DATE: 4/30/2004 10:41:00 AM
Vietnam and American Politics - During my extended period of non-employment, I have become the Cleaner of Laundry in our household. I don't mind the chore - the Laundromat in our neighborhood is clean and a good place to catch up on some reading. (I forgot how good Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead really is). Today, I got in a conversation with a guy I've gotten to know there. In the past, we've talked about travel, Maine taxes and of course, the weather. Today we talked politics. He's a baby boomer, so he brought up John Kerry's service in the Vietnam War as proof of the senator's good character.
According to The Best of the Web Today on Opinion Journal, in one 24-hour period, Kerry invoked his service in Vietnam:
To fend off attacks by his Republican rivals
As evidence he will fight to expand healthcare
As evidence he understands the complicated landscape in Iraq
To explain his love of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.I understand the importance of the Vietnam War in the collective experience of the baby boom generation, but frankly, it doesn't matter to me that much. Vietnam was one of many conflicts in which the United States has fought, and it ended when I was three years old. I can empathize with the fear and uncertainty of the times, and with the loss of life that war caused. Still, though, who served in the war and who didn't doesn't matter to me all that much, no matter the party affiliation of the politicians involved. In other words, I would feel the same way if the roles of Bush and Kerry were reversed.
The Vietnam War ended nearly 30 years ago. While I admire John Kerry's willingness to serve his country in wartime, that service doesn't really excuse his record on national security matters since then. Nor does it protect Kerry from having to explain what he'll do if he is elected president, something he has not yet done with any specificity. His record on military matters, apart from his service in a war, are not encouraging. His constant focus on 'multilateralism' and his willingness to depend on the deeply corrupt United Nations are not a good indicator of his judgment in foreign affairs.
In other words, Kerry's Vietnam service is admirable, but just not that relevant to voters my age, who don't remember the war and who want candidates to discuss the future, not the past.