By Joel VanDixhorn | John Kerry campaigns for Obama in longwinded presentation.
This past week Tufts was visited by one of the most well known political figures in our country, Senator John Kerry. Armed with considerable experience in foreign affairs and posed with the topic “Challenges in a Changing World” Kerry should have delivered an analytical lecture full of insight and unique observations. However, Tufts students were instead treated to puddle-deep analysis, tired talking points, and an infomercial for Barack Obama.
Senator Kerry warmed up the crowd with a nod to his Tufts connections and a few jokes about his failed presidential bid. After getting the obligatory laughs from the crowd he then launched into a list of “urgent challenges” facing our nation, including Iran, North Korea, terrorism, and global warming. Beyond that, substantive discussion on any one topic was embarrassingly lacking. Bouncing around from talking point to talking point, Kerry landed superficial jabs at President Bush as well as Senator McCain. Very quickly it became clear that Kerry’s purpose was to campaign for Senator Obama. It was an obnoxious display of partisanship for a variety of reasons: at least 90 percent of the room was already firmly entrenched in the Democratic camp, the lecture series was put on by the Fletcher Political Forum which is billed as “a non-partisan student organization”, and campaign rallies are prohibited at Tufts for declared candidates. The Pachyderm states, “Reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that the event does not become a campaign rally, but rather is a speech on a given topic delivered in an academic environment.” It was very clear that no effort was made by Kerry to educate the audience based on his own experiences. Instead Kerry skimmed the issues, broadly endorsing Obama for any conceivable reason. For anyone who refutes that this was a proxy Obama rally, consider that in all, Kerry mentioned Obama’s name 24 times, even referring to him as President Obama, and invoked McCain’s name 19 times in his prepared remarks.
Energy policy was one topic that Kerry spoke at length during the question and answer session. He declared that our dependence on foreign oil is “shameful.” While “shameful” is an interesting word choice (welcome to specialization and globalization John), he offered absolutely no concrete ways to combat this unfortunate reality, outside of spending hundreds of billions of dollars recklessly. He praises Obama, claiming he has the foresight to guide us away from our energy dependence. Of course, Obama is the candidate that supports corn based ethanol as a viable alternative fuel source.
This stance is indicative of Obama’s relationship with certain lobbyists and his political calculations. In addiction, it is a hypocritical position. Simply Googling “ethanol” would inform Obama that producing ethanol based gasoline is actually a net energy loss, produces more emissions, and raises food prices, effectively lowering the standard of living for the lower class. According to the New York Times, Obama also supports tariffs on Brazilian sugarcane, arguably in violation of World Trade Organization rules.
During the lengthy question and answer period Senator Kerry took a shot at the monumental New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court ruling from 1964, claiming that it is the reason why the media has been reduced to a feeding frenzy. The unanimously decided case was vital in ensuring that citizens and journalists remained free to criticize public officials without fear of criminal and civil retribution. In the actual case, an Alabama commissioner sued a number of African American ministers for an advertisement placed in the New York Times. The commissioner claimed that the advertisement, which described actions taken against civil rights protesters by Montgomery police, personally defamed him. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that awarded the commissioner $500,000, arguing that unless active malice is exhibited, irrespective of the facts, a public figure can not sue a media member. Obviously, it would be preferential if the media was always factually accurate, but the last thing powerful public officials need is a tool for silencing unflattering opinions. If New York Times v. Sullivan was overturned, as Kerry hopes, a chilling effect of speech would occur, placing the voting public even further in the dark. Considering the original purpose of the ruling was to protect civil rights activists from racism it is perplexing that Kerry would target such an important case and make himself out to be a victim.
Senator Kerry spoke eloquently and delivered an empty speech to much fanfare. He had the advantage of speaking to a receptive audience unwilling to question his dubious claims, such as saying Obama predicted the Georgia-Russia conflict ahead of everyone else. Instead of asking challenging questions, students for the most part chose to subject themselves to liberal indoctrination, such as on student who asked: “Senator Kerry how can we change our perceptions of the Middle East”. Kerry should be embarrassed by his cop-out speech, which shortchanged Tufts students, and his decision to act as a cheerleader instead of informing students about complex issues around the globe.
Mr. VanDixhorn is a senior majoring in Economics and Political Science.