Why Is This Election So Personal?
Today’s NY Times has an article titled: So Alike, Bush and Kerry Make It Personal. The basic question the reporter tries to answer is why Bush and Kerry dislike each other so much. The answers he comes up with are all based on personality and personal prejudice. He finds people to say it all comes down to the culture war. Bush believes Kerry is too much of a striver and Kerry believes Bush is "intellectually lazy and cynical." Yet, this report is intellectually lazy in just the ways Bob Somerby writes about. Perhaps there are some more important reasons that we can find for why there is so much antagonism in this campaign.
Perhaps the reason George W Bush doesn’t like John Kerry is because John Kerry is one of the few people that can stop the drive for total GOP control and the Bush dynasty they desire. The Bush clan knows that Kerry is a formidable adversary and he has exposed their illegal operations before.
Jeanne of Body and Soul highlighted an article the other day about someone allied with the Swift Boat crowd who vehemently hates John Kerry, but his hatred grew out of the investigation Kerry led into the Iran-Contra conspiracy rather than his testimony after Vietnam. According to this article, Felix I. Rodriguez, one of the Cuban exiles involved in a number of CIA plots including the Bay of Pig fiasco, Vietnam, the El Salvador death squads and the Iran-Contra affair, has a special relationship with both presidential candidates. Bush sends a Christmas card to Rodriguez every year based on his long time friendship with Poppy. Kerry’s relationship with Rodriguez is not quite so friendly.
Democratic nominee John Kerry, though, isn't so cozy with Rodriguez. In 1986, the then-rookie senator formed a committee to investigate Iran-Contra. In 1987, the so-called Kerry Committee alleged that Rodriguez had helped steer $10 million from the notorious Medellín cocaine cartel to the Contras. The committee concluded that trafficking was rampant in the rebels' effort.
One thing about the Iran-Contra affair that has been disputed by the supporters of Reagan is whether there were drugs involved in funding the illegal war in Nicaragua. Senator Kerry’s committee concluded that trafficking in drugs was indeed one of the ways the secret war was funded.
It's a familiar -- and absolutely untenable -- refrain from the Reagan and Bush administrations that continues to this day: The narcotics ties to the Contra operation were a politically motivated myth. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was then a congressman, played a key role in the disinformation campaign. He led the effort to squelch various Iran-Contra investigations, especially when it came to drug allegations. And George W. Bush? Well, he seems to have no qualms about Iran-Contra, since he has hired several of the scandal's central figures -- including Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich, and John Negroponte -- to serve under him.
Though it has been largely ignored, this historic battle between Kerry and the Bush family not only provides a revelatory subtext to this election but also indicates how much the two men running for president dislike each other.
So what got Kerry involved? After looking into the reports that the Reagan administration was secretly funding the Nicaraguan Contras in trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, in 1986 John F. Kerry, then a freshman Senator from Massachusetts, asked the Senate Foreign Relations committee to start an official investigation.
Now, at age 42, Kerry was a senator himself, the US was embroiled in another anti-communist crusade in a distant land, and Kerry was determined to prevent a repeat of Vietnam.
…On this and related issues, Kerry's relentless drive "came largely from Vietnam veteran syndrome," said former aide and investigator Jack Blum, describing the disillusionment that returning soldiers often felt as a result of that divisive war. "You come home and discover that people who are running the war are just interested in covering their ass; meanwhile, real people are dying real deaths. ... This was a very searing business."
So how did Kerry, a brash freshman Senator, convince the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to launch an official probe into this affair? He got the backing of Sen. Jesse Helms, because Helms didn’t care who was backing Oliver North’s operation or for what reason, because it was just wrong to use illegal drug trafficking which would ultimately be sold to Americans to fund the secret war.
Kerry started his investigations in 1985 before the wheels started coming off of Iran-Contra; before the plane Eugene Hasenfus was piloting was shot down over Nicaragua in October 1986 and before news came out in November of 1986 that the US was selling arms to Iran to help fund the Nicaraguan war. Kerry and his committee questioned the Reagan gang and for some, like Elliott Abrams, it was his false testimony before Kerry’s committee that led to his conviction for lying before Congress -- a conviction that was set aside by George HW Bush when he was elected president.
As Jeanne said in her essay, sometimes a good way to judge people is by their enemies. John Kerry has gathered some daunting enemies as he sought to stop the Vietnam war and its needless deaths, as he put a crimp in the illegal Iran-Contra operation, as he broke-up the BCCI bank that was used to launder dirty money for drug cartels and terrorists (an offshoot of his investigations into Iran-Contra), and today by his relentless drive to deny Bush a second term. Kerry is offended by George W. Bush who has subverted the constitution and our international agreements to launch his war of choice because Bush has drug the country into another ugly war based on lies and the inability to admit a mistake.
Yes, John Kerry has wanted the presidency for a long time, but knowing his adversary is George W Bush must make this race even more important than he could have anticipated, because if Kerry loses, he knows we all lose. Knowing Kerry's history, who would wonder at the antagonism between these two candidates.
If you want to know the depth of character of John Kerry, go see Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. You will come away convinced that Kerry is the right man for these times. You too will be thankful that we have someone of such enormous skills, intelligence and strategic gifts combined with such human decency, someone who is not afraid to take up a fight, and someone who is on our side in this battle for the soul of our country.