Kennedy's remark is certainly getting a lot of play around the world, and it can only embolden our enemies and imperil our friends. And as an old Washington hand, Kennedy must have known that it would get that kind of attention, and have that kind of an effect. No wonder Powell is upset.
Kennedy & Co. - abetted by many in the national media - are working overtime to transform Operation Iraqi Freedom into what the senator terms, again, "George Bush's Vietnam." . . .
But while this tack is not likely to work in November, it stands to sow confusion:
* Among America's enemies, who will be unduly encouraged by it, and
* Among America's friends, who have historic cause to wonder about this nation's willingness to honor commitments.
Really, haven't Kennedy & Co. done enough damage?
Indeed. The best scenario I can come up with -- assuming that this isn't as cynically manipulative as it appears to be -- is that the Democrats shouldn't let Kennedy out in public anymore, because he's lost it. But he ought to know better, and I suspect that he does.
MORE: Gary Farber emails that I'm misinterpreting Kennedy's speech, and that if you read the whole thing in context, Kennedy doesn't look as bad.
I read the speech, and I disagree. When Ted Kennedy puts the words "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam" on the first page of a speech delivered with lots of press around, he knows -- or should know -- that the story coming out of that speech will be, well, just what it was (follow this Google News link to see that it's playing exactly that way). Which is why Colin Powell is criticizing him.
Kennedy's been around Washington too long not to know that no matter what else you say, if you put the words "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam" in a speech that'll be the take-away point for the press, and, in reading the speech, I don't think that the reporting is unfair. You can read it yourself and see what you think -- but if Kennedy didn't mean for his words to have these consequences, then, well, he's lost it. I also note that if Kennedy thinks that his remarks have been misunderstood by, well, pretty much everyone who reported on them, there's been plenty of time for him to point that out. I can't find any sign of that, and there's nothing on his website, either.
STILL MORE: I see that Eugene Volokh is responding to a similar defense of Kennedy by Mark Kleiman. Volokh observes:
I can't read Kennedy's mind. Nor would I say that he wants to see the U.S. defeated, though it doesn't seem implausible that he wants to see the U.S. withdraw as soon as possible, and hopes that the perceived problems in Iraq will help build pressure for such a withdrawal.
But when one uses a metaphor that's so closely tied in people's minds not just to deceit but to defeat, and when one is an experienced politician who knows how much of the surrounding context is likely to be vastly compressed by the media, one ought to expect the metaphor to indeed be seen as a prediction of defeat. And that suggests that this was indeed likely (though of course not certain) that Kennedy intended the metaphor to be understood precisely that way, as predicting defeat as well as condemning what he sees as the Administration's deception.