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July 25, 2004

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ed

Hmmmm.

Nothing like a "can-do" attitude and a "take charge" personality.

Is it just me or does it seem that he's relying upon, indeed depending upon, President Bush's ability to organize and provide protection?

Yeah. That makes me feel safer too.

Dean

Look at it this way:

Kerry's betting on the "Anyone But Bush" vote. Those people won't care what he does, so long as he wins office.

If he then takes Bush's stuff lock-stock-and-two smoking towers, he can both claim that he's a "uniter," and contrast it w/ the putative Bush policy of rejecting everything Clintonian.

Not to say that this is what's running through Kerry's mind, but it certainly would be a deeper game than simply assuming he's done no thinking at all (which is what his comments would suggest).

J_Crater

To think about it would infer that he would have at least some responsiblity if something were to occur, but we can't have that.
Out of sight, it ain't mine.

James

Good Lord. I'd finally realized who Kerry reminded me of--Ted Baxter from the _Mary Tyler Moore Show_--but this has convinced me that the Gertrude Stein line about Oakland applies to him. There's no there there.

Kevin L. Connors

Such is to be expected. Everyone in the know, save for Bush-hating partisans, have labeled Kerry an 'empty suit'.

Anonymous Clue Stick

Or maybe it is the fact he isn't president currently, doesn't have command of any of the federal agencies in charge of security for the conventions, etc?

But no, that would be too obvious.

Shannon Love

In Kerry's defense, refusing to answer hypothetical questions about fairly specific scenarios is a tradition of presidential candidates. It was judged to dangerous for potential Presidents to commit publicly to specific actions in specific cases. Once in office the President might feel compelled to act in the manner he addressed in the hypothetical or enemies might try an attack based on his response.

Even so, his responses don't exactly fill me with confidence.

AG

>But no, that would be too obvious.

Well, for a Senator, you might have thought he had some control/say in the issues of national security. However, his lack of ability to control the issue is still no reason for not thinking about it. Are we to assume he doesn't think about any other issues until he is president and has the power to do something about it? I don't think many people in this country have the ability to control it, yet many have thought about it.

He could have said something, anything other than he doesn't give a thought to the issue, but then verbal screw-ups are only a mistake Bush can make.

Another pass for the Left.

Matt

Anony Clue Stick-
If Kerry not having control over any govt agency obsolves him of the obligation to comment, then he should not be commenting on anything that he does not have control over now since he is not now president. He should answer questions with the asusmption that he will be the pres, so we can judge what he says he will do if we give him that honor. I for one would like to know that he atleast "thought" about it.

dgree3

"No comment", is a comment. The oft practiced dance of political side-step to any question that might possibly lead to a positional statement just confirms the fact that Kerry isn't up to the job. The level of responsibility that comes with the presidency can not be upheld by anyone who doesn't have the "huevos" to take a stand. After all, to take a position is to create a space for opposition. In every dance someone has to lead.

Bert

Is it too much to ask a would-be president to think about what he would do if he was president?

Oh, wait. He's not doing anything useful as a senator either.

Jeff

A little red meat for the base, Tom? If weird answers given on the campaign trail are good for the goose, why not the gander? If Kerry can be taken to task for the nonresponse on a terrorist attack, what of the "peace president" business?

I don't mind much that the "flip-flopping" cannard gets saluted every time its run up the flagpole, nor do I even mind sifting through the 10,000 words a candidate says in a week for something strange. But let's be honest: it IS red meat. You know damn well Kerry's a serious candidate on terrorism. Far more serious than Bush was four years ago. (Recall that in the first debate he thought we should turn the former-Yugoslav problem over to the Russians, so little did he know of the history of the region. That alone should have lost him the election. If Kerry failed to identify the leader of Pakistan, would the press--and you--be as blase as it was in 2000?)

The dullard 10% who honestly can't distinguish between Bush and Kerry are the targets of these kinds of attacks. But don't expect reasonable people to take them seriously.

Kelly

Maybe, over 19 years, Kerry has just internalized the Senate's standards for judicial confirmations. Speak in vague, boring platitudes, check off the litmus tests, and refuse to say anything about any specific situation that might conceivably arise. Works for judges, right?

