Wednesday, November 01, 2006

He's baaack: Kerry opens mouth, inserts foot; opens mouth, inserts foot; opens...

I've been quite happy with John Kerry's relative absense from the political scene ever since a certain November day two years ago.

On the other hand, that joy is tempered with just a teeny bit of sorrow at not having him to kick around any more. But like Nixon, he's back, if only for a little while (please, please, let it be for only a little while).

By now you probably know what happened: first Kerry dissed members of the military, saying they'd ended up in Iraq because they hadn't done well in school. Then he refused to apologize and released an over-the-top attack on Republicans for playing politics with his flatfooted remarks. He said the whole thing was a misfired joke in which he'd meant to say that it was Bush who hadn't done well in school and therefore had led us into a stupid venture such as Iraq.

Kerry's the talk of the blogosphere, leading me to believe that he might be a poster boy for the contention that to narcissitic people, bad attention is better than no attention at all. The Democrats might well wish they'd never seen the man; it's hard to believe he ever was nominated for President and actually almost won but for a few votes in Ohio.

What strikes me about Kerry's remarks is what's struck me so many times before: something about this man is very, very weird.

I didn't open this post with a comparison to Richard Nixon for nothing. Nixon was another man in public life who always struck me as profoundly weird on a personal level. Most politicians have a sort of ease with people, and even charm--for example, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush possess it, although in very different versions, as did JFK and FDR.

Kerry is (and Nixon was) profoundly ill at ease within himself. With forced and awkward affect, it's as though he's studied what real people look and sound like, and is desperately trying to imitate it but can never get it quite right.

Both Kerry and Nixon seem(and seemed) to have trouble telling jokes, for example. If this recent fracas was a joke that backfired, as Kerry has claimed, then it's another example of his tin ear for humor. And even if he'd delivered the lines right, the joke just isn't funny. Stranger still is his overwhelming self-puffery and self-righteousness, almost to the point of caricature.

It's as though Kerry's a very bad actor playing the part of--himself.

Here are some excerpts from his response. Let's begin at the beginning, with a classic opening line that's funnier than any of Kerry's intentional jokes:

Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how.

Which is, of course: not very.

Kerry follows with:

My statement yesterday--and the White House knows this full well --was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops. The White House's attempt to distort my true statement...

Now, how on earth could the White House have known full well that it was a botched joke? And how could Kerry know full well that the White House knew full well? It's one thing for Kerry to claim ex-post-facto that it was a botched joke, and to let people decide for themselves. But to contend that it's botched-jokeness was so exceedingly obvious that the White House knew it "full well?" Bizarre, absurd, and nonsensical.

But Kerry doesn't even seem to understand this; all he knows is he must go on the attack. It's a mark of his narcissism that he's incapable of stepping outside himself, of hearing his own words as others hear them, of putting himself in their places and trying to imagine what meaning they'd glean from what he originally said.

And then there's the odd phrase (Kerry specializes in odd phrases, and they're often the most telling part of his utterances): The White House's attempt to distort my true statement [emphasis mine]. Any other person would have said, "my statement."

Which "true statement" is Kerry talking about? The joke about the President doing poorly in school and thus leading us into Iraq? That "true statement?" Or is Kerry referring to the other "true statement" (we'll call it the true true statement) the one that seems to have been the original meaning of his remarks, that only stupid people who did poorly in school go into the military? Will the real "true statement" please stand up?

It goes on and on. The allegation that McCain, as well the White House, knew full well what Kerry actually meant by his little joke. The macho posturing. The swagger that he can't quite pull off. The accusation that the Republicans are about politics, whereas he isn't. The reference to how America knows his "true feelings" about veterans. This from the man who launched the controversial Winter Soldier investigation, and whom many veterans detest because they feel he told defamatory lies about their service in Vietnam, all for the sake of his own glory.

Kerry knows--he must know, unless he's even more delusional than I think he is--that he's vulnerable on the issue of his Vietnam service and his criticizing veterans. And I fear he doth protest too much.

Smart Democrats are distancing themselves from Kerry, saying "thanks but no thanks" to his backing on the campaign trail. Perhaps if enough do so, even a narcissist like Kerry will finally get the hint.

But I wouldn't lay money on it. A while back, Roger Simon pointed out Kerry's remarkable resemblance to a stock commedia dell 'arte figure known as "il Capitano," or the braggart soldier.

The braggart soldier doesn't ever get it. Next thing we know, Kerry will be offering the classic excuse il Capitano offers for his lack of an undershirt:

I used to be an exceedingly fierce and violent man, and when I was made angry the hair which covers my body in goodly quantity stood on end and so riddled my shirt with holes that you would have taken it for a sieve.

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