I believe that people eventually mean what they say, whether they realize it or not. That’s how I earn my daily bread, discerning what people really mean – and I mean other agencies and professionals more than I mean patients when I write that.
Today comes all Kerry's counterspin about our wonderful troops who deserve better than the leadership they now have, blah, blah. It’s offensive. John Kerry stated yesterday that the people who go to Iraq are those who didn’t do well in school. He meant it.
I say this with some assurance because I come from that group. Things like that are exactly what we said during the 60’s. The guys who went into the military from our highschools were looked at disdainfully by my crowd – people who weren’t very bright, liked violence, needed to be told what to do and what to think. We would grudgingly acknowledge that some seemingly bright people went into ROTC, but we suspected something was wrong with them. Why would they want to hang out with such dumb people? Maybe they had some weird hankering for violent excitement, or were slavishly devoted to a family military tradition and unable to think for themselves, or something. Or maybe they were insecure about their masculinity or whatever. We said all those things, and worse. Listen to Tom Lehrer’s “It Makes A Fellow Proud To Be A Soldier” and all the sneering condescension of the era will come back to you. It wasn’t just a disapproval of war or of violence – we thought we were smarter and better. Kerry still thinks it, as of yesterday. This may actually be worse than when an average prick like me thought it. Kerry has had his attitudes publically confronted, and thus had opportunity to rethink his positions and prejudices. I’ve had little of that imposed on me by others. He has known a wide variety of military people, and had ample opportunity to observe how many differ from his stereotype.
Perhaps he just couldn’t resist the temptation to play to his young academic audience, thinking he knew what they wanted to hear (he was half right). I don’t see how that’s morally better.
No, John Kerry doesn’t understand other reasons someone might go into the military. It’s opaque to him. The circumstances of his own enlistment in the Naval Reserve are pretty revealing (I grant that he seems to have been dutiful and perhaps even courageous once in the Navy).
Postscript: My son tells me that the AP headline was something like Kerry, White House Trade Barbs. Yeah, like Iago, Othello Trade Barbs. Shameful coverage.