Abraham Lincoln: Republican Hipster

In honor of John Kerry’s Cooper Union speech today, here’s a completely off-topic quote from Abraham Lincoln’s May 1860 address there that shows how far back one element of speech goes. In it, he’s addressing the threat of Southern states to secede if an anti-slavery Republican is elected. (As quoted in “The Greatest Republican” by James M. McPherson, from The New York Review of Books, August 12, 2004.)

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! [Laughter] That is cool. [Great laughter] A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!” [Continued laughter]

Not that I’m advocating voting Republican this year. Unless Lincoln’s running.

Warping Time on NPR

In an August 21st story on NPR’s All Things Considered titled “Ad Fight Bogs Down White House Race,” host Jennifer Ludden asks Washington Post staff writer Jim VandeHei if John Kerry’s campaign should have expected attacks on his war record because it was highlighted during the Democratic convention at the end of July. (It takes place between 3:30 and 4:45 in the RealMedia stream of the story.)

LUDDEN: Well, as you said, Kerry has highlighted his service from the beginning of his campaign, it was a hallmark of his speech at the convention. Should he in some way have expected this?

VANDEHEI: I’m sure they did but I don’t think they thought it would have this much effect. They assumed they had sort of put this stuff to rest. It came up in his Senate campaigns in the ’90s. It came up earlier in this campaign and he felt like he dealt with it and that the public would sort of side with him on this. So, this, this one’s really caught him by surprise and there’s a lot of people out there who say it’s not fair game, that we’ve got all these big pressing issues, we have Iraq, we have terrorism, we have job loss, we have health care, that those are the issues we should be talking about. On the other hand, by using his entire convention to promote himself as the candidate who served in war, who can even lead the country in war again, he kind of opened himself up to this.

For either Ludden or VandeHei to pretend that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign is a response to anything that happened at the Democratic convention is a result of willfull blindness to reality. The book produced by the group, “Unfit for Command,” was released on August 15th, less than four weeks after the beginning of the convention, which doesn’t leave much time for conducting interviews, writing, editing, printing, or distributing the book. It was obviously under production before the convention.

More specifically, VandeHei, who’s been covering the presidential race for well over a year, has no excuse for not knowing that the SBVT group was formed months before the convention. Its creation and goals were announced widely in the press, including VandeHei’s own newspaper: on May 5th, in a story titled “Veterans Group Criticizes Kerry’s War Record” by Paul Farhi. That’s about as unambiguous as “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S.”

Why then, did Ludden and VendeHei pretend that the SBVT ads have anything to do with the convention? Do they really think books, ad campaigns, and groups spring from nothingness in a matter of days? Does VandeHei not read his own newspaper? Why are they talking about this subject when they so obviously have no conception of the history of the the campaign or, if they do, they can’t be bothered to recall it accurately?

The Worst-Laid Plans of John Kerry

One of the primary themes of the people disputing John Kerry’s war record appears to be that he was involved in actively manufactuing a reputation as a hero, so that he could come back and begin a career in politics. This was exemplified by Thursday night’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

Larry Thurlow, one of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” said:

It became apparent early on that John Kerry had a master plan that went far beyond the service in the swift boats, and because of the fact that he was trying to engineer a record, so to speak, for himself, he was not a trustworthy member of a very tightly-knit unit that counted on each other at every second.

It’s a point he repeated several times, although he could not provide any evidence that such a plan existed. Michelle Malkin, a later guest on the show, intimated that Kerry may have inflicted some of the wounds that led to his Purple Hearts, an allegation that’s been made elsewhere, as well.

If that was Kerry’s plan though, why the heck did he come back and get involved with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War? Testifying about war atrocities? Associating himself with the anti-war movement? That seems like a pretty risky strategy.

Sort of like trying to wound yourself with a grenade, or volunteering for service in Vietnam to get some ribbons.


Scott McClellan’s been saying for the past week that there’s nothing the White House can do about stopping the Swift Boat smear campaign against John Kerry.

If George W. Bush can’t even get his supporters to do what he supposedly wants, how can anyone expect him to run the country?

A Jew By Any Other Nom

While doing some research on the Republican attempt to “foreignize” John Kerry, I ran across an old Rush Limbaugh transcript (courtesy of So Far, So Left) that pointed me to the quote below; Rush actually managed to get the gist of the quote correct! This is from the Boston Herald‘s Joe Battenfield, on 23 April 2003, as reproduced in The Hotline newsletter from The National Journal Group (shout out to pay-as-you-go LexisNexis).

You’ve got to love Theresa Heinz Kerry for cutting right to the chase:

The New York Times also quoted an unnamed Bush adviser
handing Kerry “what is probably the ultimate postwar political
putdown”: “He looks French.” Kerry responded by saying: “It
means the White House has started the politics of personal
destruction.” He added: “It’s funny. I laughed about it.”
“Minutes after Kerry sped off” to a speech in NH, Teresa Heinz
Kerry compared the comment to an insult by “kids in the
playground.” Heinz Kerry: “They’ll probably say he’s French,
he’s Jewish … he’s a monkey. I just find it sad.”
She added:
“They (WH officials) probably don’t even speak French”
(Battenfield, Boston Herald, 4/23). Asked if she thought “the
comment impugned her husband’s masculinity or patriotism,” Heinz
Kerry said: “They can’t take him on patriotism; that they can’t
do. And I guess if they want to call the French ‘not manly,’ I
don’t know, but they have to do with the French on that.”

