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Moderation in the pursuit of immoderation is no virtue

Harold Meyerson again proves that he is the cleverer of the Washington Post’s two liberal spinmeisters in this piece about John Kerry’s Vietnam problem. Yesterday, Meyerson’s partner in spin, E.J. Dionne, claimed that Kerry was being attacked for arguing that the war in Vietnam was a mistake. I addressed that claim here, pointing out that Kerry is actually being attacked for claiming that the war in Vietnam was a sustained crime.
Today, Meyerson picks up Dionne’s argument and tries to cast Kerry as an anti-war moderate who provided “prudent guidance to a movement of angry men.” Unlike Dionne, Meyerson is astute and/or honest enough to recognize that Kerry’s substantive position on the war cannot be portrayed as moderate. So he argues that Kerry was a force for moderation because he opposed those who wanted “to direct the movement into self-destructive spasms of rage.” Thus, Meyerson speaks of Kerry’s “mainstream impulse” (perhaps the same impulse that caused him to keep his medals), carefully avoiding any claim that Kerry’s ideology was mainstream. Meyerson’s unstated argument is that Kerry’s virulently radical views about the war should be exempt from criticism because Kerry elected not to engage in criminal conduct to further those views. If anything, though, Kerry’s role was to add an aura of respectability to a fringe element of the anti-war movement that was anything but respectable.
Meyerson’s argument is a non-starter. And it may be too clever because, if taken seriously, it could open the door to a greater focus on Kerry’s attendance at anti-war meetings in which criminal conduct was contemplated, specifically the notorious November 1971 Vietnam Veterans Against the War Kansas City meeting at which a proposed plot to assassinate United States Senators was discussed. See here and here for more on that story.

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