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Kerry’s Dukakis Moment

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From CNN.com:

GIBSON: Going to go to the final two questions now, and the first one will be for Sen. Kerry. And this comes from Sarah Degenhart.

QUESTIONER: Sen. Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?

KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now.

[He’s stalling a little here…struggling to find the proper nuance no doubt…]

First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins.

[Blatant condescension…]

I’m a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

[Gratuitous mention of Vietnam…]

But I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can’t do that.

But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society.

But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.

Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro- abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don’t deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the Constitution affords them if they can’t afford it otherwise.

That’s why I think it’s important. That’s why I think it’s important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning.

You’ll help prevent AIDS.

You’ll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies.

You’ll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.

GIBSON: Mr. President, minute and a half.

BUSH: I’m trying to decipher that.

[Pause for snickering…]

My answer is, we’re not going to spend taxpayers’ money on abortion.


Here we have one of the most divisive issues of our time, abortion, where there are passionate feelings on all sides. And yet all Kerry can offer is a long-winded, vapid, emotionless response.

Quite reminiscent of Michael Dukakis* in his second debate with a guy named George Bush, back in 1988:

CNN’s Bernard Shaw opened the debate with this question to Gov. Dukakis: “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Dukakis responded, “No, I don’t, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We’ve done so in my own state.” Dukakis went on to talk about the drop in Massachusetts’ crime rate and segued into the need for international cooperation in the war against drugs.

The question was meant to give Dukakis an opportunity to show — and the voters an opportunity to see — the emotional side of a candidate dubbed by many as the “Ice Man.” Shaw had said that the voters had a difficult time getting a “feeling fix” on Dukakis, and felt that only a very personal question could elicit an emotional response. (In fact, he feared that he might be criticized for asking a too-easy question.) But Dukakis’ response did just the opposite. Dukakis’ passionless response was the news out of the debate.

Bush didn’t perform particularly well either, but he didn’t have to after Dukakis’ first response. The presidential polls did not move for the first few days after the debate, but they soon started moving in Bush’s favor.

And I predict something similar will happen 16 years later.

(*John Kerry, ironically, was Dukakis’s lieutenant governor in Massachusetts from 1982 to 1984…)

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About RJ

  • Devastation is in the eye of the beholder, but I agree that this was his worst moment in the debate.

    But he did score his points on how badly Bush mismanaged the war on terrorism by going after Saddam instead, the economy and education.

    What do your polls tell us, RJ, about how the electorate responded to all the issues that were covered?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but do know that on the Fox News Channel immediately after the debate, William Kristol said Kerry did better.

    And one Fox analyst gave Kerry an “A” and Bush a “B” on substance. Another Fox analyst gave Kerry an “A-” and Bush a “B-” on style.

    Based on that, I’d guess that unbiased voters would see an even greater difference.

  • Finally someone had the courage to say it! If you can’t answer a question (even a complex question that should include respecting the beliefs of many different people and evaluating hundreds of different situations) in a single statement, than you’re obviously not fit for public office!

    If a woman’s doctor tells her she won’t survive child birth and she can’t afford an abortion, at least she can die happy knowing that the religious beliefs of a few are being forced on everyone.

  • This shoveling coal for Satan deal, does it have a purpose? Are you getting a Boy Scout badge (made from real Boy Scout), or is it a community service thing? Or is it a deferment against time served stoking the flames of hell.

    Just wondering. Because I don’t know which is worse, the deliberate ignorance, or the malicious glee.

  • I thought the Dukakis moment of the last 4 years was Bush climbing out of that airplane on the air force carrier, as if he would have ever been caught dead in an actual war. The photo of Bush in a fight suit instantly reminds everyone of Dukakis in the tank.

    When it comes to Dukakis moments, that moment was “mission accomplished”.

  • Adam Bloom

    That’s the most logical thing I’ve ever heard a politician say on abortion, do you want him to cry while he’s saying it?

  • Actually, Kerry should have learned and copied President Clinton’s very simple and very well accepted statement regarding his desire to see abortions as “safe, legal, and rare.” President Bush’s message has been somewhat similar to that, though, I think Bush lives much truer to his principles than Clinton, who was, after all, majorly pro-abortion, as is Kerry. Part of the reason for Democrat’s stance on abortion has to do with the fact that the abortion lobby owns them, of course.

    I am continually amazed, however, by the large number of pro-abortion advocates who declare, on one hand, that the federal government should never tell individuals what to do on this issue. But, on the other hand, these same individuals are often the first ones to SCREAM bloody murder (pun intended) when the federal government WON’T pay for a procedure.

    You can’t have it both ways. If the federal government funds something, they have a say. If they don’t fund it, then you can better argue that the federal government should stay out of this debate.

    Really, the ultimate way to get the federal government out of the business of advocating or restricting abortions is to, very simply, overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to the states. Many states already passed new laws on this issue, in case the Supreme Court ever does decide to hand this issue back to states.

    Other than that, however, the federal government DOES have a right to legislate what men and women can do with their bodies and will likely maintain that right. Please note that suicide is illegal, so is prostitution, and many kinds of drugs, including alcohol. If you are so adamant about having the feds keep their “laws off your bodies,” then you have to change all those laws as well.

    Good post!


  • Oop! Should clarify that I meant alcohol is illegal for certain portions of our population, namely, those under the age of 21. The 21-year-old age requirement is federally mandated, therefore, the government is allowing you to vote at the age of 18, join the military at age 18, become legally independent from your partents at 18, etc., BUT you cannot consume alcohol until you are 21.