Might explain why he seems to be treating the campaign like a glorified confirmation process.

Baillie

A juxtaposition:

'"I cannot imagine a worse signal to the world than to suggest that this, the greatest democracy in the world, could possibly be interrupted by an act of terror," Mr. Kerry said.'

'"The most important failure was one of imagination," the commission said in its executive summary. "We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat."'

We wouldn't want to start using our imaginations in an attempt to keep the next attack from causing even more problems than just 3,000 dead Americans and two collapsed skyscrapers and a hole in the Pentagon, now would we?

praxis

Kerry seems to be saying that the posibility of a terrorist attack somehow prevents him from thinking about it.

I guess we could call that a failure of imagination.

Shockwaverider

Kerry is starting to make me very nervous about this election.

Patrick R. Sullivan

"You know damn well Kerry's a serious candidate on terrorism."

Could you provide the evidence that would support what we should, "know damn well"? Say, The Top Three Reasons Kerry's a Serious Candidate on Terrorism:

3.
2.
1.

TM

If weird answers given on the campaign trail are good for the goose, why not the gander?

I would take a gander at Atrios or the Daily Kos for the other side of that coin. (Not that I have a fraction of their clout, of course. Yet!)

Ernest Brown

"You know damn well Kerry's a serious candidate on terrorism."


A serious candidate FOR terrorism, you mean. He should be the 9/11 Commission's poster child for indifference to intelligence failure in the 1990's, as he was one of the most vocal opponents of increasing our intelligence capacities then. He's so serious that the most vicious hardball interviewer of them all, Larry King (!), got him to admit that he hadn't attended a single terror briefing during the campaign [and he was invited to do so by Bush], but he had enough time to listen to Whoopi "I'm a loser for real" Goldberg do "Bush/bush" jokes. That's how concerned he is to defend America. If you don't believe me, just ask Gen. Giap.

6Gun

I'm not surprised. Kerry's Clinton-like self-promotional response to the President's most recent weekly address also leaves no doubt that appeals to mystical conventional wisdom, such as "you know damn well Kerry's a serious candidate on terrorism" are dangerously wishful. Consider Kerry's focus group-approved "we'll never start a war because we want to but because we need to." The sheer mendacity of this transparent nonsense smacks of the definition of is...

Jeff Miller

The reason he dosen't know what to do is he is unsure how the U.N. would be involved. His whole foreign policy is U.N. based and local action befuddles him.

Les Nessman

"You know damn well Kerry's a serious candidate on terrorism. Far more serious than Bush was four years ago. "

How serious was Kerry four years ago? Or Gore or Clinton? Since 9/11, EVERYBODY is more serious about terrorism than anybody was four years ago.

Central Intuitive Agency

The way I read this is, make no coment and hope to God I am wrong, is that Kerry is trying to rachet down the war on terror and basically put us on a cold war footing with the terrorists. Do nothing and hope everything stays on a basically even keel. Pull a Carter and tell the American people, just get used to it.

Kerry is a serious cantidate, unfortunately he is just not imaginative enough to fight the war on terror.

ed

Hmmm.

There are any number of acceptable answers for that question. However "I don't think about it; I can't control it" isn't one of them. As he is, along with his VP running mate John Edwards, a US Senator and the Democratic candidate for the White House any changes in the election process would require both a dialogue between Bush and Kerry and approval for any changes.

Considering that terrorists have been targeting, due to the Spanish, elections and that there are clear warnings that AQ is looking to target our national elections this year, for Kerry to not have even thought about it is reckless and quite frankly incompetent.

Again the acceptable minimum is very very low. However there is a minimum and it's not "I don't think about it; I can't control it". Instead what he should have said, and *done*, is identified individuals that would form an action team to deal with such a situation. Opened a dialogue with President Bush to cover the most basic areas of discussion needed. Perhaps form an advisory team that would communicate with the Homeland Security dept. to make sure that all possible precautions are taken for securing polling areas.

etc etc etc.

Seriously. What I'm looking for ain't "not my job mack.".

J

"the acceptable minimum is very very low"

I completely agree here. I would have blown this off if he'd even said "I need to think about that more before giving it a response it deserves" or even "I haven't thought about it enough to come up with a good answer."

