Vennochi Got It Half Right

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.

Bookmark and Share

Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Vennochi Got It Half Right

  1. kcjhmom says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comment. I am a lifeling resident of Massachusetts and will never understand the attitude of my fellow Bay Staters about Senator Kerry. As for Joan Vennochi’s column – I share your sentiments exactly! If you haven’t already done so, I hope you will send this comment to the Globe (and to She did get it half right, but she is also one of many (most?) people in the news media who are, as Paul Krugman notes in today’s NYTimes column, “still willing to be played like a fiddle” by the Republican noise machine. Where oh where is Tom Oliphant when we need him? Thank you again for your eloquent defense of John Kerry.

  2. Dotti Janiak says:


    Thank you wholeheartedly for your wonderful post regarding the real deal – John Kerry.

    I especially appreciated your statement ……..’it’s about time we gave John Kerry the credit he so eminently deserves.’ We at the grassroots level get it. When and how do we get the other so-called Democrats to swallow their attitude and accept him as the standard bearer? OMG one only needs one eye and half a brain to see the consistent, tireless efforts he has put forth for the party, the people and the country. John Kerry is not a follower — he is a *leader.* Truthfully, I am pretty sick and tired of him being brushed aside because he speaks truth to power, and if he sees wrong, he works diligently to make it right. I work earnestly each day to get his message out far and wide because I respect him, trust him, and believe he deserves to be President.

    Once again, thanks for the time and energy you spent on your message.

  3. pen says:

    I agree a 100% that Kerry is the standard bearer of the democratice party and he is way passed due of getting some respect from these people.

    But it seems the dems and especially the DC establishment is more interested in going back to the 90’s with their CLinton nostaglia, and their weak-kneed reaction to Rove is truly sickening.

    There are people out there in the party that damn tired of the dems knuckling under to the GOP and many were disguted by Hill this week.

    I don’t think JK views the world through his loss in 04. I think out of all the party members he learned the most from it.

    Let them toast hillary, obama, and who ever else is the flavor of the week.

    Kerry is the one the country needs to be the next president and in the primaries it depends on the people not the media and not the DC establishment.

    I think the more the country see’s of the JK we see the more they will pick him over hill.

    but I’m not one to leave things to chance so the senator is going to have to make his case one day at a time.

    Isn’t it funny that several of those who canceled campaign rally’s with Kerry are now slipping behind or in a dead heat while those who spoke up for him are doing better?

    Karma can be a real you know what some time.

  4. Tela Zasloff says:

    Thank you, Mary Beth. All those Dems you list who jumped on Kerry to the tune of the Republicans’ carnival music, should read your expanded letter, in this column, which is even better than the original one. Please send it to them all.

    How can we get this in the Globe?