Some people, including a few commenters on here, have welcomed the Kerry/Swiftie controversy as an opportunity finally to exorcise the demon of Vietnam. Good luck to them – that’s not going to happen. The Vietnam War is far too complex and murky a phenomenon ever to brook an easy answer, involving as it does the French at Dienbienphu, the Kennedys and the Diem regime, Papa Ho and Country Joe, Boat People and the zeitgeist of a generation. Very few have the guts to revise or even modulate their opinions about all this, even if they wanted to. Some wouldn’t dare because it might cost them friends or a paycheck. Vietnam is a sleeping dog that should have been left to lie.
Only John Kerry wouldn’t leave it alone because he wanted to get elected. One man’s overweening ambition is now exacerbating the polarization in an already polarized nation. I guess we should have seen it coming. Kerry is the kind of man for whom self-regard is a lifestyle. What other “anti-war” undergraduate would enlist in the very war he was condemning because, according to one of his own explanations anyway, he had been unable to get a deferment for foreign study in France? Talk about courage of your convictions! Then this same “war hero” comes back to join the most intemperate and logically impaired part of the anti-war movement. And this is the man the Democrats want us to back for President?
Well, here’s the sad thing. He may win. And in that case, the wounds will only widen. The endless internecine culture war of our society will continue and possibly worsen. Had the Democrats nominated some traditional apparatchik like Dick Gephardt… who might have won more easily anyway… most likely no such thing would have occurred. Power would have been transferred in the traditional manner and government would have gone about its compromising business with far less vitriol, Vietnam left as fodder for historians’ doorstoppers, as it should be. But instead we are left with Kerry’s coiffure. It is far too expensive for me.
UPDATE: Hitchens, nor surprisingly, rolls his eyes at Kerry’s strange Vietnamese obsession as well:
I have no idea whether John Kerry is or is not telling the unvarnished truth about his service in Vietnam. (I am pretty sure, though, that he was unwise to prompt the release of the photograph of himself with his latest long-silent defender, William Rood of the Chicago Tribune. The shot of Kerry awkwardly shouldering a rocket launcher for the camera makes him look like a complete poseur.) It’s obviously ridiculous for either side to accuse the other of using their recollections for “partisan” purposes. What else? Kerry himself didn’t make a fetish of this until he sought a party’s nomination (which is what “partisan” means) and his nemesis John O’Neill has been silent since the last time this all came up, which was in the Nixon era. Did Kerry imagine that if he dressed up in his old uniform again, his former critics would decide to keep quiet? What, if anything, was he thinking?
On that previous occasion, though, Kerry was using his service as a warrior to acquire credentials as an antiwarrior. Now, he is cashing in the same credentials to propose himself as alliance-builder and commander in chief. This is not a distinction without a difference.
He goes on here.