July 30, 2004

The Kerry Speech

A few quick take-aways on the Kerry speech.

Note, he couldn't help but mention John McCain.

And then I reached out across the aisle with John McCain to work to find the truth about our P.O.W.'s and missing in action and to finally make peace in Vietnam.

But, er, remember--McCain has endorsed Dubya.

This son of a millworker is ready to lead and next January, Americans will be proud to have a fighter for the middle class to succeed Dick Cheney as vice president of the United States.

Was I the only person who caught a slightly patronizing tone in Kerry's voice when the word "millworker" rolled off his Brahmin lips?

As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values against a threat that was real and imminent." So lesson number one, this is the only justification for going to war.

And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

His most powerful point--a hard punch at the breezy 'greeted as liberators' crowd at the Pentagon who screamed for en masse de-Baathification and never allowed enough troops to get in theater.

Still, would the Dems (most of whom voted for the war, including Kerry) have done it better?

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and a certain response. I will never give any nation or any institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger military. We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct antiterrorist operations. And we will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of the National Guard and reservists.

To all who serve in our armed forces today I say help is on the way.

Read this passage carefully. Note the phrase "end the backdoor draft." It's juxtaposed with the follow on sentence regarding telling those who serve in the armed forces that "help is on the way."

Is it just me, or do you get a slightly uncomfortable feeling that "help", in this context (the "backdoor draft"), means a withdrawal (if gradual but at a good pace) from Iraq? That said "help" is really a reversion to a traditional post-Vietnam Democratic party outlook that distrusts the projection of American power overseas--viewing it as a somewhat nefarious influence on the world stage?

Oh, and let's be clear. That extra 40,000 troops? Not a single one, emphasis added above and, indeed, in the speech, are heading Baghdad way. Just in case anyone got some crazy idea...But what, heaven forbid, if they were needed there? Non-starter, it would seem. Another indication that faux-realism in Iraq is code for let's get out sooner rather than later.

Sully gets it:

No mention of democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan. No mention of the terrorist forces that are amassed there. No reference to the elections scheduled for January. No mention of Iran. And the whole point is about process - about how to wage a war, not whether it should be waged. This is a man who clearly wants the U.S. out of the region where our future is at stake, and who believes that simply by taking office, other powers can somehow pick up the slack. Memo to Kerry: no other powers can pick up the slack. They don't have the troops or the technology or the will. His strategy is pure defense. This sentence is his strongest threat: "Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response." So let's wait, shall we?

This was a very well organized convention. As Brit Hume noted on Fox--the Dems remedied their balloon deficit this go around. The pomp, confetti, in your face patriotism--all were in the proverbial house. And big time.

Kerry:

You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The Stars and Stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of those people who are here tonight and all across the country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. And it was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men that I served with and friends I grew up with. For us that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good.

That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology. It doesn't belong to any party. It belongs to all the American people.

Got it?

Throw in Wes Clark's "thump of enemy mortars."

Or Max Cleland:

It was April 1968, I was being airlifted out of Vietnam on a stretcher. At that moment Ensign John Kerry was headed in a different direction. He was on a Navy ship in the Pacific requesting transfer into Vietnam, into the line of fire. He had graduated from college. The world was his oyster. There were a lot of other things he could have done with his life. But he wanted to serve because he had been raised to believe that service to one's country is honorable, is noble and is good.

Shali:

We live in a dangerous time. Terrorists have attacked our home, here at home, and they continue to strike around the world. And the greatest danger before us is that theses terrorists will somehow get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. And if that were not enough, some nations continue to threaten regional stability while pursuing their own nuclear ambitions, which threaten all of us.

But throughout his campaign, John Kerry has shown time and again that he understands these dangers and that he is fully prepared for the challenges ahead.

Yep, it's all very red-meat, Stars & Stripes, no-one is going to call me out on my patriotism and ability to fight the global war on terror kinda stuff.

But, isn't there, a 'you doth protest too much' quality to it all?

That's what I'm worried about.

Note, even in hawkish (the politican formerly known as) Joementum's speech:

John Kerry and John Edwards are committed to finishing that work, to honoring the service of our soldiers, and to supporting them and their families when they come home. We owe them our support in this noble cause.

Always this emphasis on coming home, finishing up, getting out. It's not going to be that easy, however, if we want to do the job right.

Which is why I trust Bush more at the foreign policy helm of the United States at this juncture (though I'd love to see their respective cabinets ahead of time). I think he gets, in his gut, the generational committment aspect of what we are involved with in the Middle East and the war on terror. Against that, his black and white view of the world often results in too simple policies or policy drift as State and Defense clash and no one effectively umpires.

But, I guess, what matters most for me is a real committment to push forward an ambitious foreign policy agenda past '04. And, sadly, I'm not sure Kerry will really make such a committment.

Combined with some mid-course corrections by Bush (let's see better public diplomacy, more adult supervision of the Middle East peace process, a NSC advisor who forges common policies) I think he's the smarter play right now.

So if Drezner is a p = .54 with p = (probability of voting for Kerry); I'd count myself a p = .30 (meaning I'm 70% pulling the Elephant lever).

Fearing that Don Rumsfeld might stick around (he of the revolting insouciance re: Abu Ghraib) and/or that someone unqualified for SecState (won't name names just yet) replaces Powell keeps me around that zone, ie. not firmer in my support for Dubya.

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at July 30, 2004 04:11 PM
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