Telling people that he hasn't thought about it is *bad*.

j

Jeff

Patrick and Ernest,

In the initial post, Tom quotes Kerry saying "I don't think about it [a terrorist attack before the election." To which Tom riposts: "we are wondering whether he is inclined to suggest something like a contingency plan." The notion here being that Kerry has not a single clue about how to handle terror in his pretty little head.

You both attempt to debunk Kerry's cred by offering the notion that he didn't do anything about it in the 90s. Well, that's not exactly on point, but okay, let me quote one of your own, Les, from a later post: " Since 9/11, EVERYBODY is more serious about terrorism than anybody was four years ago."

But to get back to the main point--Kerry's credibility as a foreign-policy candidate--it's patently absurd to forward the pretty-little-head argument. If you wish to know more about his strategies about confronting terror (you don't--you wish mainly to convince the dullard 10% that he doesn't have any) I suggest last week's New Yorker. If you wish for an alternative view, here's something from the Bush-endorsing Economist you might find more critical. It does not lower itself to the pretty-little-head argument.

http://www.economist.com/research/backgrounders/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2480306

By all means disagree with Kerry. His approach will be multilateral, which should freak out a good fraction of the right. But don't argue he's not credible.

Jeff

Oh, and I noticed no one really tried to defend Bush's cred coming in. In fact the point is well-known: Bush knew less about foreign policy than any presidential candidate in recent memory. Which is why Cheney's on the ticket.

Paul Zrimsek

If you wish to know more about his strategies about confronting terror (you don't--you wish mainly to convince the dullard 10% that he doesn't have any) I suggest last week's New Yorker.

By all means, fellas, you do just that. You're bound to enjoy this nugget:

Kerry can’t be specific about what he would do in Iraq if he is sworn in next January 20th, because nobody knows what will be happening there then.

ed

Hmmm.

1. "You both attempt to debunk Kerry's cred by offering the notion that he didn't do anything about it in the 90s."

Ummm. He not only *didn't* do anything about terrorism, he voted repeatedly to cut funding for the CIA. That's rather a bad record.

2. "EVERYBODY is more serious about terrorism than anybody was four years ago."

And your point is? What? That Kerry can be trusted on national security because he's now serious about terrorism? Even though he hasn't revealed any plans or details on how he would *be* serious?

Wanting a free pass is ok. Expecting a free pass is unrealistic.

3. "If you wish to know more about his strategies about confronting terror"

Hmmm. What to do, what to do.

A few problems:
a. "Going back to the UN" means what exactly? When the UN acted in bad faith against American interests they might have done it, "might have" not necessarily "did", because they didn't like Bush. However that is irrelevant since they damaged America. So what exactly does Kerry mean about going back to the UN? Does he mean that he'll go hat in hand and beg for favors? Why?

The UN is incredibly corrupt and totally incompetent. The UN has run Kosovo for a decade and there's less electricity there than in any backwater village in Iraq.

b. Do you think that Chirac will suddenly become best buddies? That's absurd. Chirac practices Realpolitik. To gain his favor you have to *buy* him. Award a nice fat contract to a crony of his, so the crony can hand a slice of the action to Chirac, and you could get something done. This is how Saddam bought Chirac. But Saddam had to offer hundreds of billions of dollars in oil contracts to do it. How much do you think Chirac is going to charge Kerry?

BTW Chirac leaves office in 2007 and loses all immunity to prosecution when he does. There's a dozen judges just waiting to jump on him for various serious offenses, including bribery, so any sort of secret deal might break into the news stream in 2007. A bad idea since the next Presidential election cycle is 2008.

c. " Because so many countries refused to take part in the operation in Iraq, he says, American soldiers are less safe than they would otherwise be."

Short and sweet: Most other militaries suck. Even NATO militaries suck. None of them train as hard, as often or as well as American troops. When people think of soldiers, they think of professional American or British soldiers. Here's a clue. Bulgaria had to fill a UN Peacekeeper requirement and did so by emptying a *prison*, putting the criminals into uniform and then shipping them off. Zimbabwe emptied an AIDS hospital, dressed them in crappy uniforms and then shipped them to Kosovo.

