By now you have heard Teddy Chappaquiddick’s speech blasting President Bush, which, I must admit, was rather uneventful for me. it contained the same rhetoric the senior drunk driver from Masachussetts has employed for about the last two years, and was in my mind rather unremarkable except that it inspired the folks over at Tacitus’s site to come up with a minor quip, as they labeled the speech the Ted Offensive. If you have not seen or heard the speech, here is a bit, with the relevant part in bold:
By going to war in Iraq on false pretenses and neglecting the real war on terrorism, President Bush gave al-Qaeda two years — two whole years — to regroup and recover in the border regions of Afghanistan. As the terrorist bomings in Madrid and other reports now indicate, al-Qaeda has used that time to plant terrorist cells in countries throughout the word, and establish ties with terrorist groups in many different lands.
By going to war in Iraq, we have strained our ties with long-standing allies around the world — allies whose help we clearly and urgently need on intelligence, on law enforcement, and militarily. We have made America more hated in the world, and made the war on terrorism harder to in.
The result is a massive and very dangerous crisis in our foreign policy. We have lost the respect of other nations in the world. Where do we go to get our respect back? How do we re-establish the working relationships we need with other countries to win the war on terrorism and advance the ideals we share? How can we possibly expect President Bush to do that. He’s the problem, not the solution. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam, and this country needs a new President.
Predictably, the Vietnam reference has created quite a stir, and when I heard the Vietnam line- it was immediately clear what Kennedy was attempting to do. Kennedy wanted to call Bush a liar, and Kennedy wanted to invoke the failure, humilation, and loss of America’s worst debacle. With a reference to Vietnam, he accomplished both.
Not so, says Mark Kleiman– he was just trying to say that Bush was deceiving the country in the manner that LBJ and others did during the Vietnam era. Now granted- Mark typed this, so I don’t know if he did so with a straight face, or maybe he just wanted another chance to join the
Vietnam wa/is a complex era, and for a Senator of Kennedy’s prominent stature (pun intended) to invoke Vietnam is to conjure up a large number of memories. Chief among them is not deceit. Chief among them is the loss of 50,000 Americans in a war that many later came to believe was wrong (as many believed it was wrong at the time, as well). If kennedy wanted to conjure up the image of deceit, betrayal, and dishonesty, there is another standard-bearer that he could have chose from the same era:
But he chose the words he used for a reason, and despite the best efforts of his spinmeister’s in the blogosphere, people understood what he meant. And, I might note, others overseas understood what he meant:
Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric, warned the United States on Wednesday that Iraq would become another Vietnam-like conflict if Washington did not transfer power to ”honest Iraqis.”
The cleric whose militia followers have battled coalition and Iraqi security forces across the country for days accused members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council of being ”collaborators” and said ”they do not represent the Iraqi people.”
”I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis,” al-Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in the southern city of Najaf.
”Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers,” the statement said.
Kennedy’s careless rhetoric is now being used as a rallying cry for a despicable Islamo-fascist who represents the opinions of an extremely small minority of the population of Iraq, and whose troops are currently engaged in hostilities with our men abroad. Of course, I fully expect that by pointing this out, I will be accused of trying to ‘stifle dissent.’
Hardly- Kennedy had his say, he said what he meant and presumably meant what he said, and now it is being used as agitprop in a battle against our men and women. No number of excuses from Kleiman and Kennedy can evade that.
*** Update ***
I just finished typing this- and then the Fox News panel has the same discussion.
You and Glenn Reynolds and other bloggers do not own what Vietnam means. You are correct that it was a complex era, and you have a valid argument that it was about the loss of lives in what came to be seen as an unjust war by many. However to say that that was the chief significance, and deceit is your opinion, not a blanket one.
That should be “not deceit”.
I may do this in an update, but another thing that bugged me about Kennedy’s speech is that it was about 99% polemic, i.e, the Ted Offensive. Did he offer any solutions or suggestions for improving the situation? Not even. It was pure Bush-bashing. If he really cared about what was going on, Kennedy–and by extension Kerry–would have put forward a plan. Sadly, he didn’t.
