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April 26, 2004
Brownstein: Kerry Not Nuanced Enough

In today's Los Angeles Times, political reporter and Kerry supporter Ron Brownstein makes an unusual case that John Kerry eschewed nuance just when he needed it the most, as the late Randy Van Warmer once sang. Brownstein takes Kerry to task on the one issue where Kerry communicated a clear policy position, scolding him for being a bit too much like President Bush:

Bush's meeting with Sharon seemed precisely the sort of unilateral, headstrong gesture that Kerry has in mind when he accuses Bush of pursuing the most arrogant and ideological foreign policy in U.S. history.

So jaws dropped across Washington when Kerry responded with just one word after host Tim Russert asked him on "Meet the Press" whether he supported Bush's promises to Sharon.

"Yes," Kerry said.

"Completely?" Russert followed.

"Yes," Kerry said again.

Not much ambiguity there. Kerry probably hasn't answered an important question in so few words since his wedding day.

After acknowledging that this position allows Kerry to demonstrate some independence from world opinion, Brownstein then notes that Bush's policy statement does not differ at all substantively from what Clinton offered the Israelis during his efforts at negotiating a settlement between them and the Palestinians. The only difference, according to Brownstein, is that Clinton offered the solution in the context of the negotiations, rather than unilaterally, and he expresses his disappointment that Kerry didn't offer that as a criticism:

The troubling aspect of Kerry's response was that he failed to recognize or at least acknowledge that critical point. Perhaps Kerry feared a backlash from Jewish donors and voters if he complained about freezing out the Palestinians. Perhaps he saw no advantage in opening any daylight with the president over Israel.

But Kerry routinely insists that in America's dealings with the world, how and why matter as much as what and when. Every day he tells audiences that Bush weakens America's standing abroad by listening too little. How much credibility does Kerry have to make that case when he suggests he is just as willing to act without consultation if he considered it worthwhile, or politically expedient?

First off, any argument based on defending Kerry's credibility is doomed to failure, if not outright satire, as ABC News appears shortly to reinforce today. But even given that, Brownstein, like too many of his colleagues in the media, refuse to acknowledge that negotiation with Arafat has been proven pointless over and over again. Arafat at the PLO continue to use terrorism regardless of what they're offered, as long as Israel exists. Bush, post-9/11, sees that offering excuses for terrorists only results in more terrorism, and while he's offered to negotiate with a freely elected Palestinian Authority, he's refused to speak with Arafat on anything. It's taken the US a long time to learn this lesson about Arafat, even after Arafat murdered American diplomats, but at least we've made it clear now.

John Kerry's clear and unnuanced statement resulted, I'm sure, from a political calculation that he needed to demonstrate clarity and conciseness somewhere, and that this question provided an easy target. Until the Palestinians get rid of Arafat and elect non-terrorists to lead them, unilateral moves are all Israel and the US can provide. Brownstein only reveals his own cluelessness when he questions Kerry and Bush on this policy.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 26, 2004 5:57 AM

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