As a new resident of Massachusetts, I’ve been amazed, frustrated, and often, infuriated by the snide, petty political reporting of the Boston Globe, and its snarky corps of local oped writers (the wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent Tom Oliphant took an early retirement, much to my sorrow, and the Globe’s loss). It has taken me years to understand that this is typical for Boston, a city which is notorious for underappreciating many of its hometown treasures, including its two splendid senators, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. But I still don’t understand it. As someone who’s lived in states that have endured second-rate actors, failed businessmen and convicted felons for governors, has-been tap-dancers for senators, and congressional representatives with 0% voting records on environmental issues (not to mention their links to corruption scandals-du-jour), I find myself yelling to the citizens of Massachusetts: “You don’t understand how lucky you are!”.
Of those local oped writers who try my nervous system, columnist Joan Vennochi is Exhibit A. Reading her on a hard morning, I usually last about 2 or 3 paragraphs, before muttering or yelling to my cereal, and escaping to the comics section for my mental health. This week, though, she actually got it half right. On the cowardice of the Democrats in response to Republican objections to Sen. Kerry’s botched Bush joke, Joan Vennochi and I are, for once, and amazingly, on the same page — ON KERRY, BUSH GETS ASSIST FROM DEMOCRATS:
“The president earns dismal marks for job performance, according to recent polls. . . Yet even with the presidential juice at low octane, some Democrats swiftly echoed the White House talking points after John Kerry bungled a bad joke. Kerry, a decorated combat veteran, insulted the US military, they insisted; he must apologize. . . . All it took to bring them to their knees was the usual: a blast of hot air from the White House, fanned by Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and cable TV, and then giftwrapped by the mainstream media.”
Vennochi then named Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Harold Ford, Claire McCaskill, Richard Daley, and Deval Patrick as aiders and abettors of the Republican –- manufactured “outrage,” criticizing these and other Democrats for their timidity in face of the diminished Republican machine. Much to my astonishment (I almost spit out my tea when I read this, so unexpected was this departure from her usual shtick), she also described as pathetic “their willingness to cut and run from their presidential nominee of just two years ago.”
Of course, this is still Joan Vennochi, and this is still the Globe, so her column still managed to work in her familiar snarky asides about Kerry, describing him as a “sad figure in American politics”, not only because he “lost” (a highly debatable point in my opinion, but that’s another story), but also because “he views today’s controversies through the prism of his failed presidential campaign”. Phrases like “Bush’s vanquished opponent”, scoldings about the need to look “ahead, not back” laced her further musings.
Well, she’s right about the Democrats, but she is wrong about Kerry. It’s Joan Vennochi, not Kerry, who perversely views today’s controversies, and especially John Kerry, through the prism of past history and past campaigns. “Sad figure?” “Vanquished?” “Looking back?” That’s not what I see.
Look at Kerry’s press conference this week after the over-hyped gaffe, his eyes blazing in angry eloquence. Review his crosscountry travel over the last year (was it 30 states? 34? 40?), fund-raising ($12-14 million by my reckoning) and campaigning tirelessly for candidates, local and national, known and unknown, supporting them early on, when the moral and financial support mattered most. (Don’t believe me? Ask Patrick Murphy, ask Joe Sestak, or Jim Webb, or the other 9 or 10 vets he’s supported from primary season on. Ask Casey, or Maria Cantwell, or McCaskill , or the many other national and local candidates he’s supported in the general election.)
Listen to his courageous voice in the Senate, speaking up against Alito, against torture, against Iraq, defending our Constitution at a time when most of his Democratic colleagues chose to remain silent. Listen to any one of his fiery speeches this year at Faneuil Hall: eloquent defenses of patriotism and the right to dissent, thoughtful plans for health care, brilliant, innovative ideas on energy. Hear his moving, personal speech on cancer to the Lance Armstrong summit last month, and watch his fluent, funny, strong interviews on Bill Maher, and a run of political talk shows. Witness his quiet help for veterans and veterans’families, helping homeless veterans, attending memorial services, caring for grieving families, all without media attention.
Joan Vennochi said that the Democratic Party needed a standard bearer. Well, there is one. That standard bearer is right there in her hometown: her very own senator, John Kerry. Sen. Kerry is a standard bearer for moral courage, patriotism, vision, and integrity, for both the Democrats, and the country. For the sake of the Democratic Party, and especially our country, it’s about time that we gave John Kerry the credit he so eminently deserves.