Last Monday, Senator Kerry gave a "major foreign policy" speech at New York University. The full text of the speech is here
I spent hours crawling through the speech, cross-checking data and analyzing what he said in all those simple declarative sentences. I'm more convinced than ever that I don't want John Kerry elected President in November.
sums up the problem neatly:
Part of Kerry's vulnerability on the Iraq issue is because he is really not proposing anything new to deal with the war. His four-part "plan" — which centers on urging our allies and the U.N. to do more and calls for strong efforts to provide jobs to Iraqis (the John Edwards message, sent abroad) and to train Iraqi police and troops — just mirrors what Bush is already doing.
That is, it is only in retrospect — in criticizing past actions — that Kerry really differs from Bush. He is proposing no real alternative for action in the future.
Since elections are about the future and history books about the past, Bush can fairly ask Kerry what he would do differently. When the Democrat ticks off his agenda, Bush can reply with his statistics saying (in effect), Been there, done that.
John Kerry has zigged when he should have zagged. He has chosen to fight over terror and Iraq when he should have stayed on domestic issues. He has tacked left when he should have stayed in the center on foreign issues and attacked on matters closer to home.
Kerry has defined himself as a liberal — and will pay for it with his defeat.
The speech itself starts off well enough, waving the flag, and echoing past speeches by President Bush! Some key paragraphs (emphasis added):
This election is about choices. The most important choices a President makes are about protecting America… at home and around the world. A president’s first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to our ideals.
Only a few blocks from here, three years ago, the events of September 11 reminded every American of that obligation. That day brought to our shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to fight… and to win… the war on terrorism. ... In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies.
To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon. To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America’s strength. Strong alliances, to help us stop the world’s most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And all of America’s power – our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values – each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.
That line about "all of America's power" caught my eye, because it parallels this line from President Bush's speech
before Congress on 9/20/01:
Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
Kerry hits the non-proliferation theme later, claiming that the Adminstration has been sitting on its hands on the matter. What, multi-national diplomacy and working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (a U.N. effort) doesn't count? He really seems to be hoping that his audience never watches the President's speeches on C-SPAN and/or has a really short memory.
Compare these lines from the President's 2002
State of the Union address (emphasis added):
Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation. ...
Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States. (Applause.)
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities."
And these from his 2003 speech
before the U.N. General Assembly:
A second challenge we must confront together is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons -- and the means to deliver them -- would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions. These weapons could be used by terrorists to bring sudden disaster and suffering on a scale we can scarcely imagine. The deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away. If such a danger is allowed to fully materialize, all words, all protests, will come too late. Nations of the world must have the wisdom and the will to stop grave threats before they arrive.
One crucial step is to secure the most dangerous materials at their source. For more than a decade, the United States has worked with Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union to dismantle, destroy, or secure weapons and dangerous materials left over from another era. Last year in Canada, the G8 nations agreed to provide up to $20 billion -- half of it from the United States -- to fight this proliferation risk over the next 10 years. Since then, six additional countries have joined the effort. More are needed, and I urge other nations to help us meet this danger.
We're also improving our capability to interdict lethal materials in transit. Through our Proliferation Security Initiative, 11 nations are preparing to search planes and ships, trains and trucks carrying suspect cargo, and to seize weapons or missile shipments that raise proliferation concerns. These nations have agreed on a set of interdiction principles, consistent with legal -- current legal authorities. And we're working to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative to other countries. We're determined to keep the world's most destructive weapons away from all our shores, and out of the hands of our common enemies.
Because proliferators will use any route or channel that is open to them, we need the broadest possible cooperation to stop them. Today, I ask the U.N. Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution. This resolution should call on all members of the U.N. to criminalize the proliferation of weapons -- weapons of mass destruction, to enact strict export controls consistent with international standards, and to secure any and all sensitive materials within their own borders. The United States stands ready to help any nation draft these new laws, and to assist in their enforcement.
Other themes in Senator Kerry's speech include:
- "Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight. "
- "The first and most fundamental mistake was the President’s failure to tell the truth to the American people."
- "Our credibility in the world has plummeted."
- "This President’s failure to tell the truth to us before the war has been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war."
- "We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq."
And his summation of his 4-point "plan" for Iraq:
If the President would move in this direction … if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces … train the Iraqis to provide their own security …develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people … and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year … we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.
This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as President today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.
The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear: We must make Iraq the world’s responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden. We must effectively train Iraqis, because they should be responsible for their own security. We must move forward with reconstruction, because that’s essential to stop the spread of terror. And we must help Iraqis achieve a viable government, because it’s up to them to run their own country. That’s the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.
This last line can be interpreted as exactly what the Bush administration has said it wishes for too. For example, Secretary Rumsfeld said recently, "We -- the United States of America does not put forces into a country to leave them there; we put them in there to help that country get on its feet and then leave."
But a lot of people hear or read that last line and say, "Kerry will cut and run, just like he wanted us to do in Vietnam, and with disastrous results for the South Vietnamese people." And yes, the Senator did invoke Vietnam, although this time he invoked his anti-war activities that so upset the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:
It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger. But it’s essential if we want to correct our course and do what’s right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent. I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do.
Overall, it's a very odd speech, echoing the President while proclaiming that Senator Kerry would do everything differently and chart a new course. There are lots of questionable statistics bandied about, loaded language (e.g. "admitted" vs. "said"), and half-truths. He talks about keeping the troops
safe and America safe. I have news for this CINC wanna-be: We don't have troops to keep them safe. We have troops to keep us safe.
Senator Kerry states that Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror, but we need to stay there long enough to get it back on its feet so it won't be a haven for terrorists.
Fine. He's entitled to that opinion. He has the right "to speak truth to power".
And I'm entitled to say: Vote for Bush!
Update [9/23/04 6:50 pm EDT] The editors of the Chicago Tribune
also noticed ambiguity in Senator Kerry's speech (link via NRO Kerry Spot
Kerry gave little definition to the change of course he represents. He did, though, say: "We could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years."
That's the kind of specificity that different listeners hear in different ways. Appreciative Americans might fairly conclude that Kerry wants to bring our boys and girls home. Other groups — nervous Iraqi citizens awaiting democracy, the vicious insurgents who plague them, and the coalition forces serving alongside U.S. troops — might fairly conclude that the Democrat who would be president is primarily interested in getting the heck out of Iraq ASAP.
Bush, too, says he wants to bring the troops home. But he is — as he has been for three years — steadfastly committed to defeating terrorists, challenging the governments that give them succor, and projecting democracy as broadly as possible in the Middle East as a step toward defanging Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.