John Kerry's closing statement to the jury
John Kerry has hit his stride and at just the right moment. It helps that he has been given the gift of the al Qaqaa story as a perfect vehicle for putting forth his message. This one story contains so many of the essential elements of the case against Bush that it's hard not to take its appearance as a sign that the heavens favor Kerry.
This morning, Kerry issued a new statement on the matter that demonstrates a master of political narrative. It's so good that I think it is worthwhile to critique it in detail:
“This week’s revelations about the missing explosives speaks to the president’s continuing misjudgments in Iraq. According to the commanders on the ground, our forces were not ordered to secure a weapons dump in Iraq where 380 tons of explosives were stored. Now, the president’s former chief weapons inspector says it’s likely that these explosives are being used against our own troops. The president’s shifting explanations and excuses demonstrate, once again, that this president believes the buck stops anywhere but his desk.
Hits the meta-narrative points in spades:
- Misjudgements in Iraq
- Lack of planning for the post-war phase
- The consequences of that lack of planning leading directly to a loss of American lives
- The failure of Bush to address the issue demonstrates his fundamental inability to acknowledge and correct mistakes.
Also uses the comments of non-Kerry partisans (commanders in the field and the president's own weapons inspector) to back up the accusation. Message: this isn't coming from me. It's coming from Mr. Bush's own people.
“Lately, George Bush has been invoking the name of John Kennedy. But can you imagine President Kennedy, in the wake of the Bay of Pigs, standing up and telling the American people that he couldn’t think of a single mistake he’d made? That he would do everything again exactly the same way? Mr. President, John Kennedy was a leader who knew how to take responsibility for his actions.
This is beautiful. It hits on so many points:
- Contrasts the leadership of Kennedy and Bush. Makes Bush look small in the process.
- Demonstrates that admitting failure is something that great leaders do.
- Invokes the memory of Democratic hero. Good for getting out the base.
- Invokes the memory of one of the all time great zinger moments in the debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentson.
Finally, it hammers back at Bush and his belated attempt to paint Kerry as not a real Democrat by pointing out that it is Bush who isn't a real president.
“Mr. President, it’s time for you to take responsibility for yours. Our troops in Iraq are doing a heroic job – the problem is our Commander-in-Chief isn’t doing his.
Stop blaming the troops. Stop blaming the generals. Stop blaming the spies. Stop blaming the diplomats. Stop blaming everyone but yourself.
“Yesterday, George Bush said, ‘a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief when it comes to your security.’
Kerry "steals" this from Wesley Clark's statement from yesterday. But it is such an obvious critique that it's not clear who really came up with it first.
“George Bush jumped to a conclusions about 9-11 and Saddam Hussein.
“He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction and rushed to war.
“He jumped to conclusions about how the Iraqi people would receive us.
“He not only jumped to conclusions – he ignored the facts.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Kerry the prosecutor is making his closing statement to the jury!
“Here are the facts, the bottom line, about these weapons: they’re not where they’re supposed to be – they’re not secure.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, don't be fooled by their attempts to cloud the issue with irrelevancies about precisely when the explosives disappeared. The failure here is not in the timing but in the act itself. The facts are these: this president went into this war claiming that he was doing it in order to protect us from weapons of mass destruction and the materials that could be used to make them. But when it came time to act, he failed to give the order to secure the very items he claimed as justification for that war.
It's time to hold the defendant responsible for his acts.
“Well, guess what, according to George Bush’s own words, he shouldn’t be our commander in chief. I could not agree more.”
If the accusation fits, you must convict.