Friday, October 22, 2004

John Kerry - The Rolling Stone Interview

I used to be a hard core reader of Rolling Stone. In my formative years, it was probably more of a counterculture bible to me than just about any other publication.

Part of my attraction to Rolling Stone stemmed directly from my physical location on the planet. I lived in the toolies of New Mexico. RS was so, well, cosmopolitan. So New Yawk and LA. So hip. So cool. Everything that I couldn't be by virtue of (mostly) geography. I mean, P.J. O'Rourke, an RS contributing writer in the early days and strong writing influence of mine, was a clench-fist-raised radical back then - not the neocon lovin', Bush-jizz-guzzlin' fringe right butt monkey that he's become in old age. Annie Leibowitz, RS's ersatz answer to Richard Avedon, was an incredibly lucky (and so hot) girl with an Instamatic, not the Clio winning celebrity photojournalist that she turned out to be. Plus, I was really into music back then.

I quit reading Rolling Stone about the time that RS founder Jann Wenner went disco. By that time, I'd been to New York. I had hitchhiked across the country, North to South, East to West with (quite literally) 10 bucks in my pocket and a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter in my backpack. Wenner evolved from Bill Graham's counterculture venues of the late 60's to Steve Rubell and Ian Shrager's Studio 54 in the mid to late 70's, and I didn't like it one little bit, because his journey impacted the editorial and cultural slant of an icon of my rebellious youth. When RS went "All Boy George All The Time", I quit reading it.

In other words, I finally grew up.

Over the years, I've had occasional exposure to Rolling Stone -- after all, I have a couple of kids who fit RS's demographic. RS has become a glossy glamour / punk / rock / whatever rag; a neohipster version of People Magazine. I'd much rather read old issues of National Geographic than Rolling Stone.

Still, in my idealistic, journalistic youth Jann Wenner was a minor god to me - but in my jaded geezerhood, he's become another old school opportunistic hack. Maybe he always was, and just got lucky in catching a psychadelic, Age-of-Aquarious wave back in the day.


I didn't mean for this posting to go off on a rant about Jann Wenner. (Slap! Yes I did.) The current issue of Rolling Stone (RS961) has an interview with John Kerry. While the first 3/4 of the interview is pretty much JFK's stump speech, as related to Wenner's tape recorder (or mic'd up IPod...I'm not sure what he's using these days), it's the last few minutes of the interview, when Wenner touches on the Swift Boat Liars, that John Kerry starts to let his hair down:

What have you learned about yourself in this campaign?

That the intrusiveness is greater than I thought it would be. And there are parts of me that dislike that more than I thought I would, but it's something I have to put up with in order to achieve what I want to get done. I always knew that I was tough enough to do it; I always knew there'd be tough moments and I'd be tested -- because everybody is tested on the road to the presidency. But I think the intensity of it is greater than I could imagine. It is, actually, beyond description. You have to experience it to know what that is.

How did you feel when you first saw those Swift-boat ads?

Disappointed -- a sense of bitter disappointment. That people will stoop to those depths of lying -- for their personal reasons.

Did you get angry at Bush personally?

Look, I know politics is tough, and I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what they do to me. But I do worry, and I am angry, about what they do to the American people. That's what this race is about. It's not about me. I can take it -- I don't care. I've been in worse things. I was on those boats -- I got shot at. I can handle it.

What I worry about is that they lie to America. What I worry about is that they tell the middle class, 'We're giving you a tax cut,' and the top one percent of America gets more than eighty percent of the rest of the people. I worry that they are unwilling to do anything about the 5 million Americans who have lost their health care.

I worry that there are twenty-eight states in America where you can't go fishing and eat the fish, because of the quality of the water. I worry that they've gotten us into a war where young kids are dying, and they haven't done what's responsible to protect them. That's what I worry about. The rest of it is small pickings.

You don't get angry when Bush outright lies about you?

No, I don't get angry at it. I think it's sort of pathetic.

Were you surprised by how the Swift-boat thing blew up?

I was surprised that the media, even when they knew it was lies, continued to cover it and treat it as entertainment.

Looking back, do you think you handled it correctly?

I think so. Look, when people hold up something that's a complete and total lie, it takes a few days to show people and convince them. We did. They've been completely discredited.

How do you stay normal during a campaign?

Eat a hearty meal.

How do you stay fit?

I'm not. I'm in the worst shape I've been in in a few years. I'm not getting enough exercise.

You were criticized for wearing a windsurfing outfit.

It shows how pathetic and diversionary they are. They can't talk about having created jobs for America; they can't talk about giving people health care; they can't talk about having protected America and made it safer.

Did anyone say, 'Senator, you shouldn't be wearing windsurfing clothes'?

Yeah, a few people said . . .

And you said, Fuck it?

You're damn right. I said, 'I'm going to be who I am' -- I think people care about authenticity. There are much bigger issues.

BooYAH, Senator Kerry. Too bad Smirky and the Chimpmunks don't think so.