In last Thursday's 90 minute debate, John Kerry deftly pricked the GOP's $222 million bubble. The GOP wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on inconsistent, incoherent, unreal slurs in a futile effort to make Kerry look like a weak, waffling Francophile. Kerry demonstrated the duplicity of the GOP strategy, highlighting Bush's consistent and unacknowledged pattern of failure, Bush's obscene inability to defend his own positions, and Kerry's realistic evaluation of the world and concrete plan to do better.
The GOP is panicking, as they should be. Having had its strategy's weaknesses laid bare in front of 62.5 million viewers, the Bush campaign did the same thing his administration does when confronted with evidence of failed strategy: a 360 degree about face. Having seen that its initial strategy was fatally flawed, the Bush campaign trashed it and adopted a new one. Based on inconsistent, incoherent, and unreal slurs.
This new strategy is shown in the "global test" conflagration. Following Cheney's lead, President Bush has sped through Columbus [transcript], Mansfield [transcript], and Cuyahoga Falls [transcript], OH, Allentown, PA [transcript], and Manchester, N.H [transcript], Bush has repeated variations on the following theme:
Bush called it the "Kerry doctrine" and summed it up this way: "He said that America has to pass a global test before we can use troops to defend ourselves." The friendly crowd responded with boos for Kerry.Condi Rice dutifully echoed Bush's strained, false confusion.
"Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions," he said. [MSNBC 10/3/04]
Will Saletan puts it best: Bush's comments are more evidence of his precarious relationship with reality. No one who watched that debate or read Kerry's words should believe Bush's distortions. Some will, in an effort to relieve the painful dissonance of a President lying to the people, the sort of dissonance that creates people like the Swift Boat veterans. But even those people will eventually have to withdraw their heads from the sand.
Kerry and the DNC have responded forcefully, with actual facts and an effective ad. Their argument: Kerry explicitly, repeatedly, reaffirmed the right of the United States to preemptively defend itself. After any preemptive action, the US must be able to explain to the world and to us, its citizens, why the action was necessary. We need credibility and honesty. After opening the debate by noting that he'd "never give a veto to any country over our security," Kerry had this exchange:
LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?Other analysis: The New York Times, Dan Froomkin [this is an incredibly well put together note], CBS:
KERRY: The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here we have our own secretary of state who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.
I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And DeGaulle waved them off and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me."
How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way? So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America and how we lead the world. And Iran and Iraq are now more dangerous -- Iran and North Korea are now more dangerous.
Now, whether preemption is ultimately what has to happen, I don't know yet. But I'll tell you this: As president, I'll never take my eye off that ball. I've been fighting for proliferation the entire time -- anti-proliferation the entire time I've been in the Congress. And we've watched this president actually turn away from some of the treaties that were on the table.
You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations.
You have to earn that respect. And I think we have a lot of earning back to do.
"It's a misrepresentation of what Kerry said," reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller, "but it gave Mr. Bush a chance to score points - even two days after the debate.This observation isn't worth a post to itself: Bush is crossing the country ridiculing the French, people whose support we are trying to win. At the same time, he is accusing Kerry of alienating allies with his rhetoric. Rice's rationalization:
National security advisor Condoleezza Rice denied Sunday that Bush was holding France up to ridicule for saying in a campaign speech that Kerry would let ''countries like France'' decide when to use American force.
Bush's audience in Allentown, Pa., booed at the mention of France.
''There's no ridicule here. It's a statement of fact: The French didn't agree,'' Rice said on CNN's Late Edition.