August 10, 2004

But at least he served in Vietnam, right?

What are we gonna do about John Kerry? On Sunday, The New York Times Op-Ed page had a brilliant chart by the Center for American Progress laying out ways that the $144 billion spent on the Iraq war to date could have been used to genuinely improve U.S. security and fight terrorism.

My first thought was that the Kerry campaign should blow this up and have it on stage at every event. It reveals why Bush is such a catastrophe, without allowing Republicans to spout their canards about Democratic "weakness."

But of course Kerry can't mention this chart because he supports the war in Iraq. Yesterday he said very plainly that he would have voted to authorize it even knowing what he does today.

Clearly the Kerry campaign has calculated that the candidate must do whatever it takes to counter the charge that he's flip-flopping on this issue. But it's worth looking at Kerry's actual argument because it is, in fact, nuanced. Bullshit, but nuanced.

Kerry continues to insist that he never voted for war, but merely to give the President authority to wage a war. "I believe it's the right authority for a president to have," he said. This, or course, puts Kerry at odds with the Constitution, which believes congress should have that authority, but let's skip over that for now. Kerry, like Hillary Clinton and other spineless Democrats, said from the beginning that he hoped authorizing Bush to wage war would actually help prevent war inasmuch as it would show Saddam how serious and united we were (skeptics can be forgiven for thinking the future candidate simply didn't want to risk a vote that would come back to bite him, and simply put his chips on the wrong spot).

Fair enough, but look what else Kerry says now.

"Yes, I would have voted for that authority, but I would have used that authority to do things very differently." ...The primary thing Kerry said he would have done differently would be "to have a plan to win the peace."

Now, sure, it would have been great to have a plan to win the peace, but is that really the primary issue here? Doesn't the implication -- we can wage a war of choice that is not necessary for defending the US as long as we have a plan to make sure things go smoothly afterwards -- directly contradict Kerry's assertion in his convention speech that "The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to"? How does having a plan to win the peace translate to "having to go to war"?

Kerry also asks a series of questions about Bush that are entirely sensible -- unless you happen to be using them to defend John Kerry's position that he would have voted to authorize the war even if he knew that Iraq had no WMD or ties to al Qaida:

"Why did [Bush] rush to war on faulty intelligence and not do the hard work necessary to give America the truth?" So let's say Bush worked slowly and carefully and got good intelligence and then told America the truth: Saddam is not a threat. Is Kerry really saying that then it would have been OK to invade?

"Why did he mislead America about how he would go to war?" Um, he didn't. He mislead America about why he was going to war, but he was very clear about the how: with allies if possible, alone if not. Kerry wants to keep the heat on Bush for misleading America because voters quite rightly respond to that, but he can't say the misleading had to do with the why because he's raising the issue in the context of reiterating that the why is not important to him.

"Why has he not brought other countries to the table in order to support American troops in the way that we deserve it and relieve a pressure from the American people?" Because the other countries were never convinced that there was a reason for this war, and while Bush did an insane amount of damage to US standing in the world by lying to our allies about Iraq's WMD and terror links, it's damn hard to see how John Kerry could have brought allies on board by telling them the truth about those issues.

Or how he's going to get them on board if he wins the election. "Right now," said Kerry, "this administration is scrambling to try to get Muslim forces on the ground; the Saudis are trying to scramble to help assist to do that. All of this should have happened in the beginning, all of these things should have been achieved beforehand." Yes, if only we'd sucked up the the Saudis more. That would have solved all our problems.

Oh well, back to Plan B.

Posted by Daniel Radosh

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