I think we agree. Vietnam means a number of things, and Sen. Kennedy damn well knows that, and was attempting to imply several things at once.
As I pointed out, if he wanted to deceit, he could have pointed to Watergate.
Or his brother’s handling of the Atty General’s office.
I’m sure at some point Senator Kennedy said that the sky was blue, and this loon in Iraq has said it is blue. They must be on the same side, right John?
Next time, try to address the issue of the idiots that sent us into this situation (that “small minority” killed about 20 of our guys in the last 3 days) and not the verbal parsing of a Senator who is as angry as many of us at this group of thugs and the bs they spew.
I’m wondering what Jane means by “…what Vietnam means”. Anyone have a clue?
(1) If Glenn Reynolds and John Cole don’t “own” what Vietnam means, then neither does Teddy Chappaquiddick. If pronouncements about the war’s chief significance are out of bounds for the goose, then they are equally out of bounds for the gander. And yet when the senior lush from Massachusetts holds forth about the era’s nub, Jane sharpens her rhetorical knives not on him, but on those rebutting him.
Partisan hack, much?
(2) Ask 100 people selected at random to free-associate from “Vietnam”, and I’ll give you a dollar for every one of them who answers, “The lies and deceptions of LBJ.”
Take off the asshat, Jane.
Watergate was deceit, but it wasn’t deceit that contributed to the deaths of a whole boatload of people.
That’s a significant difference, and why Vietnam is an acceptable comparison.
Shorter Oliver Willis:
“ME AND TED RIGHT TO BE MAD! BUSH EVIL!”
Sadly, Oliver’s asshat appears to be stapled to his cranium.
Am I mistaken in thinking that Kennedy never specifies WHOSE Vietnam-era deceit is at issue?
He never pins it on Nixon. Nixon certainly didn’t start the Vietnam war.
I think that James Taranto of Best of the Web had the right response to the remarks of that Senator from Massachusetts who looks a lot like a Florida manatee dressed in a suit. James noted that: “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.”
I also note a comment left above by “Oliver.” Is this the same “Oliver” whose site motto is, as a commenter her once put it, “Like Flypaper to Stupid” ?
Like ____ to an adjective.
Vietnam. Isn’t that the war where the NVA bet everything on one military offensive (Tet) where we smashed them so flat that they could not launch another major offensive for four whole years. Even then they got stopped cold by the ARVN forces until 1975, when our Congress cut off funding and the ARVN literally ran out of bullets, and had to reuse medical dressings.
Yep. Vietnam. The only war we won on the battlefield only to have a pusillimeous Congress give it away to one of the most barbaric governments of the 20th Century. And which party cooked up the strategy that cost us that war? Why not remind us again, Teddy.
I wasn’t born when we pulled out of Vietnam, but as far as I can tell, the Right would prefer that it would have continued long enough for me to serve there.
Andrew J. Lazarus
Mark, we lost in Vietnam because we didn’t use our best troops. Can you imagine how fast the VC would have folded if we had sicced GWB, Cheney, DeLay, Perle, and Wolfowitz on them? Not to mention Rush Limbaugh, if that doesn’t violate international laws against poison gas.
Seriously, this “stab in the back” theory isn’t any more true for Vietnam than for WWI. ARVN was, in the main, a corrupt force defending a corrupt government that couldn’t inspire its own populace to defend it, and no amount of money could change that.
The impact of the Tet Offensive (just like the current Iraq uprising) was that it showed that the US government was either clueless or mendacious (or both). First I had to listen to Cheney and the right-blogospere talk shit about flower petals greeting the liberators. Now that the petals have turned to bullets I have to endure the further indignity of hearing you say the problem wasn’t that your original assessment was all wrong, but that a few fringe leftists (maybe we aren’t so fringe!) didn’t get with the plan.
