The New York Times editorial page gave a (mostly) positive review of Kerry's performance last night.
The take him to task for his continuing failure to: provide a clear vision on Iraq. Voters needed to hear him say that he understands, in retrospect, that his vote to give President Bush Congressional support to invade was a mistake. It's clear now that Mr. Kerry isn't going to go there, and it's a shame.
Regular readers will know this is a view I share with the NYT.
The editorial also looks forward, as do I, to the Republican response to many of Kerry's rhetorically savvy indictments. One possible counter, they say, will be Republican accusations that Kerry is overselling "a rather brief episode in his career," warning Kerry that he should devote time to his other accomplishments.
In many ways, this is true - we don't need a one-trick-donkey. However, since one of the most, if not the most, fundamental issues of this campaign is Bush's decision to wage war in Iraq. And while there will (or should) come a time when we won't have veterans, we do have them now. But that isn't even the whole issue. This isn't a case of veteran vs. non-veteran. It's a case of combat-tested, purple-heart winning, toss-me-in-danger veteran vs. chickenhawk who, along with his buddies, used many excuses and methods to escape service because, as Cheney has so artfully explained it, Vietnam just was a priority for them.
And don't throw Clinton at me - I didn't like it about him either - but at least he didn't try to appear to be serving while really not serving. He also acknowledged his failings during his speech Monday - an unusually graceful thing for a politician to do.
I would hope that Bush et al. wouldn't be audaciously foolish enough to adopt a "yeah, but what have you done lately" line as a way of defending their own chickenish behavior. But the Administration has yet to disappoint us by failing to live up to its own lowered expectations.
I think I can safely say that combat experience changes a person. No, I have not been myself, and I was born well after the war, but I am the proud daughter of a Vietnam veteran. But despite our best efforts to turn 19 year olds into automatons capable of killing when ordered, they retain their humanity and all actions have consequences - not all of them immediately apparent.
Kerry's service is no small thing. It should not be used to excuse any mistakes he's since made. But it should also never be diminished - especially by those so willing to let him go in their place.