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IN YOUR TEACUPS”
By David Podvin
“Stop crying in your teacups. It isn’t going to change. Get over it.”
That was the response of John Kerry to a liberal who condemned the theft of the presidency by George W. Bush. If the sentiment sounds familiar, that’s because it isn’t original. Kerry borrowed his words from America’s vapid conservative posse for whom chanting the phrase “Get over it” constitutes a dazzling display of wit.
Plagiarizing witticisms from Ann Coulter is not an endearing trait for a potential Democratic presidential nominee. It is one thing for liberals who are still incensed about the stolen election to be treated contemptuously by right wing banshees – it is an entirely different matter to incur such disdain from a man who seeks to be our champion.
But it is not unusual for Kerry to parrot the Republicans or be dismissive of liberal concerns. When members of the Congressional Black Caucus approached the senator for his support in challenging the Jim Crow tactics that subverted the 2000 presidential election, he told them to go away.
Kerry supported the Iraq War Resolution, either because he really believed Bush’s transparent lies (in which case he is not very bright) or because it was the politically shrewd thing to do (in which case he is not very honorable). Whatever the reason, there was no profile in courage from this Massachusetts senator.
When Bush and John Ashcroft used the terrorist attack on America as an excuse to confiscate civil liberties with the USA Patriot Act, it was Russ Feingold – not John Kerry – who rose with a stirring defense of American liberty. Kerry sided with the Republicans.
Kerry has consistently collaborated in stocking the federal courts with people who exalt the corporate agenda and reject the Theory of Evolution. He has voted to confirm the vast majority of Bush’s reactionary judicial appointees, and has thus doomed America to suffer many more miscarriages of justice like Bush v Gore.
The senator voted for the misnamed No Child Left Behind Act, legislation that drained money away from teaching school children by mandating unproductive testing. The result has been a decline in the quality of education and an increase in the profits of the Washington Post Company’s Kaplan test-publishing subsidiary.
Siding with Bush on the theft of the election, supporting an illegal war, gutting the Bill of Rights, voting to confirm extremist judges, and misusing education money to buy favorable news coverage for Bush comprise a track record that is unlikely to inoculate nominee Kerry from a crippling third party challenge. His record of accommodating the Republicans will prevent him from easily moving to the middle - where elections are won - because a significant number of liberals will hesitate to throw their support behind a candidate who has so frequently abandoned them.
And while running an optimistic, positive campaign made Kerry a winner in the eyes of Iowa Democratic caucus goers, if he were to try that strategy against the vicious Bush mob, he would soon be political road kill.
The “Stop crying in your teacups” line not only reveals the profound contempt Kerry feels for the rank and file, it also illustrates another problem– the Republicans will cast him as a stereotypical effete leftist. Never mind that Kerry is a war hero; so was George McGovern, but that didn’t stop the GOP from successfully misrepresenting him as a pansy. “Stop crying in your teacups” is the kind of effeminate phrase that is guaranteed to alienate male swing voters. A Democratic nominee who goes around uttering words like that will win majorities only in the District of Columbia and the Castro District of San Francisco.
Like all too many Washington Democrats, Kerry prizes getting along with Republicans more than he values principle. He has been loath to offend establishment sensibilities by impugning Bush’s character. His lack of outrage at the current administration’s serial criminal behavior makes him an unworthy advocate for people who are appalled by what Bush is doing to America.
As Paul Krugman has written, “The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.” Kerry falls into the latter category.
Bush cannot survive close scrutiny of the kleptocracy over which he presides. His administration is based on the premise that government exists to serve campaign contributors. The Democrats need someone to connect the dots between crony capitalism and the problems now plaguing the nation.
That someone will not be a comfortable member of the ruling class. The venal raison d’ętre of this administration has gone largely unquestioned by the Boston Brahmin Kerry, who has yet to express anger that the country is being run for the monied elite. Despite being presented with countless opportunities to denounce Bush as being morally unfit to lead the country, the senator has been unable to bring himself to do it. If Kerry becomes the nominee and battles Bush with the same submissive torpor he has shown during the last three years, the Democrats will lose in a landslide.
There is no need for the party to choose this perilous path. The presidency is there for the taking. Although Bush will have the money and the media, he is a scofflaw whose misconduct presents a can’t-miss target for a willing opponent. Democrats can succeed by nominating an animated leader to aggressively challenge Bush and thereby inspire the millions of alienated Americans who are yearning for someone to stand up on their behalf.
Kerry is not that man. During his years in Washington, he has been a bloodless technocrat who has watched passively as three Republican presidents have lied and cheated and broken the law. He was a warrior in the battle against Vietnamese communism, but he has been a conscientious objector in the fight against American fascism. While he was undeniably brave in opposing his enemies on the battlefield, his conduct in the Senate has frequently been craven. He has not been a leader, he has been a follower, and all too often he has followed the wrong party.
The upcoming presidential campaign will require extraordinary vigilance on the part of the Democratic nominee. Bush is a con man who will tell Americans anything they want to hear. The Democrat cannot win by politely reciting policy positions – he must repeatedly confront his deceitful opponent in order to show voters that they have been swindled. It will be an arduous process requiring an advocate who can persuasively convey a sense of righteous indignation, and John Kerry has never demonstrated that he is capable of summoning the indignation necessary for the task at hand.
Except, of course, when he is indignantly telling liberals to “Get over it.”
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