Actually what the Tet offensive showed us was how the liberal press could twist total victory into abject defeat and sell it on tv. People on the left are in love JFK. That bright shining star, oh if only. Well the only thing I see that Kennedy did was not fuck up the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everything else, The Bay of Pigs, the drug abuse, the whoring, the politicizing of the AG’s office, and getting us involved in Vietnam are actually his true legacy. And as far as Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson is concerned he so politically overmanaged Vietnam that he could not win a second term. He did, however, secure the black vote for generations for the Demcrats with his civil rights measures even though his Great Society measures condemned many of those blacks to dependence, broken homes, and poverty. So fuck fat Ted. Who else do you know that can go into work everyday drunk off their ass and still keep their day job? I mean other than a hooker.
Andrew J. Lazarus
This thread at MY shows how your version of the Tet Offensive and its aftermath is very seriously distorted. At the very best, it was a Pyrrhic victory. The media’s discovery that our pronouncement about the light at the end of the tunnel (it wasn’t an ironic phrase until AFTER Tet) were crap wasn’t a conspiracy, it was the plain truth. The official story denied that the North Vietnamese had anything resembling this capability. (It wasn’t such a massive “defeat” either; it’s not as if we rolled them back PAST their initial positions.) The part about ARVN fighting by itself afterwards is crap, too.
BTW, have you noticed some of the truly bizarre things our President is saying? Like the dyed hair “joke” yesterday? I’m not sure he should be ponying up to the breathometer anytime soon. (What was it about that killer pretzel anyway?)
which drunk driver are you talking about?
if only Kennedy had ’embraced christ’ and read the bible every day so earnestly that nothing about that daily dose could be revealed, then no blame could be attached. right.
It was Democrats that escalated our activities in Vietnam and a Republican that got us out. Sure, Nixon continued the escalation for a bit, but he put a stop to it. And you can argue all you want whether he did so with any skill or grace, but you absolutely cannot argue that Republicans kept us in Vietnam. Unless you enjoy being wrong, that is.
Andrew J Lazarus, Democrats: it’s 2004.
Get over Vietnam, or at least shut the fuck up about it already.
Can you stop living in the 60’s and 70’s?
“if only Kennedy had ’embraced christ’ and read the bible every day so earnestly that nothing about that daily dose could be revealed, then no blame could be attached. right.”
Well hey, at least Bush changed himself. Kennedy to this day bellies up to the bar. The only reason he doesn’t drive under the influence is because he now has a driver to transport his sotted old carcass around.
Oh….and that whole murder thing. You may have heard of her, Mary Jo Kopechne? A murderer like Teddy Highball has no standing to ever dare to lecture anyone in this Administration.
Yglesias was peddling this same “he was really talking about the credibility gap” spin on Hewitt’s show last night. As if the first thing anyone thinks of when they hear the word “Vietnam” is “credibility.” And, more to the point, as if Chappy and his ilk haven’t been tossing around the word “quagmire” – a rather more common word to associate with “Vietnam” – for a year.
Everyone knows what he meant. They also realize – too late – that it won’t play well with the broad voting public. So now they need to spin it off into something more to their liking. But a man who’s done little but make speeches for a living for a generation could certainly have said that if he’d meant to. He didn’t. This was raw red meat for Kerry’s leftmost supporters, delivered by a surrogate to give Kerry plausible deniability and the opportunity to appear like a “moderate.”
Andrew J. Lazarus
Slart: agree for once. Although he did sure milk the war for partisan advantage on the way.
Dodd: unless I made a mistake, we are talking about different MY threads.
Shark: First go tell off the ADL for talking about the even older Holocaust so much. Then get back to me.
Andrew and I agree on something? Dang, I must be wrong.
“Shark: First go tell off the ADL for talking about the even older Holocaust so much. Then get back to me” – ah, typical of the left, the conversation gets back to the Joos.
Well Andrew J. Lazarus, the difference is that holocaust was a genocide that should never be forgotten, when you invoke Vietnam, it’s to channel a mindset that you never move past from. In case you haven’t noticed, Jews- while never forgetting what happened- have pretty well moved on. Maybe you should do the same one day. There’s a difference between knowing the past and being it’s prisonoer. And that’s what you are. I didn’t see the head of the ADL compare Iraq to the holocaust in a major policy speech. I don’t see media members calling Iraq a holocaust, but I do see the quagmire (Vietnam) word plenty.
