Show of hands: Who remembers how John Kerry countered George W. Bush's accusation that he'd be "soft on terror," with a reminder to the American people how he was the one who uncovered the Iran/Contra scandal and he was the one who opened the investigation that exposed the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as a huge terrorist network organization (it was Osama bin Laden's bank) and got it shut down?
And how I longed for the ability to reach out to John Kerry's campaign, grab them by the shoulders and shake them vigorously for completely ignoring two of the most significant accomplishments in his extraordinary Senate career that would have exposed George W. Bush as the poser that he was.
With probes, making his markEven if you hadn't been born yet, or weren't old enough to remember when that scandal broke, you have heard of it. The Iran-Contra Affair was a major event in our political history. Hearings were televised for months and resulted in 11 felony convictions (all of which were granted pardons by George H.W. Bush as he was leaving office, of course). To have sold himself as the man behind the exposure of this level of corruption in government would have undoubtedly earned John Kerry enormous respect among the portion of the electorate who hadn't already decided he was a traitor in spite of his exemplary service in Vietnam.
On a summer day in 1986, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gathered behind closed doors off the chamber floor to hear the sales pitch of a brash freshman, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. ...
He had spent the spring conducting an unauthorized investigation into reports that the Reagan administration was illegally providing aid to the rebel Nicaraguan Contra armies, which were attempting to overthrow the left-wing government of that Central American nation. At this closed session, he planned to urge the committee to launch an official probe. ...
[B]ehind the scenes, Kerry had forged an unlikely alliance with Senator Jesse Helms, the hidebound conservative from North Carolina. As the senior Republican on the committee, Helms was the key to Kerry's hopes. And the key to Helms was the drug war.
In the course of their investigation, Kerry and his staff had found evidence that some contras had ties to drug smuggling. If there was one class of villain that Helms deplored as much as the communists, it was drug traffickers.
On matters of political philosophy, Kerry and Helms were polar opposites. Yet each was something of a maverick, contemptuous of the capital's courtiers and willing to rock the clubby Senate. "I spent time with Jesse," Kerry recalls. "I talked to him. Talked his language. Jesse didn't believe the same things I did in many cases, but he was a gentleman. He was a man of his word."
As Kerry finished his presentation, the senior members turned to Helms, taking his temperature on the issue. "Jesse? What do you think about this?" asked Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the panel, according to a transcript of the then-secret session. "I know you are a contra supporter."
"I will tell you what I do not support, and John Kerry and I have talked about this: anybody sending drugs into this country," Helms told his colleagues. "I do not care whose side they are on."
Helms was on board. The committee reached a consensus: It would investigate the contras and the contra-drug connection.
And following on Kerry's investigation of Iran-Contra was this:
Follow the Money — How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank.
Two decades ago, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was a highly respected financial titan. In 1987, when its subsidiary helped finance a deal involving Texas oilman George W. Bush, the bank appeared to be a reputable institution, with attractive branch offices, a traveler's check business, and a solid reputation for financing international trade. It had high-powered allies in Washington and boasted relationships with respected figures around the world.
All that changed in early 1988, when John Kerry, then a young senator from Massachusetts, decided to probe the finances of Latin American drug cartels. Over the next three years, Kerry fought against intense opposition from vested interests at home and abroad, from senior members of his own party; and from the Reagan and Bush administrations, none of whom were eager to see him succeed.
By the end, Kerry had helped dismantle a massive criminal enterprise and exposed the infrastructure of BCCI and its affiliated institutions, a web that law enforcement officials today acknowledge would become a model for international terrorist financing. As Kerry's investigation revealed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, BCCI was interested in more than just enriching its clients--it had a fundamentally anti-Western mission. Among the stated goals of its Pakistani founder were to "fight the evil influence of the West," and finance Muslim terrorist organizations. In retrospect, Kerry's investigation had uncovered an institution at the fulcrum of America's first great post-Cold War security challenge.
Pretty impressive, right? Certainly everyone I spoke with during the campaign who didn't know this about John Kerry (that would be all of them), thought it was pretty incredible and were shocked that he wasn't using that in his campaign. In fact, everyone I directed to this information became firm Kerry voters where they had previously been undecided.
Yet with these stellar accomplishments in his record, and up against arguably the worst president in modern history — the guy who let the 9/11 terror attacks happen on his watch, the guy who took us into a war of aggression against a sovereign nation that posed no imminent threat to us, the guy whose administration orchestrated the outing of a CIA operative for craven political purposes, the guy who no one in the democratic party thought stood a chance in hell of getting a second term to continue his disastrous presidency — John Kerry lost.
