Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reading material: John Kerry FDR

Some thoughts on David Remnick's New Yorker profile of John Kerry:

Re Kerry's 2004 run for president:

He was outraged that Bush, who had won a stateside berth in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, used campaign surrogates, the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, to slime his military record. He was furious, too, at Robert Shrum, his chief strategist, and other campaign advisers who had restrained him from hitting back.

My view, as someone who well recalls the Bush v. Kerry campaign, is that it was painfully obvious that Kerry was pulling his punches in the debates with Bush. Kerry can be a powerful speaker, but came across as mild and stumbling, letting Bush seize the stage. For whatever reason, Kerry allowed himself to be gagged by his advisors. The Remnick piece could have been more revealing about why.

On Israel and the Palestinians:

Kerry believes that Israel, along with the occupied territories, is headed toward becoming a “unitary state that is an impossible entity to manage.” He is particularly concerned, he said, that the Palestinian Authority could collapse; that, in the event, the P.A.’s thirty thousand security officers would scatter; and that chaos and increasingly violent clashes with Israel would follow.

“I understand the passions that are behind all of this—I get it,” Kerry told me. “If it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago. I happen to believe there is a way forward. There’s a solution. It would be good for Israel; it’d be great for the Palestinians; it’d be great for the region. People would make so much money. There’d be so many jobs created. There could be peace. And you would be stronger for it. Because nobody that I know or have met in the West Bank is anxious to have jihadis come in.

“The alternative is you sit there and things just get worse,” Kerry went on. “There will be more Hezbollah. There will be more rockets. And they’ll all be pointed in one direction. And there will be more people on the border. And what happens then? You’re going to be one big fortress? I mean, that’s not a way to live. It seems to me it is far more intelligent and far more strategic—which is an important word here—to have a theory of how you are going to preserve the Jewish state and be a democracy and a beacon to the world that everybody envisioned when Israel was created.”

My view is that of a Jew and a Zionist. I use that last word advisedly and deliberately, since I know too many supposedly well-intentioned leftish (not to mention rabid non-leftish) types still equate Zionism —  as they do not, for some utterly mysterious reason, equate other forms of nationalism —  with racism.

I'm tempted to quote Kafka here, who wrote: “I despise Zionism. And I despise anti-Zionism.”

But that was then, when Zionism was nothing but aspiration. Joseph K. can't speak for me on this issue, now that the basic aspiration of Zionism has been fulfilled. A Zionist entity, a Zionist center exists, better known as Israel.

Exists and is laden with the very problems Kerry states well.

Another quote from the Remnick profile:

The dispiriting reality of American foreign policy in the twenty-first century has been neatly summarized in Politico by Philip Gordon, the former N.S.C. official: “In Iraq, the U.S. intervened and occupied, and the result was a costly disaster. In Libya, the U.S. intervened and did not occupy, and the result was a costly disaster. In Syria, the U.S. neither intervened nor occupied, and the result is a costly disaster.”

The Remnick piece does not overlook Kerry's ambitions, geo-political and personal. Still, I'm sorry Bush rather than Kerry became president in 2004.

Kerry reminds me of FDR, in some ways. FDR's patrician background lent him credibility and persuasive power when it came both to urgent domestic issues and then to war.

Kerry had like credentials.

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