So adding thousands of badly trained soldiers doesn't really add all that much value.

d. "His approach will be multilateral, which should freak out a good fraction of the right. "

Funny. Bush is "multilateral" with regards to Iran and North Korea and liberals keep whining about "going in" and "doing something". And Bush has been multilateral with regards to Iraq, but that's too hard a concept I guess.

e. Kerry credible? Well. He was in Vietnam 32 years ago for 3.5 months.

Hey that's major credibility in my book.

Jeff

This has really devolved, so I'm not sure why I continue, but I can't resist. Your "3.5 months" crack is indicative of your blindness on this issue. No matter what Kerry does, he's lame (including winning three purple hearts, and a bronze and silver star), no matter what the GOP do, they're perfected. There's no talking when the 0.0 months Bush served is regarded as "credible" but Kerry's "3.5 months" is worthy of ridicule.

Apropos of that, let me point out a passage from that NYer article. If your guy had this on his bio, you'd be insensitive with rapture. Too bad your guy was dodging real service while Kerry was doing this:

"He also resists speaking publicly about the incident that won him the Silver Star, but his surviving crewmates have told how, when they were ambushed by a Vietcong guerrilla firing rockets from the riverbank, Kerry made an instantaneous decision that evasive action was impossible, turned his boat directly into the fire, beached it, and leaped ashore, to the astonishment of the man with the rocket launcher, who popped up from his spider hole and fled. Kerry chased him and killed him. Navy men were not supposed to leave their ships during combat, and before recommending Kerry for the medal his commanding officer quipped that he wasn’t sure whether he shouldn’t court-martial him instead."

"Reading Brinkley’s book, one wonders why Kerry’s campaign does not make more of another occasion when Kerry was sharply reprimanded for having stepped ashore. On a narrow tributary of the Duong Keo River, he and his crew came upon what looked like a deserted village. Then someone thought he saw a man running away. There was no response to a call for surrender, and Kerry took his gun and went to have a look. As he approached, forty-two Vietnamese—women, children, and old men—appeared with empty hands raised. They were in desperate shape, hungry and sick, and although Kerry received radio instructions to leave them and get on with the business of killing enemy combatants, he herded the villagers onto boats and took them to the nearest American base to receive food and medical care. 'For an afternoon,' he told Brinkley, 'it felt good to really be helping the Vietnamese instead of destroying their villages.'"

And now I'll shut up on the issue. Carry on.

Dan

"...'it felt good to really be helping the Vietnamese instead of destroying their villages.'"

Was this before or after the war crimes he confessed to in front of Congress?

Les Nessman

"Was this before or after the war crimes he confessed to in front of Congress?"

...AND accused his brothers in arms of the same crimes. I wonder why Kerry didn't report these 'crimes' to his superiors when they occured, like military law dictates he do.

As to my previous quote "
How serious was Kerry four years ago? Or Gore or Clinton? Since 9/11, EVERYBODY is more serious about terrorism than anybody was four years ago."

Jeff was trying to compare how serious Kerry is TODAY with how serious Bush was FOUR YEARS AGO. Not very fair, since 9/11.
If you want to compare Kerry v. Bush four years ago, fine.
If you want to compare Kerry v. Bush today, fine.

But don't mix the two timelines.

TM

I'm taking your word that the New Yorker said that Kerry doesn't like to talk about that Silver Star incident much, but that just makes me wonder whether the New Yorker ran a total puff piece (what are the odds?). Here is something from righty Byron York, reprising a 1996 Boston Globe article:

Consider this scene from a remarkable profile of Kerry published in the Boston Globe in October 1996, when Kerry was in a tough re-election battle.

Kerry told reporter Charles Sennott the oft-repeated story of the February 1969 firefight in which Kerry attacked the Viet Cong who ambushed his Swift boat.

Kerry won the Silver Star, as well as a Purple Heart, for his efforts.

But the story wasn’t about the firefight itself. It was also Kerry’s reaction to it.

The future senator was so “focused on his future ambitions,” Sennott reported, that he bought a Super-8 movie camera, returned to the scene, and re-enacted the skirmish on film.

It was that film, transferred to videotape, that Kerry played for Sennott.

