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Feb 12, 2004 | 10:16 PM ET


Earlier this week, I noted that John F. Kerry's post-Vietnam behavior was likely to cause him some problems.  I was right about that, and in fact quite a few people have been criticizing it.  But that's all been eclipsed, for the moment at least, by a scandal about sex.

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The buzz of the blogosphere has been this report from Matt Drudge that Kerry is at the center of an exploding infidelity scandal.  (Though in fact the blogosphere beat Drudge by nearly a week in reporting rumors that this was being investigated by major news outlets.)  Is it true?  Beats me, though politicians being what they are, that's probably the way to bet.  (Mickey Kaus has more.)

I have to say that, to me, how Kerry would do on the war is a lot more important than what (er, or who) he's doing in the sack.  I'm not a fan of Presidential infidelity -- though what do you expect with a guy who goes by the initials "JFK?" -- but plenty of previous Presidents seem to have managed to do a good job despite infidelity.

But then there's Bill Clinton.  Clinton's infidelities weren't what turned me against him -- it was more the '94 and '96 crime bills that did that.  His hypocrisy in signing draconian sexual-harassment legislation, then moaning about the injustice of public inquiries into workplace sex, made his behavior especially pathetic.  (Then there's Clinton's support of the "Defense of Marriage Act," which is surely one of history's great ironies.)  I don't mind people saying that workplace sex is just part of life, and that sexual behavior between consenting adults is no big deal, but if they really think that then they shouldn't be supporting, and signing, legislation that takes a different tack.

I don't know where Kerry stands on that subject, but I think that his biggest problem won't be hypocrisy, but exhaustion.  Rather than face another round of Clintonesque scandals, voters or Party leaders may hustle him to the exits, as the Edwards and Dean campaigns are clearly hoping.  On the other hand, it may actually work in his favor, as so many people -- even among Republicans -- are dreading a rerun of the Clinton years, perhaps enough to let the story die.

Kerry's single biggest asset has been the "electability" issue.  As Will Saletan noted recently, Democratic voters like Kerry, not because of his stands on the issues, or his personality, but because they think he can beat Bush.  The minute that sentiment erodes, he's likely to face a catastrophic loss of support.

Will that happen?  It's way too early to tell, of course.  But it's certainly helping to keep this primary season exciting for political junkies and pundits.  In the meantime, here's a roundup of reactions.  Stay tuned, as they say.

Feb 10, 2004 | 5:18 PM ET


Everyone thinks Kerry has the nomination sewed up.  They're probably right, though this amusing parody notes that they've felt this way before: 

"Kerry's Inevitability Index Hits 'Deanish' Level." 

Dean, of course, is looking far from inevitable now, with his former campaign manager blaming everyone from Al Gore to the Internet for Dean's collapse.  (Call me crazy, but I blame Dean.)

But although a lot of Democrats are touting Kerry's Vietnam record, I wonder if Kerry's Vietnam background will help him as much as his boosters think.  So does columnist Mark Steyn, who writes:

The only relevant lesson from Vietnam is this: then, as now, it was not possible for the enemy to achieve military victory over the U.S.; their only hope was that America would, in effect, defeat itself.  And few men can claim as large a role in the loss of national will that led to that defeat as John Kerry.  A brave man in Vietnam, he returned home to appear before Congress and not merely denounce the war but damn his "band of brothers" as a gang of rapists, torturers and murderers led by officers happy to license them to commit war crimes with impunity.  He spent the Seventies playing Jane Fonda and he now wants to run as John Wayne.

Kerry may have been brave in Vietnam, but his behavior when he got back was not so admirable, and it happened in front of the cameras.  As MSNBC's Chris Matthews observes, Kerry has a Jane Fonda problem, and between now and the election we'll be seeing a lot of pictures of him with her and  other antiwar activists.  Expect to hear reports like these from American P.O.W.s who are still bitter about her calling them liars for complaining about torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, and for otherwise demonstrating her solidarity with the enemy. 

Will this kill Kerry's candidacy?  Maybe not.  But it won't help.  And it probably won't do much for Jane Fonda's career, either.

Feb 9, 2004 | 1:31 PM ET


By now, a standard story has coalesced among people critical of the Iraq war.  Bush, we're told, lied about Iraq.  He said that Iraq was an imminent threat, and that if we didn't go to war immediately, Iraqi nukes would soon be exploding in American cities.  This is a very useful story, because it allows Democratic presidential candidates, like John Kerry and John Edwards, to oppose the war now in spite of having voted for it.

The problem with this argument, however, is that it isn't true.  And that's illustrated quite clearly by what the leading Democrats in the House and Senate said when the Iraq war resolution was approved.

Tom Daschle:  Daschle, D-South Dakota, said the threat of Iraq's weapons programs "may not be imminent. But it is real.  It is growing. And it cannot be ignored."

Dick Gephardt:  "I believe we have an obligation to protect the United States by preventing him from getting these weapons and either using them himself or passing them or their components on to terrorists who share his destructive intent."

From these statements -- as well, of course, as from those that Bush made at the time, and later in the State of the Union address, it's quite clear that the war was about stopping Saddam from becoming a threat, not about responding to an "imminent threat."  Bush made clear that the threat wasn't imminent -- and, as you can see above -- Tom Daschle thought that the absence of such imminence didn't matter.

Keep this in mind, the next time you hear the "Bush lied" talk.  Because somebody's certainly lying now.

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