By lex, on November 2nd, 2006
And then I’ll let it go.
Jean Francois Kerry, he of the “work hard, be smart and avoid being ‘stuck in Iraq’” gaffe has managed, after a bit of blind lashing out, to sidle into one of the most graceless apologies in the history of the Republic:
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.
He goes on to complain that the President and his folks have managed to “distort his true statement,” by in effect quoting what he truly said. The bastards. He also ends up not apologizing for what he did, but that his remarks might have been “misinterpreted.” Which of course, relieves him of the ownership of what he actually said and instead puts the burden on those of us who were offended. It’s our fault, and he’s very sorry for that.
So given the advantage of two days retrospect and probably effusive political advice, the Senator manages to – with, what for him passes as admirable clarity and brevity – to make a bad situation only ever-so-slightly better. His allies can plausibly claim to be mollified, and his opponents labeled as mere partisan. I mean, what do you want? The guy apologized.
As a political matter, this will probably have to do and for a politician anyway, this is about as good as it gets. But I think it’s worth pulling apart what Kerry says he actually meant now that it’s been made clear: The implication is that President Bush – the man who got us stuck in Iraq – is somehow unclever and unsuccessful, and attaches blame to the President’s educational background, his failure to work hard enough in school, to do his homework.
Which as a joke is probably funnier than the Senator intended it. After all, Bush graduated from the same Ivy League undergraduate university as did Kerry himself, managed to do it with a better GPA, and went on to get a post-graduate MBA degree at Harvard. Kerry on the other hand, having achieved national fame in the “Winter Soldier” process – about which well enough has been said – then failed in his first congressional bid before going on to get his law degree from Boston College.
Now, BC is a damned fine school certainly and far be it from me draw inherently invidious comparisons, but it’s safe to say that among the folks who pay attention to such things – and the circles the Senator moves in is by no means immune to such tendencies – the differing cachet between a Harvard MBA and BC law degree does not redound to his favor.
So much for going to school and working hard.
Let’s go on do “doing well.” Neither of these guys had a true “rags to riches” tale to tell, but a comparison between the joker and the ostensible butt of his joke is illuminating.
The Senator left the mother of his children to marry into the better part of a billion dollar fortune in effect, if not in intent. W is still married to his first wife, despite having to overcome some rather unsavory behavior in what was an admittedly extended adolescence before getting his life right.
Kerry has spent almost the entirety of his adult life on the public dime. Apart from three years in a private law firm, it was state prosecutor, lieutenant governor and finally junior-senator-for-life in a safe party seat, sponsored by the surname-gifted king of Massachusetts teflon, Edward Kennedy. Bush on the other hand made his own money in the energy industry before buying and running a major league baseball franchise, eventually turning an $800k investment in the Rangers into a $15mil profit when he sold his ownership stake.
As a novice political candidate, Bush beat the popular incumbent Ann Richards in his first gubernatorial bid before winning a resounding victory in his second term. And while it may well be true that every senator in the country looks at himself in the mirror and sees a president, there’s only one guy in the country does that and isn’t fooling himself. Bush earned the keys to the most envied political mansion in the land, and four years later bested none other than the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and part-time jokester John Forbes Kerry.
So here’s my question: Giving the Senator the benefit of the doubt, and putting aside all of the shaping events in his public life which point to a contrary interpretation, is the Senator so blind to his own mediocrity that he doesn’t see the joke’s on him?