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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Cynically, I thought the Dylan line that applied to John Kerry was from "Idiot Wind": "She inherited a million bucks/And when she died, it came to me/I can't help it if I'm lucky". Ron Rosenbaum sees it differently: in discussing Bush's "lost year" he optimistically proposes that perhaps Kerry "has learned the lesson embedded in the words of his generation’s sage, in a song about being trapped in a nightmare: "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." "Here I sit so patiently, waiting to find out what price/You have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice."

Rosenbaum's argument is that the lost year we should be thinking about is not 1972-- "when Bush may have failed to show up for a physical," but is, rather, the "time between the initial consolidation of control of Afghanistan and the apparent loss of control in Iraq." Right. Exactly. Vietnam is relevant to this argument, but not for the reasons that are being given: it has nothing to do with the relative valor, or manliness or whatever of the two men. It is, instead, about the "nightmare we'’re trying to escape from going through twice. Vietnam is the nightmare I sense the rat in John Kerry just will not allow us to go through twice: He will either win it or pay the price to escape the nightmare of going through it twice."

I'm not sure that I entirely buy into Rosenbaum's argument, because I'm not sure that Vietnam was the war, or just a battle in the larger cultural war that is ongoing-- but it seems pretty clear that Kerry thinks Vietnam was at the center of it, and it also seems clear that we are presently at serious risk of replaying the mistakes of Vietnam with much graver potential consequences.

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