When Bill Clinton was being impeached, he decried the “politics of personal destruction.” At the time, you could easily dismiss that as whining from someone who had royally screwed up, but the truth is that Clinton had political enemies who spent millions of dollars to do everything they could to destroy him, and nearly succeeded. I find it depressing that this tactic now seems to be a mandatory part of the political process in this country.
Whether you look at Fahrenheit 9/11 or Dr. Justin Frank’s book, Bush on the Couch, or the smear campaign that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are running against John Kerry, it’s easy to see that a big part of being or running for President is putting up with people who are not satisfied with disagreeing with you, but rather want to destroy you completely. I’m more focused on John Kerry is being mistreated at this point, but honesty compels me to admit that George W Bush gets the same treatment as well.
The thing that really gets me about the chorus of people looking to portray John Kerry’s service in Vietnam as marked with cowardice, dishonesty, and bad faith is that they have lots of perfectly legitimate ground upon which to disagree with him. There’s no dispute that Kerry served only four months in combat in Vietnam, or that he returned from the war and joined the antiwar movement, or that he threw his medals over a wall. If you want to criticize him for those things, by all means, that’s your right. But to go on and allege that he was dismissed from Vietnam by his superiors for his incompetence, or that he cheated and lied his way into the medals he was awarded, or that he joined the antiwar movement not out of conscience but because he thought it would confer a political advantage, you’re sleazy.
There seems to be plenty of ground for argument in politics just based on political acts by these men that are part of the public record. I guess I don’t see why it’s necessary to turn these politicians into objects of hatred as part of the campaign. We’re trying to decide who will do the best job of leading the country for the next four years, not figure out whether these men deserve eternal damnation. And both of them have plenty of history to suffice for both their opponents and advocates. I don’t understand why anyone would even want to run for President in today’s climate.