Kerry & Marshall: Regime Change Begins At Home

So a few days back Senator John Kerry said:
“What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.”
This, predictably, hasn’t gone over well with many folks, and equally predictably, Republican operatives and supporters have gleefully pounced on Kerry, denouncing the comments.
None other than Josh Marshall, however, is defending Kerry, labeling criticism of his remarks “bullying”:
“I’m just finishing up a study about how one group of people used overwhelming displays of violence to overawe and terrorize another group into docility and obedience. So, even though this is verbal rather than physical violence, I think I have an idea how this works… For the purposes of our present discussion, the particulars of Kerry’s remark are almost beside the point. This is no better than cheap bullying practiced by the president’s hacks.”
Slow down, cowboy. Did I read that right? Criticizing statements a U.S. Senator made in a public forum is equivalent to using actual physical violence as a tool of intimidation? Did I miss a memo?
But Marshall is not just interested in attacking Kerry’s attackers: he defends the substance of Kerry’s remarks:
“As it happens, I think Kerry’s original remarks are precisely on the mark. The 2004 election would always have been an important election. But the events of recent months have made it perhaps one of the most important elections in the last century. And the future of the country depends greatly on President Bush not being reelected.”
But Kerry wasn’t talking about the 2004 election. In fact, I’d argue he wasn’t talking about any election at all. When you hear the phrase “regime change”, do you think “an orderly, democratic transition of power to be held via the next regularly scheduled election?” No! You think “big guys with guns leading some ex-strongman on a perp walk out of the presidential enclave and off to The Hague.”
Now, do I think Kerry really advocates the violent overthrow of our system of government or our current President? Of course not. But that doesn’t change the fact that the most obvious interpretation of his remarks is, in fact, just that.
If Kerry didn’t mean to conjure such visions with regards to President Bush, then he quite easily could have substituted the words “new administration” for “regime change”. But he didn’t — he wanted to make a direct comparison between deposing Saddam Hussein (vicious murdering dictator) and President Bush (democratically elected President).
And if he gets abuse (verbal and written criticism, mind you, not threats of violence) for that — he deserves every bit of it. That’s not bullying — it’s holding an elected politician accountable for his own words.