Ted Kennedy is grabbing the Vietnam era memes like it is last call. So far, after announcing that "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam", he has seized both "credibility gap" and "quagmire", and he encroached on "Peace with Honor" when he told Larry King that "we can bring Americans home with honor".
The "Tet offensive" was picked up last weekend by Chris Wallace at Fox News; Tom Friedman has claimed "silent majority". "Secret plan", the phrase appareently never uttered by Richard Nixon, may still be available, although the NY Times may apply it to Kerry, and soon.
But the Big Kahuna, still up for grabs (and waiting to be slapped onto Ted Kennedy) is "nattering nabobs of negativsm".
OK, let's talk about Ted Kennedy for a moment. Mark Kleiman attempts to defend Kennedy's use of the Vietnam analogy. Yes, and the crew tried to save the Titanic, too. Mark's thrust - Kennedy's opponents are twisting his metaphor and taking it out of context; Kennedy didn't mean "quagmire and defeat" when he said "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam; he meant, quoting Mark, "... that, like Vietnam, Iraq is a war which has been so dishonestly presented to the American people and the world community that the President leading it has lost all credibility and become damaged goods."
I am broadly sympathetic to this argument - quite often, especially in the presence of Red Sox fans, I allude to (" 'Effing") Bucky Dent's home run. Many of these often-disappointed fans think I am referring to decades of Red Sox futility and near-misses. But NO! To me, the Bucky Dent metaphor is about looking up into a blue sky on a beautiful fall afternoon, enjoying a moment with friends. I am SOOOO misunderstood.
Kennedy, however, is not misunderstood. Larry King asked him that night about his speech, giving us this:
KING: We're back with Senator Kennedy.
You said today that Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president. Vietnam was started under a Democratic administration.
How do you compare the two?
KENNEDY: We're facing a quagmire in Iraq, just as we faced a quagmire in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were getting ourselves into in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were doing in -- in Iraq. We had misrepresentations about what we were able to do militarily in Vietnam. I think we are finding that out in Iraq, as well.
That is basically the -- the similarity. And we have to find new leadership in order to -- to be able to resolve this with a sense of dignity and with a sense of respect, which is going to make sure that we're going to see an independent Iraq, that Americans are brought home with dignity.
I think critics might very well characterize "quagmire" as defeatist.
My problem (which I am hiding down here until I get a real post up) - we clearly have a serious situation in Iraq. (Folks who don't think so can contemplate Phil Carter or James Risen). Now, Kennedy is making himself the issue, giving Administration supporters an easy target, and distracting us from what ought to be a serious debate about WTF do we do now.
Kennedy is closely associated with the Kerry campaign, since he picked John up and carried him on his back through Iowa and New Hampshire. And Kerry has not spoken clearly on this subject. So we drift towards a phony debate about the wrong questions - Dems whining that their patriotism is being attacked, Reps looking for signs of defeatism, and the serious questions sidestepped.
MORE: James Lileks tries to square the current Kenedy with the Kennedy from September 2002. Shorter Lileks - Kennedy lied, people died. (Oh, if you didn't like that, you are going to hate "Kennedy drank, the car sank"). And let's put this in the mix, for Kennedy fans.
MORE: "Kerry's The One" is still out there; and since Ted Kennedy is attempting to apply the Faster Failure Thesis and compress both Vietnam and Watergate into six months, we are racing towards "what did the President know, and when did he know it?" (And no, my lefty comrades, "not much" and "not lately" are not the answers we are looking for).
MORE: Mickey endorses this David Ignatius columns as a sensible way forward.