It is tragic that when it matters, Lieutenant Kerry’s voice always seems to be usurped by Candidate Kerry’sby Idrees Ahmad / October 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
In 1971, as a young veteran testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lieutenant John Kerry spoke with eloquence. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?” he asked. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” His anti-war testimony, coming from a hero with no fewer than three Purple Hearts for bravery, turned him into a national figure.
By 2004, when Kerry ran against George W Bush for president, he had amassed a stellar record of public service as a senator for Massachusetts. Yet the conscientious Kerry lost to Bush, a man who had famously gone Awol during his National Reserve service and had done little at a national level. The candidate that appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 was wooden and unremarkable; his war testimony was somehow turned against him by his enemies and he seemed to have no response.
Candidate Kerry was a pale shadow of Lieutenant Kerry. But in Every Day is Extra, it’s his honesty, dignity and wry humour that dominates. It makes it more readable than the average self-aggrandising/self-pitying political memoir. This is an honest and reflective record of military and public service; and it is hard not to leave with the impression that had Bush run against the author as he appears in this book, he would have been denied a second term.
Kerry has lived an eventful life full of memorable encounters, from boat rides with John F Kennedy to hockey games with Tom Hanks. Under Barack Obama, Kerry went on to serve ably as secretary of state with successes (albeit equivocal) on Iran, Pakistan and climate change. But on the most significant foreign policy challenge—Syria—Kerry was constrained by a risk-averse administration. He describes Syria as an “open wound” and believes the administration could have done more. But he could have also spoken up more. It is tragic that when it matters, Lieutenant Kerry’s voice always seems to be usurped by Candidate Kerry’s.
Every Day is Extra by John Kerry (Simon & Schuster, £25)