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October 11, 2004
NYT Magazine Reveals Kerry As An Empty Suit

Much has already been written regarding yesterday's New York Times Magazine lengthy article profiling John Kerry, especially his contention that terrorism can be considered a "nuisance" equal to prostitution, a blunder of enormous magnitude. What may be lost in the analysis of that stupidity is the vacuousness that Matt Bai's article reveals about the Massachusetts Senatoru, and that of his party as well:

While Bush and much of the country seemed remade by the historic events of 9/11, Democrats in Washington were slow to understand that the attacks had to change them in some way too. What adjustments they made were, at first, defensive. Spooked by Bush's surging popularity and the nation's suddenly ascendant mood of patriotism, Democrats stifled their instinctive concerns over civil liberties; and whatever their previous misgivings about intervention, many Congressional Democrats, a year after the terrorist attacks, voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

What few Democrats did at the time was think creatively about the new world of foreign policy. The candidates who began their runs for the presidency last year, from Dennis Kucinich and his peace platform on the left to Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt on the other side of the spectrum, attacked the president's foreign policy from different directions, but if any new ideas emerged during those months, they were soon drowned out by the booming anti-war voice of Howard Dean. When Kerry emerged as the most palatable alternative, he at first ran mostly on the viability of his personal story, focusing more on his combat experience in Vietnam than on any plan to fight Al Qaeda or remake Iraq. Only since Labor Day has Kerry begun to sharpen his distinctions with Bush on national security and foreign policy.

First, Bai simply gets it wrong. It's not that Kerry has begun to sharpen his foreign-policy differences with Bush, it's that he's changed directions yet again, this time running directly for Howard Dean's anti-war position. Kerry has talked about foreign policy, the Iraq War, and terrorism all during the campaign, whenever he gave Viet Nam enough of a rest to do so. He's just given contradictory positions, and contradicted his own record in doing so. For instance, he's blasted George Bush for two weeks for not building the kind of coalition that his father did in the first Gulf War -- even though Kerry voted against that war as well, despite its UN blessing and the participation of the French and Germans.

But Bai does point out what was obvious to the rest of us from the start. Kerry essentially stole a march on Howard Dean after his Iowa meltdown, first in the last debate before the caucus and then with the strangled-yelp speech afterwards. Kerry saw an opening to flash the medals he once tossed over the White House fence while giving enough of Dean's anti-war rhetoric on the stump to sway the more practical Deaniacs to his banner. Democrats, who have never offered a cogent and coherent strategy on the global war against Islamofascists, quickly fell in line behind Kerry's zig-zag march to the nomination.

Bai notes the lack of coherent policy himself:

What Kerry still has not done is to articulate clearly a larger foreign-policy vision, his own overarching alternative to Bush's global war on terror. The difference between the two men was clear during the foreign-policy debate in Florida 10 days ago. Kerry seemed dominant for much of the exchange, making clear arguments on a range of specific challenges -- the war in Iraq, negotiations with North Korea, relations with Russia. But while Kerry bore in on ground-level details, Bush, in defending his policies, seemed, characteristically, to be looking at the world from a much higher altitude, repeating in his brief and sometimes agitated statements a single unifying worldview: America is the world's great force for freedom, unsparing in its use of pre-emptive might and unstinting in its determination to stamp out tyranny and terrorism. Kerry seemed to offer no grand thematic equivalent.

Inside liberal think-tanks, there are Democratic foreign-policy experts who are challenging some of Bush's most basic assumptions about the post-9/11 world -- including, most provocatively, the very idea that we are, in fact, in a war.

Kerry avoids that kind of talk, Bai says, to argue tactics rather than strategy. However, it reveals the same thing: Kerry and the Democrats do not think of terrorists as enemies of war, but criminals to be apprehended. Democratic philosophers at these think tanks want to think us out of a war mentality; it makes retreat much more palatable that way.

These are the natural progressions of the Kerry approach to terror and to the complete focus on the tactical instead of the strategic in the war. Kerry and the Democrats want to sell America on the notion that Osama and his immediate gang are the Alpha and the Omega of the Islamofascist threat, when the problem is much broader and more dangerous. The true strategic threat is not so much Osama -- he is a tactical threat -- but the alliance between such terror bands as his and state governments such as the Taliban and the Iranian mullahcracy, and Saddm Hussein as well.

In order to fight the war on terror, we have to think both strategically and tactically, something that the Kerry campaign has refused to do. They talk about shifting focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, as if the US could not address multiple strategies in the same region concurrently. It's a devastating indictment of his ability to lead the military in a time of war, and it demonstrates a lack of faith in American capabilities and a lack of understanding of armed conflict that takes one's breath away.

And then, of course, comes the money quote:

When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' Kerry said. ''As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

This analogy struck me as remarkable, if only because it seemed to throw down a big orange marker between Kerry's philosophy and the president's. Kerry, a former prosecutor, was suggesting that the war, if one could call it that, was, if not winnable, then at least controllable. If mobsters could be chased into the back rooms of seedy clubs, then so, too, could terrorists be sent scurrying for their lives into remote caves where they wouldn't harm us.

I hate to point out the obvious, but prostitutes don't drive jumbo jets into office buildings, and illegal gambling doesn't involve the mass murder of thousands of people. In fact, prostitution and gambling remain intractable in part because they spring from free-will choices between consenting adults and so are difficult to regulate. For gambling especially, the lack of concern among the governed, its popularity where legal, and state involvement in it (lotteries) have made anti-gambling laws almost unenforceable. Lawrence v. Texas will probably render most prostitution laws unconstitutional, unless the Supreme Court comes to its senses and reverses its consenting-adults precedent when given an opportunity. People can and do make effective libertarian arguments against both.

Unfortunately for John Kerry, no one has been able to frame a libertarian argument for mass murder, nor for terrorism. Equating mass murder with prostitution and gambling makes no intellectual sense whatsoever, and shows a malformed morality that entirely relies on relativity. In any other election, a candidate who said such a thing would be laughed off the stage, destined never to win another election at any level. The only thing keeping Kerry afloat is the mainstream media and the Bush-hatred it stokes.

Read the entire Bai article. It's revealing and chilling to see the complete Chauncy Gardener that the Democrats have nominated.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 11, 2004 8:48 AM

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