Tuesday, September 20, 2005

John Kerry delivered a deep-and-wide broadside against the Bush administration at Brown University on Monday Sept. 19. It represents the first real attempt by a Democrat to take the fight to a weakened administration and articulate some kind of alternative vision; something that goes beyond simply not being Bush.

The speech goes a long way toward doing that. Kerry uses the political disaster Katrina has meant for the administration, but manages to look ahead and draw distinctions between the political parties in the country, and what one of them must do to save it.

The question remains as to whether the discourse will have resonance in the national media, or if Kerry is just yesterday’s news.

We here at highwayscribery have oft-expressed a firm belief in the European parliamentary culture that sends a guy that loses an election back into the trenches instead of to the farm.

Let’s see where the Senator for Massachusetts winds up.
Hereafter we engage our favorite text game whereby the thoughts and musings of a respected thinker (Kerry) and card-carrying member of American popular culture are, without authorization, mixed in with those of the scribe, who is neither thing:

‘The truth is,” Kerry said, “that for four and a half years, real life choices have been replaced by an ideological agenda, substance replaced by spin, governance second place always to politics.”

That Kerry would say such things either attests to his slow learning ability, or the kind of strength the administration wielded going into the election and how truly tough beating them was going to be.

“Katrina reminds us that too often the political contests of our time have been described like football games with color commentary: one team of consultants against another, red states against blue states, Democratic money against [r]epublican money; a contest of height versus hair - sometimes. But the truth is democracy is not a game: we are living precious time each day in a different American than the one we can inhabit if we make different choices.”

Kerry portrays the depth of the tragedy and the urgency of its moment, but sees an opportunity and wants to point the direction. His take on the situation, political, is a first and deepest analysis of events in recent weeks by a major politician.

“Natural and human calamity stripped away the spin machine,” he continued, “creating a rare accountability moment, not just for the Bush administration, but for all of us to take stock of the direction of our country and do what we can to reverse it.”

He’s calling for a reverse here. Kerry then says to critique is not to be involved in some desultory blame game:

“This is about the broader pattern of incompetence and negligence that Katrina exposed, and beyond that, a truly systemic effort to distort and disable the people’s government, and devote it to the interests of the privileged and the powerful.”

This is what they called “fire-eating” in regional debates leading up to the Civil War. Mr. Kerry’s language is most unbecoming of a gentleman (and about time).

“It is about the betrayal of trust and abuse of power. And in all the often horrible and sometimes ennobling sights and sounds we’ve all witnessed over the last two weeks, there’s another sound just under the surface; the steady clucking of the administration’s chickens coming home to roost.”

He’s gloating here. Fox folks are very upset that some people are reveling in the (p)resident’s failures (while trying to simultaneously deny they exist) instead of rolling up their sleeves to help with Katrina problems.

Well, they’re doing both, and they are people who have been denigrated for representing a different mode of living centered around excepting modest limits over perpetual expansion, negotiation over violence, public fun over the seclusion of American life, and so why shouldn’t they stand up and say “I FREAKIN’ TOLD YOU SO!”?

Now, he pointed out, the administration is shuffling all its failed right wing think-tank-tested schemes in New Orleans.

“And the rush now to camouflage (Kerry again) their misjudgements and inaction with money doesn’t mean they are suddenly listening. It’s still politics as usual. The plan they’re designing for the Gulf Coast turns the region into a vast laboratory for right wing ideological experiments. They’re already talking about private school vouchers, abandonment of environmental regulations, abolition of wage standards, subsidies for big industries – and believe it or not, yet another big round of tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.”

Oh, we believe it alright.

John Edwards also delivered a “major” speech the same day, giving it to the administration from behind. It would be nice to think these two former running mates coordinated their attack – the way a good political party should – but they were probably working from different agendas.

Need to fix that.

Back to Kerry. “Katrina,” he said, “did happen, and it washed away the coat of paint and revealed the true canvas of America with all its imperfections. Now, we must stop this administration from again whitewashing the true state of our challenges. We have to paint our own picture – an honest picture with all the optimism we deserve – one that gives people a vision where no one is excluded or ignored. Where leaders are honest about the challenges we face as a nation, and never reserve compassion only for disasters.

“Rarely has there been a moment more urgent for Americans to step up and define ourselves again. On the line is a fundamental choice. A choice between a view that says ‘you’re on your own,’ ‘go it alone,’ or ‘every man for himself.’ Or a different view – a different philosophy – a different conviction of governance – a belief that says our great American challenge is one of shared endeavor and shared sacrifice.”

Our prayer: May this represent an end to the frat-house shout-downs and buccaneer bluster; mark a return to ideas backed by a sense of purpose.
Here's Kerry's speech without the commentary:

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