“I’ll show you where they shot from. See? That’s the hole covered up with reeds,” Kerry said as he ran the tape in slow motion.

Kerry told Sennott that his decision to re-enact the fight on film was no big deal — “just something I did, no great meaning to it.” But it’s clear that the old movie is a huge deal.

“Through hours of watching the films in the den of his newly renovated Beacon Hill mansion, it becomes apparent that these are memories and footage he returns to often,” Sennott wrote.

“Kerry jumps repeatedly from the couch to adjust the Sony large-screen TV in his home entertainment center, making sure the picture is clear, the color correct. He fast forwards, rewinds and freeze-frames the footage. His running commentary — vivid, sometimes touching, sometimes self-serving — never misses a beat.”

Now, how come I knew that and the New Yorker didn't? It was not a tough memory search or Google search.

Here's an article excerpt. I feel a post coming on!

And just to address the "pretty little head" argument - first, I don't think Kerry is that pretty; second, however deep a thinker he may be, he has a reputation as a ditherer who drives his staff mad by postponing decisions (that deserves a link I can't provide right now); his judgement, based on the presence of Joe Wilson and Sandy Berger amongst his advisors, is suspect; and his communication skills are doubtful.

TM

Re Kerry's dithering; from the New Yorker article:

He is also uneven, alternating between intensely focussed discipline and lucidity and phases of vagueness, when he goes into a sort of battery-saver mode. “John always hits the long ball when he’s ready to call it, and he’s always capable of rising to the occasion,” his friend George Butler told me. “But in a curious kind of way he does play possum in the unimportant moments, almost as a way to divert people’s attention from his ultimate goal.”

Jeff

And just to address the "pretty little head" argument - first, I don't think Kerry is that pretty; second, however deep a thinker he may be, he has a reputation as a ditherer who drives his staff mad by postponing decisions (that deserves a link I can't provide right now); his judgement, based on the presence of Joe Wilson and Sandy Berger amongst his advisors, is suspect; and his communication skills are doubtful.

These are reasonable charges, and ones Kerry will have to address if he's going to win the election. My central beef is this promotional material from the RNC about his "inexperience" with foreign policy (and regarding the timelines, Les, we're comparing candidates as they seek the presidency--therefore, four years ago for Bush, now for Kerry).

And I DID link that economist piece, which no one is mentioning.

Oh, and I STILL have yet to see anyone take my bait on Bush's woeful grasp of foreign affairs--or anything foreign--four years ago. Come on!

Les Nessman

"..we're comparing candidates as they seek the presidency--therefore, four years ago for Bush, now for Kerry)."

On this specific subject, Jeff, you are not just comparing candidates in general; you specifically compared the candidates on terrorism. Unless the candidates have E.S.P., there is no way to do a fair comparison.


sym

"Lots of things will happen that a president can't control. What the President can try to control is the pre-planning, and the coordination of an appropriate response."
But Kerry won't be the President during the presidential campaign, obvioulsy. Isn't he just saying that while he's not President, he has very little control over terrorism?

TM

Isn't he just saying that while he's not President, he has very little control over terrorism?

That probably is what he was saying. However, as the standard-bearer and ostensible leader of his party, as well as the guy whose electon is at stake, it seems to me that Kerry might want to have a few thoughts prepared as to whether the election can proceed fairly if there is a major disruption in one or more urban areas.

*Even* the NY Times recognized that waiting to deciding on election day whether the process was fair would be a bad idea. They did not dwell on the probability that a disruption in an urban area would disadvantage the Democrats.

At least raising the issue now allowed the nation to consider it in a moment of calm, and reject it.

...It is good that the issue was raised now and resolved. As was clear in Florida in the 2000 election, the worst time to debate the rules of an election is in the midst of a highly disputed one because each party invariably supports the interpretation that enhances its chance of winning.

This week's controversy could also prompt Congress to focus on more practical questions about how to respond if terrorists try to interfere with the voting. The failure of the electrical grid, along the lines of last summer's widespread blackout, could disrupt voting in a large number of states. Violence at polling places, which is not uncommon in some countries, could make people afraid to vote.

Even though such possibilities may be unlikely, Congress should study the broad issue of election interference.

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