By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Lessons from “The Bluest State”

My latest for The Guardian is a look at Jon Keller‘s smart and entertaining new book, “The Bluest State: How Democrats Created the Massachusetts Blueprint for American Political Disaster.”

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  1. o-fish-l

    I enjoyed your review of Keller’s book and I have every intention of buying it.Unfortunately, your gratuitous reference to the “lying Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” took away from an otherwise good piece.These men served just as honorably as Kerry and in most cases they served longer. They are entitled to their negative opinions of Kerry. But to call them liars? While there was rhetoric on both sides, I don’t recall any of the Swifities being exposed as a liar. As Kerry himself might say, “Would that it were, would that it were.”

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Then you need to work on your recall. The *fact* is that the Swifties consisted almost entirely of men who suddenly claimed to have been on the same boat with Kerry when they had made no such claim previously, or to have seen Kerry behave dishonorably when in the past they had said the opposite. This is prima facie evidence of lying. If you really want to relitigate this, it’s all on the record and easily found.

  3. Anonymous

    Bluest state? Try Vermont.

  4. Anonymous

    Kerry has yet to sign the form – is it a DD-115? – that would allow complete access to his military records, as he promised he would during the campaign. Is that ALSO prima facie evidence of lying?And before you quote the Senator on how he HAS released his records – he voluntarily released some, but refuses to sign the form which would release them all.

  5. JonGarfunkel

    anonymous #2 — If you *really* cared about this, you’d have entered John Kerry military records into Google, and #3 link is a Globe article from 2005: Kerry allows Navy release of military, medical records.

  6. JonGarfunkel

    Dan: Was the Guardian piece supposed to be a book review? I don’t know whether to read the book or not now.And that’s why the Swift Boat veterans reference was “gratuitous.” Ithought so as well– and I volunteered for Kerry and I was a minor fundraiser for the campaign.I re-read the re-hash of the argument in 2007. John Hinderaker concedes on the medals: yes, indeed, the Swift Boaters were crying “minor wounds” while the Navy’s policies never excluded minor wounds, and the Silver Star and Bronze star were not seriously disputed. But he points that the Swift Boat ad campaign was three part: Kerry’s claimChristmas-in-Cambodia-in-1968, and Kerry’s 1971 Congrssional testimony.Christmas-in-Cambodia is a wash; Kerry retreated somewhat from making claims about what was likely a covert op; while SBVT John O’Neil had told President Nixon in 1971 that he was in Cambodia.So clearly why the medals was the rhetorical bulk, the other part of the campaign stuck.Let’s be certain: since 1971 Kerry soldier-with-doubt. So your point, Dan, doesn’t hold. It had nothing to do with whether Kerry understood”symbolism” (didn’t Kerry throw the medals away? Or later explain that he pretended to? Isn’t that symbolism enough) And to my original question is this point in Keller’s book at all? Any Democratic candidate in 2004 was trapped. Remember, the election was before the Samarra bombing.The problem for Kerry was that in 2004, the American public (natch, the10% of the swing voters in states with 10% of the population…) were notwilling to go to a Man With Doubts. Better vote for the man who knew his convictions in 1967(Daddy’ll get me out of the war) and today (I’m all grown up and I’ll getout of the war when we’re ready to.)There may be an interesting book there. I’ll keep looking for it.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Jon: I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking me, but a couple of responses.First, was my essay a review? Of sorts. Mainly it was a column riffing on the book, pointing out some things I like (a lot), a point of disagreement and offering a few of my own observations. I disclosed my friendship with Jon, and I did that very deliberately — how to you review a friend’s book? If you praise it too much, it looks dishonest. If you hammer it, you have a former friend. My bottom line: It’s a good, entertaining book, well-written and well-researched, and I recommend it despite the fact that Jon’s politics are not mine.Second, regarding Kerry, I like to go back to what I once heard a very good lawyer, Michael Keating, tell a jury: If there’s something rotten floating at the top of the barrel, you are under no obligation to go fishing around underneath looking for something better.As has been thoroughly documented by the New York Times, Bob Somerby, Eric Boehlert, and others, the Swifties, almost to a man, either claimed in 2004 to have served alongside Kerry after having previously acknowledged that they hadn’t; or began accusing him of dishonorable behavior in 2004 after having attested to his heroism on numerous occasions in the past.If you’re put off by his tossing medals over the wall, or by his testimony about atrocities, well, that’s all a matter of public record, and we’re all entitled to assess that the way we like.

  8. JonGarfunkel

    [Ugh, sorry for the formatting above. Somehow the line breaks got caught in there, and Google’s blogger is not enabling me to see previews of the commnets, perhaps because of the moderation turned on?]As I said, I re-read Boehlert’s analysis; I had read it some time ago, and then re-read the PowerLine response, and wasn’t satisfied as to how to square it away. I just now have read Boehlert’s response to the response. Indeed, as he pointed out, without the medals, there is no SBVT ad campaign, and the medals allegations were a complete fabrication.As I said, I don’t think Kerry’s failure to react quickly reflected at all his failure to to appreciate “symbolism.” In his political life he has been very acutely aware of symbolism, more so Dukakis the technocrat. I think Kerry was trapped by how to respond to the SWVT. So, in the end, I was arguing on a minor point you made in the whole piece. Why? In the joyless pursuit of truth.Yes I understood: very small world of Boston media. I suppose you could have said something like “What I would have liked to Keller to cover more in the book…” in a constructive sort of way.

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