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Political Notebook

Kerry warns on Vietnam parallels

November 11, 2009

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Senator John F. Kerry, who came to national prominence when he testified before Congress as a Vietnam war hero turned antiwar activist, is now warning against those who are pushing for a troop buildup in Afghanistan by asserting that more forces could have turned the tide in Vietnam.

“Let me be clear: More than 58,000 American troops died because they were sent into battle based on false assumptions, flawed goals, and faulty strategies. Yes, we adopted smarter tactics near the end, but by then the die was cast,’’ Kerry, who is now chairman of the same committee he addressed in 1971, writes in the Nov. 16 issue of Newsweek magazine.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is among those cautioning President Obama against sending the full force of 40,000 additional US troops sought by the top commander in Afghanistan, says while there are some similarities with Vietnam, it is dangerous to draw too many parallels with Afghanistan, a “very different country . . . in a different era.’’

“The main lesson that Obama must absorb from Vietnam is the necessity to explain our goals in Afghanistan, and to choose clear and realistic strategies to meet them,’’ Kerry adds.

“I pledged to myself long ago to be informed by Vietnam, not imprisoned by it,’’ he concludes. “The easiest way to make a mistake is to tolerate a debate that sells our country short. In the case of Afghanistan, politics has reduced a difficult mission in a complex country to a simple, headline-ready ‘yes or no’ on troop numbers. What we need is a realistic assessment of our strategy, military and civilian combined.’’

-- Globe Staff

White House shakes up its communications team

WASHINGTON - The White House shuffled its communications team yesterday, with Anita Dunn stepping down as expected and her deputy taking over day-to-day management of President Obama’s vaunted messaging machine.

Dan Pfeiffer will become White House communications director and Dunn will became a consultant to Obama’s White House, officials said. They expect the full transition to take place by year’s end.

Dunn, a seasoned political operative, advised Obama’s presidential bid and helped shape its outreach efforts to female voters. Since moving to the West Wing, she has been a fierce defender for the administration and a top target of conservative commentators. She led a fight with Fox News, which last month she called “either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.’’

-- Associated Press

Americans dispirited on Obama, economy in poll

WASHINGTON - The euphoria of 2008 is over: America is in a funk.

Elected last November on a wave of optimism, President Obama now governs an increasingly pessimistic country in recession. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows that Americans grew slightly more dispirited on a range of matters the past month, continuing slippage since Obama took office.

Obama’s approval rating stands at 54 percent, roughly the same as in October but very different from what it was in January before he took office, 74 percent. And some 56 percent of people say the country is heading in the wrong direction, an uptick from 51 percent last month and 49 percent in Obama’s first month as president.

The economy is by far the most important issue on the minds of Americans.

-- Associated Press