The Magazine

Sister Kerry

From the October 4, 2004 issue: The candidate's sibling causes a stir overseas--and at home.

Oct 4, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 04 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
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EVERY MAN with presidential aspirations has a black sheep in the family. Heck, George W. Bush has been the black sheep in his family from time to time. John Kerry is no exception. After decades of living abroad--most recently in Indonesia--Diana Kerry, John's younger sister, has returned to the fold. And last week she put her foot squarely in John Kerry's mouth.

As the head of Americans Overseas for Kerry, Diana Kerry is a campaign official. And she was speaking in that capacity when, in reference to the invasion of Iraq, she said, "Australia has kept faith with the U.S., and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels."

The Weekend Australian's Roy Eccleston, who broke the story, added: "Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms. Kerry said: 'The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta--I would have to say that.'" She also mentioned the October 2002 bombing of two Bali nightclubs, in which many of the victims were young Australians.

Alert readers, including Amanda Sokolski on this magazine's website, quickly picked up on errors in Ms. Kerry's timeline. The Bali bombing took place long before Australia got mixed up with those nasty Americans and their "wanton disregard for international law." And the September 9 attack on the Australian embassy was perpetrated by Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's Southeast Asia franchise, which has considered Australia a target since well before the Iraq war. Evidently, the details of this timeline were blurry for Ms. Kerry, who has been busy shuttling around the globe on her brother's behalf for the last several months.

So who is Diana Kerry? A lifelong expat drama instructor and translator, she's now in charge of scooping up as many votes as possible from the more than 4 million Americans living abroad--including 100,000 in Australia. As part of this effort, she has recently tried her hand at blogging. A post on the official campaign blog introduces Diana and explains her project: "Nothing is more important to me than international understanding," she says. Bolstering her credentials, Ms. Kerry reminisces about "a State Dinner in Hanoi at which I joined John some years ago--one of only three women present. The affection and regard that the Vietnamese held for him in his work to restore diplomatic relations was very moving."

On the Americans Overseas for Kerry blog, one finds a long thread accusing the Pentagon of deliberately blocking voter registration overseas. Writes Ms. Kerry: "I was outraged to read that the Bush Administration has chosen to block access to [the] Federal Voter Assistance Program website for U.S. citizens residing in at least 25 countries around the world. . . . The Pentagon has been engaged in a growing practice of denying vital voter registration information to U.S. voters over the past several months."

The charges against the Pentagon are repeated on another (unofficial) blog aimed at overseas Democrats--in fact, such complaints are a staple of the bulletin boards and official notices on such sites. Luke Robinson, a London-based website designer, lightly floats Ms. Kerry's conspiracy theory over at the site he moderates, ExpatsAgainstBush.org: "I wonder if this could be due to any perceived Democratic bias in the expat voting population this year? No, that would be too far into tinfoil hat territory."

Perhaps interested in the goings-on of one of their own, bloggers have been following the story of Diana Kerry's fearmongering and her role in the campaign generally with interest. The commentary falls somewhat short of the avalanche of information and reporting that many blogs were rightly lauded for when they broke Rathergate. But the passion the commenters bring to the subject suggests that if John Kerry reaches the White House, Diana is the blogosphere's leading candidate among the three Kerry siblings to play the Billy Carter role.

After the Command Post blog noted the Weekend Australian article, the comments section featured these reflections: "Dianna [sic] Kerry and John Kerry represent the Deaniac Demoncrat [sic] wing of the Islamofascist al-Queda [sic] party. . . . That is the Flip side! On the Flop side Diana and John Kerry represent the Michael Moore Muslim Moonbat brigades."

On the Rabble.ca chatboard, "Screaming Lord Byron" posted this insightful note after seeing Ms. Kerry speak earlier in the summer: "Had I seen her around town yesterday, I'd have thought 'What is Senator Kerry doing walking around Calgary dressed as a middle-aged businesswoman? That can't go down well with the swing voters.'"

On a more serious note, "Captain Ed" of the Captain's Quarters blog wrote: "Diana Kerry acts on orders from her brother John to undermine the Australian alliance."

For the second time in as many weeks, blogger conspiracy theorists may be onto something. There has been no discernible fallout from Ms. Kerry's comments at the campaign headquarters. Perhaps this is because she could plausibly offer the "just following orders" defense. After all, she was speaking about a nation that her brother has called part of the "coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

Blood, they say, is thicker than water, so perhaps Kerry has forgiven his little sister for causing a stir. But another cliché might also be fruitfully applied to the Kerry campaign's situation: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.