Saturday, July 31, 2004

leftovers, still good for eating

I blogged this elsewhere a couple of days ago after the end of the Democratic National Convention. Because it's important, I thought I'd repost here.


I don't know if you guys have caught any of the DNC on C-SPAN the last couple nights, but I just had a few thoughts after tonight. Mostly, I wanted to catch Dennis Kucinich, but I missed his speech (sorry Jake). Tonight though, I watched a speech by former Senator Max Cleland, who introduced Kerry at the convention. Any other campaign, and I wouldn't know this name. But I've been reading a lot about this presidential race, and the last one, and the name Max Cleland has come up quite a bit.

Cleland was a Senator from Georgia, who served until 2003. He fought in Vietnam, losing his right arm and both his legs. It was because of his service in Vietnam that he was elected as a Democrat to the Senate in a conservative state like Georgia (Bush crushed Gore in 2000 there, 55% to 43%). Cleland co-sponsored Homeland Security legislation after 9/11 with Joe Lieberman. But he voted against President Bush's own Homeland Security bill, because he thought the bill he created was better (it had something to do with Bush's version not guaranteeing Homeland Security employees with civil service protection, such as the ability to bargain collectively under a union).

When he ran for re-election in 2002, his Republican opponent Saxy Chambliss attacked his voting record concerning the "war on terror." One TV ad flashed images of bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Senator Cleland, lumping them together as opponents of the war on terror. Bin Laden and Hussein for obvious reasons, Cleland because he liked his own Homeland Security bill more than Bush's. The tag line for the commercial: "Max Cleland says he has the courage to lead. But the record proves Max Cleland is just misleading." Chambliss won the seat. Cleland went home.

I don't know what makes me more mad. The fact that Chambliss didn't have the integrity to tell the whole story about Cleland's voting record, that he compared a Vietnam war veteran to Osama bin Laden, or that Chambliss had the gall to question Cleland's courage when he sat out the war with a bad knee while Cleland lost three limbs in active combat.

All this came back to me while watching Cleland's speech, from a wheelchair behind the podium at the DNC. Kerry's and Bush's speeches probably won't be much to write home about, but it's these speeches by their friends and colleagues that are important to watch, because I think they tell a lot about a person's character. Of course they'll be whitewashed for the consumption of the American public on national television, but they're still important, I think, because you really can know something about the character of a man by the company he keeps.

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