everything we've learned since then, by "everyone" I meant the conventional wisdom now; whereas he was speaking 30 years ago. Even so, knowing something and having it's awareness raised are different things (an example would be the idea of penetrance in genetics).
How might I have guessed that if I defended someone speaking on the negative side of war, your response would include the word "hug"? To be clear, by "un-necessary" death, I was referring specifically to non-combatants. We accept (or understand) the idea that in killing an army there will be collateral damage.
Darleen, I understand perfectly. What it is about that testimony that makes me think he is reporting what others say is his usage of the word, "they", and his recounting of what "they" said. The excised bits in the swift boat ads are made to look like accusations from him about others, whereas in his testimony he is clearly portraying it as a group confession, where of course, no specific individuals are targeted, and his bigger message is that the entire process elicited bad behavior.
I don't know why you're saying Vietnam or 9/11 are the fault of America. Like kids fighting over who should clean up a mess, the adult typically doesn't care whose fault it is. With what we know about Vietnam, I don't know how anyone could read Kerry's testimony, and think if that's what he really experienced he should have just kept his head down and shut up.

I don't know how anyone could read Kerry's testimony, and think if that's what he really experienced he should have just kept his head down and shut up.
Not at all, and actually, totally the opposite. If Kerry observed war crimes, by military code he was obligated to report them up the chain of command.

And if you think Vietnam was some sort of "new" war in regards to shooting (deliberately or not) women and children, you need to do a bit more historical research.

The 2nd Swiftvet ad was spot on and delivered what the POW's themselves feel. Their feelings and opinions are not inauthentic just because Kerry is running for President.

"My brain is just going to refuse to acknowledge that this presidential election is about something so far removed from the American psyche that the most relevant voters have no frame of reference for it."

Reading your post again, and thinking about it more, I'm afraid that's just not true. This has been like latent ringworm under the American skin since the fall of Saigon, routed but not destroyed, always itching, itching, itching.

Who are the "traitors"? Who "stabbed us in the back"? Just like Weimar Germany so long ago. Thank heavens we haven't had a real depression again or a politician of true "leadership".

Billy raises several important points.

Is it just me, or does it strike you guys as intersting that after expending so much energy calling the Military liars, and publicly and loudly accusing them of committing, and then officially covering up attrocities, Kamp Kerry now calling what is in the official record, 'the truth'? Seems rather a selective process, to me.

It gets better, of course. Bob Dole opened fire on Kamp Kerry yesterday, which brought with it a reminder of the Democrats tactics back in 96. National Review, with the pen of Jim Geraghty reminded us:

Let's not hear any more talk about how high-minded the left was about Bob Dole and his medals eight years ago.
The Nation argued that Bob Dole got his first Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound. Robert Ellis, who, like Dole 10th Mountain Division in World War II, sought to debunk the "myth" of Dole's heroism
I have the link for that if you're interested.

What we're talking about here is a lack of respect for not only whose who serve us true... but for the truth itself. Kerry's ben revealed as a liar several times over, as has the team surrounding him, over a period of years... decades, in fact.

The question now before us is this simple, and this direct; do we really want these people in power?

Great point, Michele. Thanks for the link to meep's comments at Buzz Machine. Here's my take:

The face of the future

Well Darlene, what I would oppose to Godwin's Law is Marshall's Hypothetical Imperative:

If you can't stand the parallel, come back to the same universe.

The parallel is, of course, not exact. We have far stronger democratic institutions than Weimar and our Army is not politicised. Also the Left has no one so formidable as, say, Rosa Luxemburg.

A Democratic Party that gets the willies over a little blunt speech and political emotion of a flinty, essentially moderate, Vermont doctor, dosen't breed very many Rosa Luxemburgs.

But the parallel on the Right is far closer. Over there a political opponent is not just someone to be defeated because of his wrong views, he is someone to be punished for having the temerity to oppose you at all.

Unfortunately, some of us just test high on temerity.

By the way, Chris, I always thought the word was "treason" not "traitorship"???

Over there a political opponent is not just someone to be defeated because of his wrong views, he is someone to be punished for having the temerity to oppose you at all.

Do tell.

Joseph, you don't understand what Godwin's law is.

It's got nothing to do with what you think it means, and everything to do with the value of continuing a debate with someone who has demonstrated that they're willing to compare people who disagree with them with one of the foulest groups in history to score a point, instead of presenting facts.

And you've done it twice, now.

You lose.

Well, Sandy, just ask John McCain about the 2000 South Carolina primary or my own Republican Senator George Voinovich what happened to him here in Ohio when he spoke out against the G.W.Bush deficit and the tax cuts which fueled it. The television ads taken out against him were savage.

Old George V. is a trooper, and a right guy, by the way. He took his obligatory first shot in the newspapers here at Kerry/Edwards when the choice of Edwards was announced.

But even though G.W.B. has been here quite a lot, George V. has been notably absent from the rallies.

And if you think Vietnam was some sort of "new" war in regards to shooting (deliberately or not) women and children, you need to do a bit more historical research.
Fortunately for your assessment of my ignorance and what I need to study, Darleen, this is not what I think. I was trying to be clear that it was new in the American conscience. However, unfortunately for me, after the astute observations of the Kerry Cambodia story from those such as Bithead and Brainster, I've had a satori and realized that I have no integrity and have been lying all my life because sometimes when I'm on the other side of the country I tell people I'm from San Francisco (a common jargon for referring to the whole of the SF bay area), when in actuality I'm from Berkeley, which is five miles from SF.
Joseph I used traitorship rather than "treason" because it is less definitive (and because my cahonas aren't as big as Anne Coulter's).

Barbados -- a weekend or longer in Barbados with no newspapers or TV should do the trick.

Arriving to the party late:

Imagine that you just stepped off the plane at a foreign airport, and are deciding between two taxi drivers.

What is your first concern? Does he know where he's going? Or can he drive? Before you step into that cab, you're going to make your assessment as to whether or not you think he can drive. Well, one thing the Democrats have assumed as a given is that GW can't drive the bus, and they've been attempting to demonstrate that Kerry can. By focusing on Kerry's 'Nam record, they've implicitly recognized that security [b]is[/b] the #1 concern of the voting public, and they know that if they don't convince the voters that Kerry can drive this bus [b]through[/b] the wilderness, it doesn't matter whether or not they wan't to go to the land of milk and honey, or the land of opportunity.

Once they settle out [b]if[/b] Kerry can drive, we can talk about where he wants to take us.

The fact that the MSM refuses to really take up the question of judgement and competence is why it won't go away.