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Campaign Diary

Kerry: He’s Peaking, Already

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN And JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

By all rights John Kerry should have been at the top of his form, the night he won the Wisconsin primary. Even though the six biggest states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, New York and California have yet to vote, he’s been hailed as the Democratic nominee, with hit teams already on the rampage, hunting down prospective Nader supporters, rounding up all known and prospective third party defectors from the Democratic standard, forcing them to kneel and kiss the Democratic Party platform under pain of death, while playing a tape of DNC chair Terry McAuliffe screaching "convert or die!"

Kerry has emerged from the bruising kiss of imputed scandal and, unless Ms Alex Polier or other women inconveniently crop up again, Teresa Heinz won’t have to wield the carving knife she has threatened to deploy to her husband’s private parts if his path to the White House is derailed by sexual scandal. Polier not withstanding, never has a candidate had to put up with less in the way of the baptism of sewage that is a vital part of the primary process. Dean and Clark drew all the fire. John Edwards, who could slice up Kerry in a minute, has adamantly refused to unleash his forensic artillery.

So did Kerry have the jaunty mien of triumph, that night in Madison? Not that we could see. His long face, albeit abbreviated by corrective surgery, remained lugubrious and he stumbled his way tiredly through Bob Shrum’s phrases. The one thing all Democrats this year want is a winner. He doesn’t feel like a winner to us.

Right now some polls show Kerry a few points ahead of Bush. Other polls show Kerry peaked on February 15 and has started to slip behind Bush. The states that voted for Gore in 2000, according to a Zogby poll, are softer on Kerry while Bush states remain strong for their man. As yet Karl Rove has yet to launch the Shock and Awe barrage that will explode over Kerry’s head some time in the late summer, after the Democrats have got their boost in Boston.

Rove’s targeting plans will obviously include such easy, but telling hits as Kerry’s support for Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. (If elected President, according to the bean counters at Forbes’, Kerry will be the third richest denizen of the Oval Office in American history.) Kerry voted for the Patriot Act and he voted for the ’03 attack on Iraq.

And this wasn’t just a resigned Aye. Kerry was up there with Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair as a huckster for all the lies that have come home to haunt Washington. "These weapons represent an unacceptable threat", he bellowed last year. Not just nuclear weapons of mass destruction. "Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery on a range of vehicles such as bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives which could bring them to the United States homeland." Kerry’s bottom line: "The President laid out a strong, comprehensive, and compelling argument why Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs are a threat to the United States and the international community."

Kerry agrees with Bush about the tax cuts. He agrees with him about the Patriot Act. He agrees with him on trade. He agrees with him on the war. Why change horses, Bush will ask the American people. "I can manage things better," Kerry will respond. What else can he say? He’s never once, in three senate terms, offered legislation to inconvenence the "special interests" at which he’s lately launched a few pop-gun attacks. "Over the course of his senate career," writes Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, "Kerry has not been averse to taking campaign cash from the companies and firms with a direct interest in his work. Since ’95, he raised more than 30 million for his various campaigns, most of it from industries such as finance and telecommunication companies (which are overseen by the senate committees he served) and the law and lobby firms that represent them."

This is where the timid legions of the left, cowed by furious bluster about their treachery in deserting the Democratic standard back in 2000, might ask some serious questions, and maybe even threaten desertion again. All Kerry can offer is superior management of the imperial bandwagon at home and abroad. Defense? More over, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz! To cleanse the Augean stable, with those fragrant heaps of procurement cash handed out to Bush and Cheney’s cronies Kerry has a broom in the form of his defense adviser William Perry. Not a clean broom, mind you. Perry, a notorious shil for the avionics sector when he ran the Pentagon’s R&D in the Carter years, drew deserved fire in Clinton time for being the first secretary of defense allowed to hold investments in a military contractor, Cambridge Research Associates, doing business with the Defense Department.

The War on Drugs? National Security Advice? Kerry has Rand Beers. Under Presidents Clinton and Bush, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and was one of the architects of the aerial crop fumigation program the U.S. introduced in southern Colombia when the State Department hired DynCorp, a private military contractor, to fly crop dusters at high altitudes over southern Colombia, spraying poison on all the vegetation and, often, peasants below.

Beers’ terrible role in Colombia was recently stigmatized by Sean Donohue of Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearing House. Beers had scant concern for peasant with their only means of subsistence, whether coca or legal yucca, wiped out. "One doesn’t get a special pass for being poor," he told NBC’s John Stossel, (a sentiment with which Kerry surely concurs, since he voted for Clinton’s onslaught on welfare.)

Beers once gave a sworn deposition in a lawsuit filed against DynCorp in a U.S. Federal District Court by indigenous tribes in which he argued for fumigation, claiming that "It is believed that FARC terrorists have received training in Al Qaida terrorist caps in Afghanistan."

AP cited three intelligence sources in Washington expressing incredulity. "’My first reaction was that Rand must have misspoke,’ said a veteran congressional staffer with extensive experience in the Colombian drug war. ‘But when I saw it was a proffer signed under oath, I couldn’t believe he would do that. I have no idea why he would say that.’" Beers later recanted his testimony, claiming that he had been misinformed.

How about oil and empire? Right next to Beers on Kerry’s national security team is Richard Morningstar, whose career was usefully dissected by Laura Flanders not so long ago. An inside player to be sure. He ran the Overseas Private Investment Corp, a notorious swill-bin for corporate plunder, then became Clinton’s oil ambassador to Central Asia where he rubbed shoulder pads with Condoleezza Rice, at that time Chevron’s envoy prospecting capture of the region’s vast oil reserves.

But isn’t Kerry at least a living reproach to the horrors of the Vietnam War. Not really. He’s got his medals back up on the office wall and here’s what he wrote in "A Call to Service", his campaign bio: "I could never agree with those in the antiwar movement who dismissed our troops as war criminals or our country as the villain in the drama As a veteran of both the Vietnam war and the Vietnam protest movement, I say to both conservative and liberal misinterpretations of that war it’s time to get over it and recognize it as an exception, not as a ruling example, of the US military engagements of the twentieth century."

Conscience thus cleared and memory obliterated, Kerry advocates "a tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership." Kerry over Bush, Bush over Kerry? As regards impact on humanity, it’s hard to figure how big a slice of the planet would register a dime’s worth of difference between the two, or even a genome’s worth, for that matter. After all, they are cousins. Sixteenth cousins. Why, in San Francisco right now they could legally get married. They’ve been close for years.