Here's a headline - Bush Insists He Has Made America Safer. Well, he would say that. And Sen. Kerry might agree! Or not, it's hard to tell.
Sen. Kerry was asked about that very point by the NY Times. With unexpected candor, Mr. Kerry bucked popular opinion and conventional political logic, until he thought better of it and swam back towards his party's mainstream. His clarity of vision and communication in response to what should not have been an unexpected question led to this exchange :
Q. In a poll we did recently, we found that a majority of Americans thought that because of the administration policy on Iraq, the chance of a terrorist attack had grown. Do you guys agree with that?
MR. KERRY: I believe that the overall conduct of this administration's foreign policy - the war included, the management of Afghanistan, the diversion from Afghanistan, away from Al Qaeda, the lack of cooperation with other countries, the lack of adequate attention on homeland security, all together - has not made America as safe as we ought to be given the options available to us in the aftermath of 9/11.
Q. That's too mushy. Are we more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack?
MR. KERRY: Look, because I didn't answer your question the way you want me to doesn't mean my answer is too mushy. What I said is very clear. That there are a whole series of events that have not made America safer.
MR. EDWARDS: The way he answered that question, the way John just answered that question, is the way the question should be answered. Because things don't fit into boxes in this world. Any more than the things that affect American families here at home fit in boxes. You know, it's not health care, and then in another box jobs, and then in another box tuition - they all come together to affect the lives of Americans. It's also true that when you're evaluating what the effect has been of this administration, you can't look at Iraq in isolation, because Iraq acts in concert with what's happening in Afghanistan, what's happening with the war on terrorism in general, what's happening with the deterioration of our relationships around the world, all those things go together in order to evaluate what the impact is. I do not believe we are as safe as we can be, that's what I believe.
MR. KERRY: Can I tell you why? The fact that what's happened in Iraq may have created more terrorists doesn't mean they've gotten to the United States, doesn't mean they have got the ability to attack us. Those are very - that would require the briefing that I'm waiting to get this weekend, for me to ask a lot of questions. The likelihood is, yes. It certainly has increased the recruitment of terrorists and the focus on the United States as a target.
Hmm. Hard to score that - the Senator clearly wants to talk about something other than national security until he gets around to being briefed on it, although one wonders why the subject doesn't come up more often. However, by the end of his final answer, he seems to be drifting towards "less safe". If only the NY Times had provided an "Ask the Audience" feature (Ooops! These guys already are millionaires!)
MORE: Full gold mine, ahh, interview, here.
UPDATE: Patrick Sullivan culls the transcript for "Who's On Frist":
KERRY: Significantly. First of all, Homeland Security left ports unsecured. .... Second, second, the cooperative effort with other countries .... Third, we have a set of other global issues .... Third...
EDWARDS: Fourth. You already did third.
KERRY: That's why he's good.
Man, if I thought these two could keep this up for four years, I might vote for them.
MORE SUBSTANTIVE UPDATE: Eventually, the LA Times will endorse Kerry, but they don't like their evasive answers. This editorial is brutal:
If not murder, John F. Kerry and John Edwards have accused President Bush of something close to criminally negligent homicide in Iraq. "They were wrong and soldiers died because they were wrong," Kerry said of the Bush administration over the weekend.
...The trouble is, both Sens. Kerry and Edwards voted yes on the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq. And now they refuse to say whether they would have supported the resolution if they had known what they know today. Both say they can't be bothered with "hypothetical questions."
But whether it is a hypothetical question depends on how you phrase it. Do they regret these votes? Were their votes a mistake? These are not hypothetical questions. And they are questions the Democratic candidates for president and vice president cannot duck if they wish to attack Bush on Iraq in such morally charged language.
...When Kerry says "they were wrong," he is referring to the administration's basic case for going to war. Kerry supported that decision. So did Edwards. Were they wrong? If they won't answer that question, they have no moral standing to criticize Bush.
Reluctance to answer the question is understandable. If they say they stand by their pro-war votes, this makes nonsense of their criticisms of Bush. If they say they were misled or duped by the administration, they look dopey and weak.... If Kerry and Edwards tell the probable truth — that they were deeply dubious about the war but afraid to vote no in the post-9/11 atmosphere and be tarred as lily-livered liberals — they would win raves from editorial writers for their frankness and courage. And they could stop dreaming of oval offices.
...hearing how Kerry and Edwards explain their votes to authorize a war they now regard as disastrous would be helpful in assessing their character and judgment.
Their continued refusal to explain would be even more helpful, unfortunately.