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August 26, 2004

Max the Mole

The recent revelation that Max Cleland is a Bush political appointee raises interesting questions about his presence in the Kerry campaign and his activities there. On December 16, 2003 the Export-Import Bank of the United States published the following press release:

DECEMBER 16, 2003
Contact: Marianna Ohe (202) 565-3200


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland was sworn in yesterday afternoon (Monday, Dec. 15) as a member of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). President George W. Bush nominated Cleland for the position on Nov. 21, 2003, for a term expiring January 20, 2007. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2003.

"Senator Cleland is an American hero and we are pleased and honored to welcome him to the board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States," said Ex-Im Bank President Philip Merrill. "He will surely bring his abiding commitment to public service to the work of the bank, as we continue to promote American exports and preserve and create American jobs."

"I am excited about the opportunity to take a new step forward in my career in public service," Cleland said. "The Ex-Im Bank focuses on good-paying jobs for Americans. That's what the Bank is all about. That's what I'm all about."

Cleland has a long and distinguished career in public service at the state and national levels in both the executive and legislative branches of government.

Recently he served as a Distinguished Adjunct Professor to the American University (AU) Washington Semester Program, and as a Fellow in AU's Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies. He also served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, to report findings and recommendations to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Cleland successfully ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Sam Nunn in 1995. He served on four Senate Committees: Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Governmental Affairs; and Small Business. Previously, Cleland had the distinction of serving as the youngest Secretary of State in Georgia's history, and the youngest member of the Georgia State Senate.

Under President Jimmy Carter, Cleland became the youngest head of the U.S. Veterans Administration. In that capacity, he instituted the revolutionary Vets Center program that, for the first time, offered psychological counseling to combat veterans to heal the emotional wounds of war.

Cleland holds a masters degree in American History from Emory University. He majored in history at Stetson University. Both institutions subsequently awarded him honorary doctorate degrees. Cleland grew up in Lithonia, GA.

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that assists in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to developing markets around the world, through export credit insurance, loan guarantees and direct loans. In fiscal year 2003, Ex-Im Bank helped to finance approximately $14.3 billion of U.S. exports worldwide.

Captain Ed drew my attention to this in his post New Evidence Of Bush's Collusion With ... The Kerry Campaign? though he himself got it from Rich Lowry at NRO. While Ed didn't mean it this way, I think, the paranoid among us can't help but wonder...(hey, I work in security, paranoia is my job!)

What if Max is a Rove mole? Could this explain the over-the-top nature of his actions in "support" of the Kerry campaign, actions that appear to more often damage it?

Max Cleland bears the stigmata of service in Vietnam very obviously. As such he's a very important symbol to a Kerry campaign that so far has based its whole platform on "I served (4.5 months) in Vietnam!" On the surface, he seems to be the ultimate television and personal appearance poster-vet. His very presence reminds all viewers of that campaign theme, "Vietnam service." But, as we English majors would say, there's a subtle subversion of the theme. When asked, "Sir, how did you lose your limbs," he has answered:

In the 1986 edition of his autobiography Strong at the Broken Places, Cleland wrote of his receiving the Soldier’s Medal “for allegedly shielding my men from the grenade blast and the Silver Star for allegedly coming to the aid of wounded troops….”

“There were no heroics on which to base the Soldier’s Medal,” wrote Cleland on page 87. “And it had been my men who took care of the wounded during the rocket attack, not me. Some compassionate military men had obviously recommended me for the Silver Star, but I didn’t deserve it.” (Emphasis added.) Two pages later he added: “I was not entitled to the Purple Heart either, since I was not wounded by enemy action.” (Emphasis added.)
from Max Cleland: Deceptive Democratic Warrior, Front Page Magazine

The actual incident that resulted in his injuries is reported in the same article as follows:

This terrible accident happened not on a battlefield but on a helicopter pad 15 miles away from combat. Cleland stepped out of a helicopter to go have a beer with buddies, saw a hand grenade on the ground, assumed that he had dropped it and picked the explosive device up. It had been dropped by another, inexperienced soldier who had left the weapon on a hair trigger setting. It detonated, devastating Cleland’s 25-year-old body and in an instant changing his life

While Cleland has said these things in the past, the Kerry campaign is spinning them differently. Ignored is the disavowal of deserving any medals for what was in fact an accident, and one away from enemy action at that. I am not saying, and would not say, that Cleland's injuries did not come in service to his country. They certainly did. He was in harm's way do to that service. But we don't normally award medals to soldiers who break their arm in training, or drop a computer on their foot in the Pentagon, or who die in plane crashes resulting from weather. The Kerry campaign seeks to play up, or create, the heroism of Max Cleland in order that Max's heroism might reflect more onto Kerry himself. They're working for a sort of heroic synergy, where each feeds off the other, producing far more heroism than either separately might supply.

Kerry has the disadvatage of having no visible battle stigmata, unlike Bob Dole, who has an obviously crippled right arm as very real symbol of his sacrifice in war. Max Cleland gives Kerry that stigmata by association.

Unfortunately, by accident, or by intent on the part of whoever sought to place Cleland in that position, Cleland also produces subversion. That he himself downplayed his medals in the past, and admitted that his wounds were not suffered in action against the enemy, produces subversive harmonics with the Kerry medals. Kerry has made his medals active political symbols from the first days of his political life. In the first instance he himself did a riff on downplaying them by appearing to toss them over the fence, to throw them away, which is a sort of denying he deserved them. But later he reversed himself, pointing to them proudly as the deserved symbols of his gallantry and service.