So why is that important in 2011?
There is no doubt that Barack Obama is a brilliant strategist and campaigner. More impressive than his win against McCain/Palin was his victory over what had become known as "the Clinton Machine." When you think about the fact that a little-known Senator beat a former United States President and his then-First Lady/now-Senator wife, it's actually pretty mind-blowing. We watched in awe as he won primary after primary, caucus after caucus. We were gobsmacked at reports of Democrats in states like Montana who had lined up for blocks to vote in the presidential primary. Montana. Think about that.
But that was then and this is now. While it is still early yet, and President Obama's overall approval rating is improving, there is still a great deal of sentiment that "his administration's efforts have done more to harm rather than [benefit] the nation's economy," and in swing states, "By more than 2 to 1, Republicans ... are more likely than Democrats to say they are "extremely enthusiastic" about voting for president next year."
While I can't speak to anyone's personal finances and whether their bank accounts are bigger or smaller than they were in 2008, I can say with certainty that this nation's economy is in far, far better shape than the trajectory we were headed down three years ago, and this perceived harm to our economy is patently untrue. Just one example of this is the jobs picture:
And that chart only takes us through July. In all, we've experienced 20 consecutive months of private-sector job growth in this country — and that's despite Republican efforts to thwart any advancement in order to make Obama look bad so that they can destroy him in the 2012 election.
And let's be honest, people don't get "enthusiastic" to vote unless one of two factors exist; a deep desire to unseat the incumbent — which is what's driving republican enthusiasm, or the thrill of voting for someone you believe can actually get things done to change the course of this country for the better. The latter made up an enormous segment of Barack Obama voters in the 2008 election, and many of them have abandoned him due to a misperception that he hasn't been effective at bringing about the change he said he would during that campaign.
A year seems rather far off, but in reality it's not. I know the Obama campaign is gearing up for a full-on frontal attack of republicans in congress (which is the tack he's embarked on now), republican ideas and policies, and whomever the eventual nominee of the republican party will be.
I would just like to take this opportunity to remind the campaign that with sentiments floating around that range from disappointed to angry, this campaign cannot win those voters back or lure undecided independent voters merely by pointing out how bad republicans suck. Those voters know that already; they don't have to be sold on it. In order to bring those people back into the fold and inspire new voters to go to the polls, the Obama campaign needs to disabuse people of the false notion that things are worse now than they were when he stepped into the swamp the Bush Administration left for him. And he can only do that by pounding home the astounding improvements he's made and the myriad accomplishments of his administration and the former democratic congress.
We need to bring back the thrill and excitement that will drive enthusiasm! I remember it; I was there:
Republicans are experts at messaging campaigns. They managed to portray their own health care program from 1993 — a fully-participatory system where everyone was mandated to pay in — as government intrusion into personal healthcare choices ("Death Panels" anyone?). They managed to convince Americans that debt reduction was crucial, riling their constituency up into a frenzy over it, resulting in the debt ceiling debacle of this past summer. And President Obama not only didn't educate the public about the fact that debt reduction during a balance sheet recession would be fatal to our economy, he went along with the Republicans.
And in so doing, he left the impression that he was not a "leader," when in fact he actually won that battle hands-down and played the republicans for fools. But one thing republicans know above all else, impressions matter more than the truth. And they will attempt to capitalize on this image of him as a weak leader — count on it. The reality is, he's a quiet, masterful leader — and it's time for him to get vocal about it.
As with John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth," we cannot afford to allow republicans to control the direction of the discourse this election. Do not make the same mistake John Kerry made. Do not leave major accomplishments collecting dust in the basement.
The Supreme Court is far too critical for us to lose this election.
REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
▶ With probes, making his mark ~ By John Aloysius Farrel at The Boston Globe
▶ Iran-Contra Affair ~ at Wikipedia
▶ Follow the Money — How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank. ~ By David Sirota and Jonathan Baskin at Washington Monthly
▶ Obama's Making A Huge Comeback ~ By Zeke Miller at Business Insider
▶ Summer of Discontent Slams Obama and Republicans – ABC News / Washington Post Poll ~ By Julie E. Phelan and Gary Langer at ABC News
▶ Swing States poll: Obama's path to 2nd term an uphill climb ~ By Susan Page at USA TODAY
▶ The Democrats' Powerful Negotiating Advantage ~ By msbellows at Vichy Democrats
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank