View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, May 10, 2004

"My Day at the Protest" 

While Hindrocket gets Hawaii and Washington's Crossing, I get to slog through John Kerry's intellectual masterpiece, The New Soldier. Ah, the burdens of public service.

Kerry has pretty much suppressed republication of the book; the few available copies cost more than I'm prepared to spend, and library copies are all checked out. Fortunately, the academic and public libraries of Colorado share their catalogs via something called Prospector:

Somehow, despite the picturesque imagery recalling Colorado's past, I'm not sure this is really the visual they want. I mean, I'm supposed to associate myself with this guy? Sure, I'm tired of looking for this book (which it nothing compared to how I feel after having read it), but still. If there's a trace of hope left on his face, I can't find it. He probably got paid more for holding this pose for 2 hours than he got for whatever gold he found that day.

It's a completely appropriate symbol for The New Soldier. The old man probably had a better chance of uncovering the Denver Nugget than one would have of finding wisdom buried in the pages of this book.

Talk about not judging a book by its cover. I had seen pictures , but only face-on. I was looking for something shaped like Diplomacy, or even No More Vietnams. Instead, it's like a coffee-table book for people who only drink free-range coffee. It's over-sized, over-photoed, under-worded. "My Day at the Protest," by John Kerry.

It opens with the Senate testimony that's copiously available elsewhere on the web. In-between, testimony about the Hell of War, most of which sounds like Bill Mauldin on downers. There's a gripping day-by-day account of the protest on the Mall, including that anxious, crisis moment when the 800+ "vets" voted to sleep there. As though there were any hotels within three hours' march that would both admit them and that they could afford. The vote was apparently 480-400 to stay, later revised to "unanimous." That's accounting that even Global Crossing could be proud of.

The only part of the book that's not part of the public record is the closing statement by Kerry himself. He wasn't so nuanced then.

So here we are, like the old prospector. Seduced by avaricious outfitters and led by guides who know better, to believe that there's actually gold in them thar hills. If Kerry would just admit his "youthful indiscretions," we'd be done with it. As Lileks has said, I don't care what he did 33 years ago; his record since then is bad enough. But since he chose to run on his Vietnam service, as his only conceivable foreign policy credential, he has to revise history constantly to make himself look better.

It's the perfect distillation of Kerry himself. The only possible reason he's worked to keep this book out of the limelight, because intellectually and politically, it's as lightweight as it looks.

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