Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Tonight on Thunderdome Classic: Kerry-O'Neill, 1971 

Nobody tells us anything! We'd have set the imperial TiVo if we'd known that C-SPAN was going to rebroadcast the 1971 Dick Cavett Show on which John Kerry debated his longtime nemesis John O'Neill, who has since gone on to notoriety as the author of Unfit for Command and the mendax primus inter pares of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" (so-called); instead we spent the entire weekend watching the Frank Tashlin retrospective on ZemblaMax. Fortunately the always-reliable Max B. Sawicky was on the job -- or rather, not on the job, which is no doubt why he was plopped on the sofa flipping past C-SPAN to begin with:
Kerry is very impressive in the debate. O'Neill is forceful, nasty, tending towards interruption, filibustering, bloviating, and attempting obvious lies that don't even fool the audience. Partisanship can obviously color your eyes in this case, which is not my point.

More important is how O'Neill's defense of the Vietnam war looks with the benefit of hindsight, and with respect to Iraq. It's all there: the progress reports based on bogus numbers, the commitment to replace U.S. troops with those of South Vietnam. The defense by O'Neill of acts that could be classified as war crimes.

Interesting was that, then as now, O'Neill demands that Kerry name names. In other words, when Kerry says the U.S. is violating international law, and that he himself was a party to such violations, O'Neill demands that Kerry and associates file depositions that can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions of other veterans. Then as now, the jingoists would shift the blame from those in command to those on the ground. Support the troops, indeed. It's hard to see how any veteran could come away from this debate with animus towards Kerry. Disagreement, of course. But not personal dislike.

By the way, I recall nothing from this debate from O'Neill -- I didn't catch all of it -- contesting Kerry's medals. Given how hard he comes after Kerry for his beliefs, it's hard to believe he would have foregone this line of attack if there had been anything to it at the time. Nor can I imagine the Nixon Administration failing to investigate any dubious award of a medal to such a nettlesome critic.
As for Tashlin: Son of Paleface is gravely underrated; The Girl Can't Help It, Artists & Models, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? are, as you surely know, sublime and evergreen; Rock-a-Bye Baby and Geisha Boy, though minor, are surprisingly sweet.

Try as we might, we cannot get behind The Alphabet Murders.

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