John Glenn is quite old now, over eighty, a seniority that fits the persona he adopts tonight: the truth-teller, damn the consequences. He says that the only issue on which John Kerry isn’t ahead of Bush in the polls is national security, which is something a consultant wouldn’t let a surrogate say: Don’t call attention to the candidate’s weaknesses for God’s sake.
But John Glenn has something he wants said. That it shouldn’t be so.
“Bush says he’s a strong leader and says he’s a strong leader and says he’s a strong leader. He says it so much that some people are starting to believe it.”
“You can’t be a real leader if you just surround yourself with ideologues with a mission of their own.”
He tells the shameful story of Fallujah: how the contractors were murdered and mutilated, and how the Marine commanders told the White House the worst thing to do was to respond with tit-for-tat vengeance. That the atrocity had actually earned America much Arab sympathy, but that this was squandered in a reckless siege of the city.
And that, next, when members of the interim govenrment threatened mutiny unless the Marines withdrew, Bush had the Marines withdraw–for purely political reasons, a military “strategy” that managed but to preserve the worst features of every available option. “To me this is not leadership. It is not leadership….Compared to that, John Kerry is a Rock of Gibraltar.”
“Real leaders deal with reality, not bravado.”
He speaks very quietly–no Kucinich, he–but the applause is thick, appreciative. This is what we believe.