Monday, November 01, 2004
(Note: Carol and I have decided to wind up with a mini debate. We will each post the case for our candidate. Then we’ll each post a rebuttal and a closing argument. This is my case for Bush)
Two moments from this campaign stand out with stunning clarity – the first words out of the mouths of George Bush and John Kerry at their respective conventions.
Bush: “I’m George Bush, and I’m proud to accept your nomination.” Straightforward and no-nonsense. Here is who I am.
Kerry, with his goofy salute: “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty.” Calculated and pretentious. Here is who I want you to think I am.
As in, “Let’s pretend I am a fit commander-in-chief in a time of war.”
He is not. Never has been. Never will be.
Kerry supposed his Vietnam-hero narrative – based on four months out of a very long public life – would divert attention from everything else he has ever said or stood for. “I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as your president.” But, in fact, that chapter of Kerry’s life shows precisely why he is now the wrong candidate in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He did not claim at the time that he was defending his country. He claimed that he was taking part in an illegitimate war during which American troops – including himself – routinely committed atrocities with the knowledge of, if not the downright encouragement of, those in the highest leadership positions. He went before Congress to demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Vietnam, echoing exactly the sentiments of the Communist propaganda machine in Hanoi. It might not be true, as some contend, that Kerry’s actions prolonged the war and cost more American lives. But it certainly true that he was in large part responsible for the deep wounds in this country over Vietnam – wounds he now says must be healed, after he opened them up all over again.
And Kerry has not changed since then. During the Vietnam War, he demonstrated a profound distrust of the use of American power. That distrust has never gone away. Kerry showed it when he voted against the first Gulf War, though it met every condition he says the current war in Iraq lacks. He showed it when he voted against the efforts of Ronald Reagan that brought the Soviet Empire to its knees. He showed it in a 20-year Senate record (which he seldom refers to, understandably) that was aggressively anti-military, anti-defense, anti-security. He has shown it by voting to authorize force against Iraq, then professing shock that force was actually used and voting against the money needed to sustain the effort.
We simply cannot afford, in a time of war, to have a commander-in-chief so mistrusting of American power, so much more concerned with world opinion than with American well-being. And we are in the war of our lives.
George Bush understands that. He knows that the evil we face – as dangerous as any enemy in our history – goes beyond 9/11, beyond Afghanistan and al-Qaida, even beyond Iraq. Civilization is at war with barbarism, modernity with tribalism, democratic pluralism with theocratic despotism. John Kerry is the candidate of those who wish we had not gone to Iraq, who believe we can go back to a 9/10 world when there were no difficult choices requiring patience and sacrifice. George Bush is the candidate for those who realize we can never go back. Those who still call Afghanistan a failure despite the astounding achievement there, who call Iraq a quagmire despite the foothold of freedom we are establishing in a land that has not known it, cannot quite come to terms with the world as it is. If we give up on this struggle – and if we elect John Kerry, that is how the world, which also distrusts our power, and our enemies, who finally have a reason to fear it, will see it -- the darkness we are attempting to push back might engulf us.
Certainly there are domestic issues in play this election. I think I could argue that Bush has been more right than wrong in this area and that his second term holds promise. But considering the best information we have – Bush’s first term and what Kerry promises for a first term – the evidence is mixed, and rational arguments can be made for either candidate. I simply don’t think the domestic agenda matters much this election. It’s not that the issues are inconsequential, not that the candidates’ differences in some areas aren’t considerable. But if we are not secure as a nation, the rest is moot.
“What if they gave a war and nobody came?” was a popular question in the ’60s. The answer, for those who know history, is: Then the war will come to you. John Kerry would, I fear, wait for that war and react, too little, too late. George Bush, for all the mistakes he has made in prosecution of the battles, is willing to take the war to our enemy. That makes all the difference.
posted by Leo Morris at # 4:59 PM
Network | About Knight
Ridder | Terms
of Use & Privacy Statement|
Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any
of the contents of this service without the express written consent of Knight Ridder is expressly prohibited.