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Blood on the Campaign Trail

October 27, 2004 | Animal Rights

Maureen Dowd’s truncated critique of U.S. macho politics

Appraising the puerile competition between candidate Kerry and the Bush crew, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd discusses the senator’s Ohio hunting trip and the resultant fate of four geese (“Cooking His Own Goose,” 24 Oct. 2004). “Just as W. needed to shock and awe to prove he was no wimp,” writes Dowd, “Mr. Kerry needed to shoot and eat.” Consequently, “Kerry made an animal sacrifice to the political gods in a cornfield in eastern Ohio last week.”

An apt description. Dowd’s critique loses momentum, however, by pausing to distinguish John Kerry’s goose hunting from the vice president’s duck hunting. Dowd writes, “When Mr. Kerry goes, only the birds are in danger. When Mr. Cheney and his pal Antonin Scalia go duck hunting together, the Constitution is in danger.”

Kerry is a threat to birds and Constitution alike. Kerry and the Democrats, much like Cheney and the Republicans, have treated the Constitution with appalling indifference. Has Dowd forgotten Kerry’s vote for the USA-PATRIOT Act? What of the alacrity with which Kerry accepted Bush's decision to announce a state of armed conflict—plainly the prelude to curtailments of due process—without first seeking a declaration from Congress?

And although the birds are in danger as well—yes, four hapless geese were sacrificed to the god of human politics—there is more to this bird-blasting scenario itself than flows through Dowd’s pen.

So routinely are geese hunted down as nuisances or exploited for sport or swallowed with cranberries that most people—even individuals who opt not to kill them directly—need not give the birds much thought. The role of the birds, to Kerry and to those Kerry hopes to influence, is symbolic. The birds represent the Other. In the context of the current international upheaval, they become useful props in Kerry’s show of agreement with Bush that the U.S. may invade, objectify, and kill if its appetite so requires.

By now, we may presume, Kerry has dined, got up from the table, and eliminated any recognizable trace of the birds in the way all victors do.

The birds who had the bad fortune to be in the path of Kerry’s campaign didn’t go looking for this kind of trouble. Geese protect their families fiercely, but they pose no threat of aggression. Geese give social support to each other in times of stress, and they forge lifelong bonds. But Kerry’s not the sort of wimp who ponders such matters.

Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney crew has constructed its own symbol for the Other: footage of wolves, accompanied by narration that connects the lupine group to “those who are waiting to do America harm.” Real wolves aren’t waiting to do us harm; quite to the contrary, just as soon as this autumn’s snowfall permits tracking, the government of Alaska will give aerial hunters the go-ahead to blow these animals to bits by the hundreds. The Kerry team’s response to the wolf clip? One jocular aide, Dowd reports, has suggested that the Democrats respond with a scene in which Kerry shoots the wolves.

Human violence does not fit easily into compartments. Displayed in one context, it oozes into others.

A violent culture systematically neglects the duty to teach its children respect for the autonomy of the beings in their range -- whether they be birds, wolves, people born outside our invented borders, or dissenters. A violent culture constantly looks for enemies. Where none exist, they are created.

The more obstinate among us are still convinced that humanity might find ways to transcend such a demoralizing atmosphere. Otherwise, what's the point? But if progress is to be made, we must expect better from our more capable political writers than uncandid distinctions between one violent man and another.


I think this article is excellent, Lee. We seem to have gotten used to the idea that Kerry voted for the war in Iraq because he was misinformed--not that this excuses him from the killling of innocent Iraqi people, and the deaths of more than 1000 American soldiers. And I'll bet many voters don't know Kerry supported the Patriot Act. It seems we're asking ourselves which candidate do we dislike less; which candidate will do the least harm in the next four years? Another Bush term is frightening. So compared to Bush, I do prefer Kerry. But he's obviously a politician, with the essential criteria, i.e., the willingness to kill, and to disregard the "Other". Even Clinton sacrificed the poor in this country and abroad. Imo, I think we need to continue to strengthen a political party that represents us, and breaks from business as usual. It's difficult to distinguish the Democrats from the Republicans. If we truly seek justice, it must extend to all "Others". I haven't followed HumaneUSA, though I recall reading a statement on Kerry's website that he would *enforce "humane slaughter". I hope that attempting to enforce an oxymoron is not the best he can do. Judging from his hunting expeditions, I wonder.

