Sunday, February 15, 2004

What Kerry "Should" Do


Today's Washington Post lectures John Kerry:
Now, with the nomination seemingly within his reach, the Massachusetts senator must begin to more fully explain where he stands on the major challenges facing the country.
He must?

Last I checked, the purpose of the primary process was the selection of a party's candidate. The purpose of the subsequent election process is to choose between the parties' selected candidates. There may be benefit to Kerry, and perhaps to voters, if Kerry were to set forth a more specific platform - but there is also risk of harm. And there is absolutely no reason he must provide a detailed plaform unless and until he receives the nomination.

Assuming, as the Washington Post clearly does, that Kerry will be nominated, the principal beneficiary of an early enunciation of a Kerry platform would be President Bush. Bush could (and would) immediately start spending the astronomical sums he has raised for his unopposed "race" for his party's nomination to attack Kerry's platform. That would benefit Bush far more than absurd, hypocritical attacks on Kerry as having taken money from special interests - charges which open Bush up to very credible charges of hypocrisy. It would certainly benefit Bush better than having Republican ankle biters like Matt Drudge try to dream up a Kerry affair with an intern.

The editorial also demands that Kerry explain how he will treat post-war Iraq:
More important, Mr. Kerry should clarify what he believes should be the objectives of the U.S. mission in Iraq going forward -- and what military and aid commitments he is prepared to make. In his last substantive speech on the subject, in December, the candidate called for replacing the U.S. occupation authority with a United Nations mission and recruiting NATO and other allied troops "so that we get the targets off the back of our soldiers." But there is no prospect of a U.N. administration; its envoys are instead negotiating the terms under which an Iraqi government will succeed the U.S. authority. The Bush administration has meanwhile invited NATO to share responsibility in Iraq, only to receive a cool response from Germany and France. Mr. Kerry spoke of "completing the tasks of security and democracy" in Iraq. But he hasn't yet offered a realistic plan for how he would do it or committed himself to the likely cost in American troop deployments and dollars. If he is to offer a credible alternative to Mr. Bush, he must explain how he would manage the real and dangerous challenges the United States now faces in Iraq -- without the fuzzing.
As a possible candidate, Kerry is in a poor position to make promises about what he would do. As a nominee, Kerry will be in a position to speak with world leaders as the alternative to Bush - and may in fact be able to promise that the coolness Germany and France display toward Bush will be replaced by a new era of cooperation - once Bush has been replaced with a President who has not attacked and belittled the leadership of those allies. Even accepting their pre-war conduct of those nations as reprehensible, even Bush should have realized that there was little chance of turning things around by spitting in their leaders' eyes.

Meanwhile, perhaps taking his lead from David Brooks, Thomas Friedman presents his dream interview between Kerry and Tim Russert. I agree that Kerry needs to, at some point, express firmly that the U.S. will not abandon Iraq before that nation is stable and ready for self-rule. I expect him to do that after he has a lock on the nomination - perhaps at the national convention in his acceptance speech.

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