I noticed on Hugh Hewitt’s blog today , some quotes from a recent Kerry interview, quotes that made my blood run cold. Here’s the exchange:
Q. “If you are elected, given Paul Bremer’s remarks, and deteriorating conditions as you have judged them, would you be prepared to commit more troops?”
A. “I will do what the generals believe we need to do without having any chilling effect, as the president put in place by firing General Shinseki, and I’ll have to wait until January 20th. I don’t know what I am going to find on January 20th, the way the president is going. If the president just does more of the same every day, and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking. Now, I just don’t know. I can’t tell you. What I’ll tell you is, I have a plan. I have laid out my plan to America, and I know that my plan has a better chance of working. And in the next days I am going to say more about exactly how we are going to do what has been available to this Administration that it has chosen not to do. But I will make certain that our troops are protected. I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, and I will make sure that we are successful, and I know exactly what I am going to do and how to do it.”
In a moment, I’m going to “psycho-fisk” Kerry’s statement, sentence by sentence.
I’m hardly the first to point out that Kerry appears to have narcissistic personality disorder . That seems to be the source of his strange quality of speech, since every word is uttered not because of personal conviction, but to produce a particular effect. Now, all politicians do this, certainly, but Kerry does it to an extent I have never seen before in any politician. It seems as though every single one of his utterances follows the rule: is it good for Kerry? And, furthermore: is it bad for Bush? It doesn’t matter whom he insults (generals, allies, Allawi) and truth or falsehood is not an issue (his statement about General Shinseki is false, and it’s been pointed out often enough that Kerry must know that fact and not care) as long as he is puffing himself up in the process.
Taken sentence by sentence, his answer is quite a masterpiece of strategic expression. The question was so simple: “Would you commit more troops?” But the answer is not simple at all, as Kerry’s answers never are.
SENTENCE 1: “I will do what the generals believe we need to do without having any chilling effect, as the president put in place by firing General Shinseki, and I’ll have to wait until January 20th.”
With great parsimony, Kerry combines in this one sentence: a) passing the buck (“I’ll do whatever they tell me”) about any decision he might actually make some day; b) the gratutitous insertion of the lie about Shinseki’s firing, in order to slam Bush; c) the idea that he would love to act now because he’s just chomping at the bit to rectify the mess, but unfortunately he’ll have to wait till his inauguration. Since it goes without saying that he can’t act till his inauguration, why does he say it? To set up the following thought, which can be summarized as, “Whatever happens, don’t blame me; blame him!” (see sentences 2 and 3)
SENTENCES 2 and 3: “I don’t know what I am going to find on January 20th, the way the president is going. If the president just does more of the same every day, and it continues to deteriorate, I may be handed Lebanon, figuratively speaking.”
The phrase “the president” is repeated for emphasis, to implant in the listener’s mind the idea that it’s all Bush’s, fault, and that Kerry can’t be blamed for whatever deterioration might happen between now and January 20, since that imbecile Bush is in office till then. So Kerry is effectively absolving himself of all responsibility in the future. He is creating the excuse he will use if he is elected and things don’t go well in Iraq when he, Kerry, is in office. It will all be Bush’s fault. Of course, if Kerry is elected and things happen to go well, rest assured that Kerry will take full credit, saying he has done it despite the mess Bush handed him. For a narcissist, all possible failures are blamed on another, all possible accomplishments are credited to the self.
SENTENCES 4 and 5: “Now, I just don’t know. I can’t tell you.”
These short sentences are a kind of filler. Like another person might say “hmm” or “uhhh,” Kerry says, “I don’t know, I can’t say.” It’s reflexive, and represents his profound inability to commit to a position or even make a statement.
SENTENCES 6 and 7: “What I’ll tell you is, I have a plan. I have laid out my plan to America, and I know that my plan has a better chance of working.”
Here Kerry rouses himself to snap out of the reflexive waffling of sentences 4 and 5 with his mantra, “plan.” The word “plan” has become the substitute for an actual plan. Saying the word will stand for the thing itself, and give the appearance of decisiveness and action. Kerry now defines himself as the man with the plan. That’s all ye need to know. But he’s also the man with the plan who’s been accused of never being specific about that plan, so now he is careful to correct that misapprehension: he’s the man with the plan that he has “laid out to America” so see, you can’t accuse him of not being specific! And of course he knows, he just magically knows, that his plan has “a better chance of working.” He doesn’t have to say why it has a better chance, he just knows it does and we should trust him because he is who he is. And notice he doesn’t say it has a “good” chance of working; he says it has a “better” chance of working. Inherent in the word Kerry uses here is a comparison, the idea that Bush’s plan is worse. Kerry never misses an opportunity to criticize someone else while puffing himself up.
SENTENCE 8: “And in the next days I am going to say more about exactly how we are going to do what has been available to this Administration that it has chosen not to do.”
Another packed sentence. Kerry won’t say more about this plan now, because he hasn’t a clue what he means. So he defers the description of the plan to some unspecified later time when he knows he’ll never have to answer the question (“in the next days”). But at that hazy future time he will say exactly what he is going to do, because once again he is making sure he is perceived as decisive and specific by using a word like “exactly.” And that very specific and exact thing that he can’t say now but will of course say later is not just something that he himself has come up with, it’s something that “has been available to this administration”–again, Kerry must define himself only in comparison to Bush’s perceived failings. And this unspecified inexact but exact available thing that Bush has failed to do, and that in a few days will become exact, is not a simple failure. It’s a failure of choice; Bush could have done this exact and successful thing, but has “chosen not to do” it. Which makes Bush exceptionally bad, since he could have done a successful thing but chose not to.
SENTENCES 9 and 10: “But I will make certain that our troops are protected. I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, and I will make sure that we are successful, and I know exactly what I am going to do and how to do it.”
Here we have only two sentences, but the word “I” is used five times. Kerry is painting a picture of himself as a man of action. And this man of action is an individual who will do those things by himself, magically unassisted. Notice how he doesn’t say, “I will appoint a better Secretary of Defense” or “better generals” or “reform the intelligence community” or “rally the troops” to do any of those things. No, he, personally, Kerry himself by himself, will protect those troops and kill those terrorists. I picture him as Rambo, chasing down Osama and shooting him with his trusty deer rifle. (Those who have read Unfit for Command will immediately recognize this aspect of Kerry’s personality). Kerry will be successful and he knows how to do it: exactly how to do it. There’s that word “exactly” again, and it’s no accident that it’s there. It’s there for the same reason it was there before—to make it seem as though there is something firm and specific in his mind, even though he isn’t telling us and will never tell us. In fact, the entire passage is incoherent.
Well, it’s been fun. But exhausting.