June 19, 2004


Kerry's Cruel Realism (DAVID BROOKS, 6/19/04, NY Times)

Sometimes in the unscripted moments of a campaign, when the handlers are away, a candidate shows his true nature. Earlier this month, Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald asked John Kerry what he thought of something called the Varela Project. Kerry said it was "counterproductive." It's necessary to try other approaches, he added.

The Varela Project happens to be one of the most inspiring democracy movements in the world today. It is being led by a Cuban dissident named Oswaldo Payá, who has spent his life trying to topple Castro's regime. Payá realized early on that the dictatorship would never be overthrown by a direct Bay of Pigs-style military assault, but it could be undermined by a peaceful grass-roots movement of Christian democrats, modeling themselves on Martin Luther King Jr. [...]

This drive, the Varela Project, quickly amassed the 10,000 signatures, and more. Jimmy Carter lauded the project on Cuban television. The European Union gave Payá its Sakharov Prize for human rights.

Then came Castro's crackdown. Though it didn't dare touch Payá, the regime arrested 75 other dissidents and sentenced each of them to up to 28 years in jail. This week Payá issued a desperate call for international attention and solidarity because the hunt for dissidents continues.

John Kerry's view? As he told Oppenheimer, the Varela Project "has gotten a lot of people in trouble . . . and it brought down the hammer in a way that I think wound up being counterproductive."

Imagine if you are a Cuban political prisoner rotting in a jail, and you learn that the leader of the oldest democratic party in the world thinks you're being counterproductive. Kerry's comment is a harpoon directed at the morale of Cuba's dissidents.

There were a number of patently absurd stories earlier this week about how John Kerry was trying to claim the Reagan mantle too. In fact, he's the anti-Reagan. Witness Natan Sharansky's memory upon hearing a very different statement while imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag:
Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin's "Great October Bolshevik Revolution" and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution--Reagan's Revolution.

Throughout his life Senator Kerry has instinctively supported tyrannical Communist regimes from Vietnam to Cambodia to Nicaragua to Grenada to even (when he wasn't running for president) the Stalinist Saddam Hussein. His opposition to an anti-Castro movement is of a piece with that despicable record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 19, 2004 9:52 AM

Kerry is the reactionary standard bearer for the reactionary party. What is must be and stability before all else.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 19, 2004 10:16 AM

Perhaps the great difference between the two parties now comnes down to this: they want stability abroad, where life generally sucks; we want it here, where life is pretty good.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2004 10:24 AM

Stability is a by-product of courage, wisdom, and audacity. After Jimmy Carter, it is hard to understand that the Democrats haven't learned this lesson. But their entire persona is based on fear, timidity, and a Luddite view of the future.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 19, 2004 10:51 AM

It's come to this: the party of "compassion" and "human rights" supports the Cuban (or Ba'athist, or North Korean, or Iranian) secret police in the crushing of dissent. Or, to put it another way, the (haughty, French-looking) caged hamster (who once served in Vietnam) isn't bothered if others are caged.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 19, 2004 11:24 AM

Counterproductive to what? What other effort is in the works to free the Cuban people? It can only be that the movement is counterproductive to his campaign for president.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 19, 2004 12:02 PM

If the GOP is smart, they'll make this into a TV and radio ad, one in Spanish aimed at Hispanic populations in Florida, California, and New York, and one in English aimed at the NPR/college town/Nader crowd.

Posted by: PapayaSF at June 19, 2004 1:42 PM

Kerry just made a whole bunch of friends with the Cuban population in Florida.

A Kerry presidency, with its moral equivalency that any type of government that meets its peopeles' needs is just as valid as the next, would be wholesale disaster for this country.

Posted by: Athena at June 19, 2004 1:55 PM

"Throughout his life ...Kerry has instinctively supported tyrannical Communist regimes...". Why is this tendency characteristic of the Democratic left? From FDR to Kerry, the attraction has been consistent and always encouraged by the "liberal" members of the press. Read the editorials and columnists of the New York Times during the Reagan years to see the blatant stupidity in action, in retrospect, although so obvious to many at the time, the Democratic left and its supporters could not have been as wrong and misguided as history has shown them to have been.

Re-read Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers" to be reminded exactly how self-absorbed, self-righteous yet alienated elitists really think. Modern American "liberalism" as personified in people like Kerry and supported by the NYT and the big media is dangerous since it has rarely been right about anything truly important while consistently incapable of learning from its mistakes. Giving real political power to those types would seem to be at odds with basic common sense. I have always believed that the typical "liberal" is concerned not with accomplishing anything of real historical importance but only thinking well of himself regardless of the real human cost. It is a type of sociopathology.

Posted by: at June 20, 2004 12:33 PM

Sorry, I have moved and have just re-entered my info, the above comment was mine.

Posted by: Tom Corcoran at June 20, 2004 1:03 PM