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John Kerry: The New Winter Soldier

kerry.jpg John Kerry is back. Enough with the flip-flopping, "I voted for the war before I voted against it" politician we saw in 2004. On Saturday before a "wildly enthusiastic" crowd at Boston's Faneuil Hall, Kerry took the opportunity to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by reestablishing himself as the solidly anti-war, ""How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" protest leader we first came to know in 1971.

Needless to say, the left couldn't be happier to have their winter soldier back. Bob Herbert (Times $elect) called Kerry's speech "important and moving," saying Kerry "gave the impression of a man who had found a voice he'd been seeking through trial and error for a long time, perhaps since that springtime day in Richard Nixon's Washington in 1971."

CBS News' Dotty Lynch cooed that "Kerry stood tall and proud and came to terms with what seemed so right in the 1970s and so wrong in 2004." Lynch continued:

Kerry disappointed many Democrats in 2002 by voting to give the President the authority to go to war and kept frustrating them during his campaign with tortured answers on what the policy should be. But Saturday, he knocked it out of the ballpark as he brought his life and the two wars which define him into sync.

Kerry has the opportunity to lead a movement once again - not by using this as a campaign jumpoff, but by rallying a very angry public to force a change in policy. Richard Nixon worried about Kerry's potential as a leader back in the 70s; maybe the new Kerry will finally prove him right.

So is this is a turning point moment for Kerry, and does it pave the way to redemption in 2008? Hardly.

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Saturday arguing the importance of dissent in wartime, Kerry wrote about his testimony thirty-five years ago that "Many people did not understand or agree with my act of public dissent. To them, supporting the troops meant continuing to support the war, or at least keeping my mouth shut."

Not exactly. What many people found offensive in 1971, and in the thirty-five years since, wasn't necessarily Kerry voicing objections to the policy in Vietnam but his willingness to publicly condemn the entire U.S. military for heinous crimes like rape and murder which he testified were "committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." Furthermore, Kerry made those charges based on the testimony of veterans which some have found to be less than credible.

People were offended by his association with a group (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) that met and actually discussed assassinating members of Congress who supported the war. People were offended that Kerry went to Paris and held private meetings with representatives from the North Vietnamese government without U.S. approval and while a member of the Naval reserve. People were offended that Kerry made such a public display of throwing his medals (or someone else's, depending on which story you believe) over the White House fence in 1971 saying they had no value, and he compounded the offense by proclaiming how proud he was of his medals every time an election came rolling around.

Obviously, dissent comes in many forms. Kerry didn't have to do any of these things to voice objection to the war in Vietnam, but he did. His actions thirty-five years ago have proved to have longstanding, and mostly negative consequences which probably aren't going to change no matter how he tries to recast himself.