Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 1, 2004
POLITICS: Kerry Speech Blog Roundup
*Tom Maguire agrees with me that Kerry failed to address the critical questions in the war on terror - who we are fighting and whether he would have gone to war in Iraq. (Maguire also notes, of Kerry's "the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to" line: "Why we had to go to war in Kosovo remains a mystery, but this has been a Kerry line for over a year.") Kerry supporter Matt Yglesias agrees for basically the same reason: "To put it politely, I thought that was crap":
Typically, Yglesias and his liberal friends think that Kerry's vagueness was politically smart - as usual, they seem to assume that the American people are too dumb for specifics - but I tend to think that if the debates roll around and Kerry refuses to answer these two critical questions - (1) would a President Kerry have ultimately decided to go to war with Iraq, and (2) does the war on terror go beyond hunting down some stateless terrorists - he'll come off like Dukakis' cold response to Bernard Shaw on the death penalty in 1988.
*Andrew Sullivan, who's also voting for Kerry:
Also: "private drug research that has cured millions and saved my own life must be throttled to placate constituencies like the AARP."
*Jay Reding thinks President Bush can tear up Kerry's approach with one word that was conspicuous by its absence: "Victory."
*I was only joking to friends about Kerry arriving in Boston on a water taxi because he couldn't find a swift boat, but Fred Kaplan at TNR reveals that those of us who had this thought weren't off base at all:
Kaplan also notes a flaw in Kerry's invocation of the lessons of his combat service:
(Of course, some, like LBJ, had fairly bogus combat decorations. But as to the architects of that war, the point stands). Kerry wants us to believe that his combat experience will be a restraint on going to war:
But this leaves unanswered the critical question about our reluctance to use force to stop the march of terrorism in the 1990s: what will Kerry say to the parent or spouse or little child who has lost a loved one due to a terrorist attack that Kerry could have prevented if he'd gone to war? The possibility doesn't even enter into his calculations.
"I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as President."
This really intrigues me. I agree that Vietnam was a defense of the United States, inasmuch as we were trying to blunt the advance of Communism. So: only Nixon can go to China. (Only Kirk can go to Chronos, for you Star Trek geeks.) Only Kerry can confirm that Vietnam was a just war. This completely upends conventional wisdom about the Vietnamese war, and requires a certain amount of historical amnesia. Why does this get glossed over? The illegitimacy of the Vietnam war (non-UN approved, after all) is a key doctrine of the Church of the Boomers; to say that service in Vietnam was done in defense of the United States is like announcing that Judas Ischariot was the most faithful of the disciples. Imagine if you were a preacher who attempted such a revision. Imagine your private thrill when everyone in the congregation nodded assent. The past was more malleable than you had ever expected.
"The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom."
A passive platitude. Try this: "The future cannot belong to fear. It must belong to freedom." Because that tells me you intend to shape history, not sit back on the couch and see how it all turns out. In any case, the two are not necessarily symmetrical; it is possible to be fearful and free, for a while. Ask the Brits in WW2. And just saying that the future belongs to freedom does not make it so, I fear. I think this is an appeal to those who believe that the administration has created a climate of fear so they can take away our freedoms. You know, the neocons who danced a jig of joy on 9/11 because they saw an excellent opportunity to subpoena library records.
And so on. All the stuff about restoring trust and credibility is nice, but note how no one is questioning the trust and credibility of the Brits, the French, the Russians and the UN, all of whom shared the same opinions about Iraqi capability. What it says to me is this: if John Kerry had been president after 9/11, he would have looked at all the intel about Iraq, studied its history, examined its strategic value, shaped up the nature of its leadership, and declined to depose Saddam.
Fine; I understand that position. I understand that he defended America by serving in Vietnam.
One question: did Vietnam attack America?
Ah! The Gulf of Tonkin incident and subsequent resolution made it seem as if they had. So he fell for that, as everyone did. He voted to wage war against Iraq because he fell for that, as everyone did. He's learned. Next time he needs hard proof, like a smoking crater in New York.
Make that another smoking crater in New York.