Friday, October 22, 2004


Reason #2 ““I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

Kerry’s record on foreign policy does not convince me that he regards the threat of terrorism with the seriousness it warrants.

First, some caveats and observations. This is not about Kerry’s statements about wanting to fight a more “sensitive” war or his desire to return to the days in which terrorism was merely a “nuisance.” In both cases, Kerry’s opponents have taken Kerry’s statements wildly out of context. I’m not a big fan of the “gotcha” campaigning that seems so prevalent these days.

Second, I do not believe that should Kerry be our next president that he will merely roll over and allow terrorists to stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue strewing clouds of poison gas as they go. But having said that, I do believe that there are differences between Bush and Kerry on foreign policy.

Third, there has been much criticism of late of both parties engaging in “the politics of fear” (whatever that means). There may indeed be cases in which the politics of fear is indeed inappropriate. But if you don’t feel at least a little fear that the people that flew two airplanes into the World Trade Centers may have more in store for us, you need to pull your head out of the sand.

Anyway, back to “I actually did vote for the $87 billion …” Kerry’s supporters often praise the Senator’s ability to appreciate nuance and complexity in contrast to Bush’s simplistic Manichean view of the world. But to me there was nothing too complex about this particular vote. American troops were fighting in Iraq (with Kerry’s permission) and needed more resources. When faced with the request, Kerry decided in the end that it was more important to stick it to the upper class than to vote for the needed resources. End of story. This from the guy who couldn’t be caught without his “band of brothers” for most of the first half of 2004. Was making the infamous wealthiest 1% shoulder a heftier share of the burden of paying for the war a worthy cause? I believe it was. But at the end of the day, Kerry was unable to convince enough of his Senate colleagues to see his way (see my Reason #1 for more discussion of Kerry’s less than stellar legislative career). And so he was faced with a stark choice: vote to support the troops or not. And he chose not to.

Was it simply his outraged sense of fairness that influenced his decision? Perhaps, but this quote from an anonymous Kerry adviser offers another possible reason
:"Off the record, he did it because of Howard Dean. On the record, he has an elaborate explanation."

The Howard Dean/Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party has been pretty quiescent of late. Their hatred of Bush trumps whatever disappointments they see in Kerry. But is it reasonable to assume that a President Kerry will not be influenced in the slightest by these prominent and powerful members of his own party?

While I’m at it, two more of Kerry’s foreign policy votes trouble me as well.

First, was Kerry’s vote to authorize Bush to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Recall that this is John Kerry, a man whose experience in Vietnam has seared, seared, in him lessons never to be forgotten. Well, how about the lesson of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: don’t give blanket authority to the executive to fight a war if you don’t really want that authority to be used. Yes, Kerry droned on on the Senate floor about how he would rather that Bush exhaust all other possible avenues before going to war. But guess what: no such language was included in the actual resolution. Once again, Kerry was confronted with a stark choice: give Bush blanket authority or don’t. He chose to give that authority and subsequently has spent the last 18 months trying to wriggle out responsibility for his choice because things in Iraq haven’t quite turned out as planned. This is akin to giving a speech about the need to eat healthy foods before giving your six-year-old a bag of candy and then being shocked, shocked, when the entire bag is devoured in short order.

Second was Kerry’s vote against the first Gulf War. This was a case that would seem to have fit all of his stated criteria for going to war: a clear, unequivocal provocation: Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the sovereign state of Kuwait; widespread condemnation of Iraq’s invasion by the international community including resolutions from the United Nations approving the use of force to resolve the situation; and an impressive international coalition including several Arab and Muslim nations poised ready to enforce the UN resolutions and the international community’s will. And still Kerry voted against it. I’m sure there is an “elaborate explanation” but this was a case that probably didn’t warrant all that much nuance.

So at the end of the day, I still am not entirely sure what Kerry’s foreign policy will actually be. He says he will hunt and kill the terrorists (often spoken with a steely determination that attempts to give the impression that he will do this personally, with his bare hands if he has to). He says he will never give a foreign nation or international body a veto over American policy. But his past record doesn’t give me confidence as to what his core principles actually are or how malleable he is willing to be about them. While I don’t think a Kerry administration will invite the apocalypse, I feel more comfortable with Bush’s resolute determination (for all its flaws in execution) to deal with the threat of terrorism until it is eliminated.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?