Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry in disfavour

It's like something out of Wag the Dog. Or perhaps (a better film) Bob Roberts. A political party, on the ropes in the elections, has to come up with something awe-inspiring, not to say jaw-dropping, to effect an eleventh-hour miracle. A foreign war, perhaps, or an assassination attempt. In the States, where reality seems increasingly to shadow the silver screen, the latest rendition of this cinematic theme lacks both the hyperbole and the engaging humour of the previous renditions.

Senator John Kerry has, it is true, made one of the cardinal errors in modern politics: he told a joke. It wasn't a bad one and his meaning was absolutely clear but the danger with getting a laugh is that you too often find the last laugh is on you. The irony is that the reaction has in some ways proved his point: it would take a moron not to realise that his purpose was to mock the President -- and, sure enough, George W. Bush didn't get the joke, proved himself a moron, and may end up with more dimpled chads in the bag. There ain't never no votes in being clever.
That reminds me, by the way, of the old story from the late David Penhaligon. Constituents of his asked why there was not an intelligence test required for parliamentary candidates. He replied that the House of Commons is supposed to represent the whole country, that's why there are so many bloody fools in it.

And a fool with bloody hands the lame-duck American President may be. But his manufactured anger may be a Bob Roberts moment. What does not surprise me in this is the wilful misunderstanding the Republicans have perpetrated. On one level, you've got to admire their mastery of the dark arts. But what is more amazing -- and hugely disappointing -- is how the world's press reports the incident. The BBC this evening have repeatedly described it Kerry's 'gaffe'. Perhaps the story deserves air-time, but does it really need the British Broadcasting Corporation to be the American Republicans' mouthpiece?


Will said...

This supposed gaffe has, however, served a useful purpose: it's put Iraq slap-bang in the centre of the Midterms once more, and the more prominent Iraq is in voters' minds, the worse the Republicans will fare.

Ken said...

I'm fairly certain this is a gaffe. Bush's victory in 2004 was, in some part, a rejection of Kerry. And now at a time when the failure of Bush should be kept centre stage by the Democrats - even to the extent of keeping their own candidates out of the limelight - Kerry is making himself the issue. At the very least, it may well remind some who voted Bush in 2004, but who weren't going to vote this time around, why they voted the way they did in 2004 and get them out to vote. I can't see what benefit this brings... and there's only a downside.

Liberal Neil said...

Kerry's very strong rebuttal today seems to have got a lot of coverage - and he does seem to have turned the issue back on to Bush's Iraq failures.

My favourite US broadcaster - Keith Olbermann - had a good take on it - he has described Bush as being 'too stupid to realise that he was being called stupid'.

David Rundle said...

Liberal Neil (whoever he is) has the good liberal take on this: it shows up how desperate and talentless the Republicans are. But it may still work for them. I'll repeat: why are our media spouting the Republican line? Compare the Italian press where the headline from the American election is not this but the fact that 90% of any campaign is spent on attacking the rival candidate. How much will the Republicans spend in the last few days on presenting Kerry as anti-army?

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