Yeah, but did he have a hunting permit? He supposedly downed the bird October 21st or thereabouts, but I heard that Canadian Goose season isn't until November 6th or something in the county where Kerry was playing Great White Hunter of birdies.

You people complaining about John Kerry's hunting are forgetting about these simple facts: John Kerry has been endorsed by humaneusapac, the most prominent political voice for animals ( and the League of Conservation Voters ( & secondly, George W. Bush has done more harm to the environment and animals, especially endangered species, than any president in the history of our country. Furthermore, Bush himself is an avid hunter and has hosted many major national and international hunting group leaders and members at his ranch in Texas. Please, remember those points, when you go to vote this tuesday!

PERSPECTIVE!! One thing everyone is forgetting is PERSPECTIVE. Although I feel for the individual Geese that John shot, he has been a champion for protecting the environment—the environment that those four geese and the literally millions of geese and BILLIONS of other Frogs, Birds, Snakes, Fish, Wolves, Caribou, Grizzly bears, Prairie Dogs—depend upon! ! ! ! Another perspective issue concerns the millions of animals murdered everyday that go to feed John Kerry, his wife, but also bush, most senators, rock stars, office workers, etc. The last time I checked the vast majority of people in the US and the World are meat eaters who condemn millions of animals to horrid living conditions, before being sacrificed or our eating pleasure. For some reason this takes a back seat to John Kerry’s hunting of four wild geese that lived free natural lives. As for hunting, we have to remember that it is the hunters who have put there $ where there mouth is by funding protection of the environment that all animals depend upon. Since the 1930s, they were the driving force behind our nation’s magnificent system of wildlife refuges, and wildlife protection laws. Sure they do it so they can hunt, but literally hundreds of thousands of other kinds of animals find protection because of their actions. If we really are interested in protected animals and their welfare, we need to realize that John Kerry’s hunting of four geese and unwavering support for the environment pales to the absolute horrors of the Bush administration’s attacks on the Artic Wildlife refuge, Rocky Mountain Front Range, “Healthy Forest Initiative”, etc. There is no candidate that is 100% to our liking, as there is no friend, wife or mother that we agree with 100% of the time.

Hello, Rosemary - Thanks for your thoughts. When you mentioned doves it brought me back to an earlier article (perhaps you've already seen it) called "John Kerry - Hunter, Dreamer, Realist." You should be able to see it via one of these URL addresses: Excerpt: John Kerry eats dove. Even better, he shoots them. From behind the stalks of a Southern cornfield, he'll watch them flutter and dart, and fire. "You clean them. Let them hang. It takes three or four birds to have a meal," said the Massachusetts senator. "You might eat it at a picnic, cold roasted. I love dove."

You are absolutely correct, Lee, It was a most disgusting picture of Kerry. I am afraid that I am going to hold my nose and vote for Kerry but I honestly dont like him.I will take Bill and HIl any day of the week against the likes of Bush and Kerry. I am only going to vote because I am also handing out petitions to ban dove hunting in our state. Our weak kneed sister, Governor Granholm backed down from her promise to veto the bill and now its legal in four counties of Michigan. We are trying to get it on the ballot for next year to ban it permanently everywhere in the state. Friends, dont you think we have the sorriest bunch of politicans that you have ever seen not just for those of us who love the environment and animals but for people also. There is no love in their heart except for power and money.

Please note: The article "Blood on the Campaign Trail" was originally published in Dissident Voice; it is reprinted here with permission.


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