But there's more to the subversion. There's a subversive synergy in that the visible wounds Cleland bears to this day resulted from an incident with a "friendly" grenade. If we study the emerging stories behind Kerry's medals, it appears that friendly grenades played a role in two of his three Purple Hearts. His first, and much questioned now, Purple Heart, involved a grenade. The doctor who treated Kerry pulled out a sliver of shrapnel that he identified (there are properties of the shrapnel that create fairly certain positive identifications of it) as coming from a United States' manufactured grenade. When Kerry applied to his commanding officer for a Purple Heart for the incident, he was laughed off. The C.O. made a remark that he'd seen larger scratches from rose thorns. Yet months later, somehow, Kerry was awarded a Purple Heart for that injury.

In the case of the third Purple Heart, likewise a grenade made its mark. This may be the grenade responsible for Kerry's claim to still have shrapnel in his "thigh" from Vietnam. In an effort to destroy bagged rice that was believed to be intended for the Viet Cong, Kerry tossed a grenade into a sack and did not take appropriate cover quickly enough. The experiment in supplies destruction resulted in a confetti of puffed rice, and a peppering of Kerry's rearward parts with rice and shrapnel bits. We do not have medical reports on the incident. Kerry has declined to release all such reports, perhaps because embarrassing parts of his anatomy were involved. Brahmin rumps are not to be roasted, or served up with rice, in the house of cards that Kerry built. One must observe delicacy. In any case, the justification for this Purple Rear Heart seems to result from other action on that same day, which provided alternate opportunities for more dignified explanations for shrapnel.

As is the case with Cleland's injuries, Kerry's certainly did occur while he was serving his country. That is not in question. There are questions whether enemy action played a role, but if one conceeds that, to date, Kerry has proven his own worst enemy, even that may be granted. What is more difficult to compare to, for example, Cleland's case is the severity of the wounds. I can personally state that I have suffered far greater injuries than Kerry in my personal war with picine enemies (though in some cases I admit they were suffered while not in direct contact with that enemy). What is more, I self-treated them. I confess, I do on occasion point to a half-moon scar on my right forefinger and brag it was inflicted by the razor teeth of a real piranha. Or to the two scars on the next finger where I extracted a 3" catfish hook from the ball of that finger by myself because my sisters and the maid all turned pale when I tried to get their help. Alas, I cannot claim I was serving my country at the time. But I digress, much as has the Kerry campaign as a result of his vulnerability on the issue of his wounds and Purple Hearts.

There is also the matter of the victim methodology. Cleland perfected this following his loss in the Senate race with Saxby Chambliss. (What are the odds of two opposing candidates for the senate having a first name with an X in it?) He claims an ad run about his voting record was an attack on his patriotism. He blames that attack on his patriotism for his loss. Now we have him, as Kerry's proxy (though Kerry is doing a good job of being his own victim too), pointing to the Swift Veterans for Truth and crying foul.They must be questioning Kerry's patriotism since they're questioning his service record! And in any case Kerry served in Vietnam and that gives him immunity to all criticism!

This is such bald-faced hypocrisy and illogic that it cannot possibly be sincere. It's clearly a role adopted to attempt to avoid answering questions, or to defuse those questions by arguing that the source has no standing. The question is, however, what is the real role? Does Cleland really expect this defense to work in Kerry's favor? It didn't work for him, why should it work for Kerry? Or is the more plausible explanation that Cleland is actually not working for Kerry's election, that he is actually a subversive installed into the Kerry campaign, paid for with a cushy appointment to the board of directors of the bank? He doesn't even have to attend meetings, he can just conference in to participate, and there are no expected hours, he is assumed to be on the job at all times.

One has to wonder at the feeling of the Kerry advisors about this defensive strategy. That is, one has to if one has not been listening to the leaks and squeeks coming from the holed Kerry non-so-swift boat. Reports are that a lot of a campaign advisors have advised against the recent reactions to attacks on the Kerry war record. Despite that advice, the attacks, coming almost exclusively from the Swift Veterans for Truth, have knocked the Kerry campaign off its stated plan already. The plan was to run no ads until after the RNC in New York. But the campaign has already released ads countering the Swifties, and its "unofficial" surrogates are likewise turning directly into the percieved "ambush" in much the fashion that Kerry did in the action that resulted in his Silver Star. It's a tactic Kerry has used before and it produced good results, so when under pressure he uses it again.

One has to wonder just how well Rove has studied this man Kerry. The timing of the appointment is very, verrrry interesting. Expecially interesting are Cleland's own words, quoted in the press release. "The Ex-Im Bank focuses on good-paying jobs for Americans. That's what the Bank is all about. That's what I'm all about." $136,000 per year to take a few conference calls is certainly all about a good-paying job.

If Max (...well Smart?) is Rove's agent, he's doing stellar work. Applying Occam's Razor might lead one to conclude otherwise, however. The alternate explanation is that Kerry, and Cleland, are just dumber than a grenade in a sackful of rice. They think they can fool the American public that easily.

Posted by dan at August 26, 2004 11:10 AM | TrackBack
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