There’s another thing Bush needs to drive home tonight, and it’s a point he’s more comfortable making. Here’s something like what I’d like to hear:
You know, I’ve been listening in this campaign to Senator Kerry talk about foreign policy, domestic policy. And it’s clear that we have some fundamental differences in philosophy. But leadership matters too. You can’t tell people you’re going to get things done better if you can’t lead.
Dick Cheney and I know a few things about leadership. I’ve been the president through some tough times, I’ve been a governor, I’ve run companies, run a baseball team. Dick Cheney’s been Vice President, he was Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War and Panama, White House Chief of Staff, CEO of a big company. He was elected to a leadership position in Congress when he’d only been there two years. And in the last four years, we’ve gotten an awful lot done – kept our promises to cut taxes, reform education, pass a Medicare prescription drug bill, lead coalitions in two wars.
When have Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards ever been leaders like that? They’ve never been executives, never been governors or run a significant business. Their own Senate Democrat colleagues have never elected either one of them to a leadership position, not even trusted them to chair an important committee. They’ve never led the fight on a major piece of legislation. How are they gonna work with Republicans in Congress?
I’ve worked with allies around the world. I’ve worked with Democrats in Texas and in Congress. I know how to get enough people on board to get the job done. That’s a proven record of leadership. Where’s Senator Kerry’s record? Where’s Senator Edwards’ record? Where’s the leadership? When have they ever put people together to follow them anywhere?
You’ll hear me talk tonight about my record. Like I said, I’ve got a record I’m proud of. I’ve been in Washington four years, and I’ve gotten a lot done. Senator Kerry’s been in Washington twenty years, and he hasn’t done a thing worth talking about. Any time he talks about an issue tonight, just ask yourself: where’s the record? When has anything ever happened in Washington because John Kerry made it happen?
It’s easy enough to criticize. My opponent looks at the wars we’ve had to fight and says, not enough troops, too many American troops, too many Afghan troops, too much money, not spending enough money to get the job done, not a big enough coalition. He says the coalition should be more like in 1991, but he voted against that war too, said it could still be bigger. Well, the president doesn’t have the luxury to wait and see what happens and say, “too little,” or “too much.” The president has to lead. I’ve led, and you can judge me by my record. My opponent can’t say the same.
There’s a common thread throughout Bush’s career, from his admittedly checkered business career, to his days as Texas Governor, to his presidential candidacy, to his domestic policy and his conduct of foreign affairs. Bush’s expertise is in finding out how many people he needs on board to get a particular job done, and putting together a coalition that will do the job. He has a practical politician’s understanding that you need to make concessions to win allies on any issue, so you don’t bring along more than you need. And sometimes, you sacrifice some long-term good will to do it, from inflaming Jim Jeffords during the tax cut flap in 2001 to enlisting allies in Iraq (namely, Spain’s Aznar government) who couldn’t survive the poilitical pressures caused by going along. But in each case, Bush got what he needed.
Kerry’s record couldn’t be more opposite. Kerry’s done nothing with respect to our allies this whole campaign – both the Iraqi allies and the countries that have sent troops – but scorn and insult them. There’s a reason his Senate Democrat colleagues have never followed him anywhere, let alone cobbling together enough help from Senate Republicans to pass a bill. There’s a reason the great majority of Kerry’s peers in Vietnam, as well as the guy who spent the most time in his command on his boat, are willing to drop everything to run around the country opposing him. There’s a reason almost nobody can find close Kerry friends among his peers anywhere he’s been. Even Kerry’s finest hours in the Senate were either lone-wolf investigations or tasks like the POW issue that nobody else wanted to get involved in. Kerry’s not a coalition-builder, not a leader, not a guy who gets things done. And Bush, who is all those things, needs to point that out.
UPDATE: Linked this post to this week’s Beltway Traffic Jam.