So get over it. Anti-semitic fuckwit
Andrew J. Lazarus
Shark confuses me. First he says Vietnam is so 1970s, get over it. Then I say, the Holocaust is so 1940s, get over it. Whoa! Now I’m an anti-Semite. Maybe 60 years isn’t enough distance from the Holocaust to get over it, AND MAYBE THIRTY YEARS ISN’T ENOUGH DISTANCE FROM VIETNAM TO GET OVER IT.
As for the anti-Semitism, Shark, kfotz li.
My comment stands, putz. If you can’t see the difference between how people remember- but have managed to move on from- the holocaust, and how your life is still lived through the Vietnam prism, how it defines you and your methods of thinking and doscourse, then I’m done with you.
It’s not about how old the issue is, it’s about how you deal with it. Think about it, if you can update your mindset from the 70’s
“It was Democrats that escalated our activities in Vietnam and a Republican that got us out.”
I prefer to think that it just goes to show that being a Texan trumps any sort of Party background.
“I prefer to think that it just goes to show that being a Texan trumps any sort of Party background.”
I just knew you’d turn contortionist on this one.
Leave it to Jas. Lileks to nail the Left’s Vietnam-philia cold:
I am struck once again by the incomparable hold VIETNAM has over some people. They don’t seem to realize how the use of this inapt example demonstrates their inability to grasp the nature of new and different conflicts. When I was in college, El Salvador was Vietnam. When I was in Washington, Kuwait was Vietnam. Afghanistan was briefly Vietnam when we hadn’t won the war after a week. It’s Warholian: in the future, all conflicts will be Vietnam for 15 minutes.
Vietnam was an anomaly. Vietnam was perhaps the least typical war we’ve ever fought, but somehow it’s become the Gold Standard for wars – because, one suspects, it became inextricably bound up with Nixon, that black hole of human perfidy, and it coincided with the golden glory years of so many old boomers who now clog the arteries of the media and academe. A gross overgeneralization, I know. But it’s a fatal conceit. If you’re always fighting the last war you’ll lose the next one. Even worse: Vietnam was several wars ago.
So now we’re fighting Iranian-backed forces in their backyard. This is not a new war. It began the day the “students” swarmed the US Embassy in Tehran. And Senator Kerry worries that a military response to these thugs will inflame the Muslim world against us? If so, that speaks volumes about the Muslim world he seems to know so much about – by his logic they prefer death and defeat to comity and cooperation.
If that’s truly the case, then it’s best we face it now.
Again, as Daschle said:
Americans stand together today and always to finish the work we started and bring peace and democracy to the citizens of Iraq.
Exactly right. It would be nice if John Kerry would make the same point every day, and do so without dropping a big throbbing BUT about the appalling lack of French participation or UN supervision of the Fallujah operation. But you can’t have everything.
What does Daschle know that Kerry doesn’t?
Andrew J. Lazarus
Yeah, s—- yimach shimcha v’zichroncha, Holocaust museums sprouting up, Holocaust lawsuits still in the courts, Holocaust movies, over it, you must be joking. And I’m not saying we should be.
What you’re REALLY trying to say is the Holocaust trauma is useful for your political agenda and Vietnam trauma is not, probably because sight unseen I bet you are too young to have lived through it.
To the warbloggers all conflicts are WW2 and all non-warmongers are Neville Chamberlain, so I guess we’re even.
“I just knew you’d turn contortionist on this one.”
Oh, geez, just acknowledge wit when you see it and move on. The Democratic Party of 1970 is not the Democratic Party of 2004, and the same applies across the aisle.
If you’re going to refer to Senator Kennedy as “Teddy Chappaquiddick” then you should refer to the First Lady as “Laura got drunk and ran over my ex-boyfriend Bush.”