Franco-American Redux!

OK, I admit, I’ve been busy writing letters about Sen. Gordon Smith’s [R-OR] remarks during a Bush campaign conference call that “It’s not John Kerry’s fault that he looks French.”

Today’s issue of the Portland newsweekly Willamette Week picks Smith as their “Rogue of the Week” for his comments.

The daily newspaper, the Oregonian has both a letter to the editor and a column by David Sarasohn

And several months ago, a high-ranking White House official told The New York Times, on background, that Kerry “looked French.” (This showed the value of high-level intelligence; up to then, people had thought Kerry looked sort of like a horse.) Helping out, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a friend of Bush’s, called Kerry “a fellow of a different political stripe who looks French.”

Nobody was sure exactly what it meant, but soon Fox News — the public address system of the Bush administration –was reporting, “Some say Kerry looks French.”

It wasn’t clear whether that meant Charles de Gaulle or Catherine Deneuve, but the word was out.

Besides, while Smith may not look French — not like Brigitte Bardot or any of the Three Musketeers — he is clearly the most Continental dresser in all of Umatilla County, with a serious weakness for French cuffs.

Or as he probably calls them now, Freedom cuffs.

“It was a humorous comment in part,” explains Smith, who says he’s a member of the French Caucus and insists that he looks French himself.

Humorous. Yeah. Substitute “black,” “gay,” or “Jewish” for “French” and laugh your head off, Sen. Smith.

Sen. Gordon Smith [R-OR], Secret Francophile?

Previous entries on our state’s junior senator and his comments (which weren’t in the Oregonian but appeared in the LA Times) during a conference call for the Bush campaign on Thursday:

Later, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) accused Kerry of advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas.

I wrote a letter to Sen. Smith, as a constituent of his who happens to be of Franco-American origin, expressing my disgust at his bigotry of convenience and one to the Oregonian wondering why they hadn’t reported the remarks. Last night, I ran across Rodger A. Payne’s research into Smith’s own French ties (or should I say collaboration?), including a trip to Normandy for the D-Day commemoration just two months ago. Payne points out that Smith’s head shape isn’t terribly different from Kerry’s, the rest is an example of the level of hypocrisy even Republicans who paint themselves as moderates will stoop to.

More of the Times article:

“It’s not John Kerry’s fault that he looks French,” Smith told reporters on the conference call arranged by the Bush campaign.

“But it is his fault that he wants to pursue policies that have us act like the French. He advocates all kinds of additional socialism at home, appeasement abroad, and what that means is weakness for the future.”

Some Republicans have referred jokingly to Kerry’s ability to speak French and his physical appearance, but rarely has the reference found its way onto the campaign trail.

Letter to Sen. Gordon Smith [R-OR]

Sent by email today (13 August):

Senator Smith:

I take no small offense in your remark in a conference call yesterday (August 12), and reported in the Los Angeles Times that “It’s not John Kerry’s fault that he looks French.” What, exactly, is that supposed to mean?

I know, it’s one of the Republican talking points that are so easy for people to repeat. But it wasn’t funny when one of the White House PR flacks floated it months ago and it’s really not funny now, after six months or so have passed.

My ancestry includes a line that goes back to the Mayflower. But other parts of my family tree extend into eastern Canada — yes, French Canada. One of my grandfathers had the fairly common French surname of Danton, so I figure I probably look a little French myself.

Some of the earliest European explorers of this great nation were French, and if you’ve done some travelling, perhaps you might have noticed that the center portion of the United States includes a lot of “French-sounding” places: Joliet, Des Moines, Versailles, Eau Claire, La Salle, Louisiana. Not all of the “French” people went away.

The reason it’s not funny is that you didn’t mean it as a joke, it was meant to disparage your fellow senator. Some of the Republican party’s base doesn’t like the French stand on the Iraq war, so it’s a cheap and easy shot. But how low do you want to sink? If someone from the Bush campaign told you that one of Kerry’s ancestors was African-American, would you have said he looks “a little bit black?” Maybe they couldn’t push you quite that far. Perhaps you could just imply that he looks “sort of Arab,” or “kind of gay.” They’re already pushing that line, save it for next time.

Last August, more than eleven thousand mostly elderly French citizens died in a heat wave, and some people in the U.S. were actually laughing at that tragedy, because of the anti-French frenzy the administration whipped up. You’re simply perpetuating that type of hate.

You and everyone else who has indulged in this type of name-calling owe Sen. Kerry an apology for participating in it. More importantly, you owe every descendent of French immigrants to this country a public apology for your pathetic implication that there was any “fault” with Kerry looking French. As if you could tell by looking at him.