A QUOTE POPULARLY ATTRIBUTED to Napoleon Bonaparte instructs: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself." This is the message I have for Senator John Kerry with regard to his recent contribution to the cause of the Democratic Party as the midterm campaigns wind down. We might abridge this dictum for modern times as I have in the second part of my title.
For the past several weeks, Republican candidates across the country have been teetering toward the edge like the T1000 absorbing shot after shot in the flame and steam factory (thank you Ebert) at the end of Terminator 2. Although the recent New Jersey State Supreme Court on gay civil unions gave some of the more desperate conservatives some fear fodder, the one-two punch of Iraq and Mark Foley eroded poll ratings over September and October.
Still, it's no sure thing to swing a change of ruling party. Implying that the fate of ill-educated people is to fight in Iraq plays on a pernicious stereotype of the military, and dishonors both the men and women Kerry served with in Vietnam as well as the all-volunteer force serving across the globe today. His fit of pique at being called on this failed joke, as righteous anger goes, is 2 years overdue. Kerry should have reacted with this rage at the Swift Boat instigators in 2004, instead of lying on his side and letting these jackals nip at his flanks for as long as they did.
I hope Kerry doesn't imagine that his 11th-hour participation in this campaign will contribute to success in 2008. He hasn't got a chance. The field is wide open, as it was in 2004, but the Democratic leadership will not back a one-time loser. Did Kerry, instead, feel like he had nothing to lose, and just wanted to jab the guy who beat him? This would strike me as the sort of thoughtless, unsympathetic gaffe that the Dems have accused Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld of making while our boys die in Iraq. The last thing the Democrats need right now is to be linked with a patrician soldier-bashing loser, which is precisely the sort of slander that Karl Rove's propaganda labs would turn out.
This putative sweep is by no means a lock. Kerry should accept that the cameras are now on him, and that his best move would be to crawl back into his hole and let the Repubs continue to destroy themselves.