Politics & Policy

Kerry’s Iraq Attack

The campaign gets around to the key issue.

John Kerry plans to make a fall campaign push on Iraq. Since this issue has been one of his major weaknesses (Quick: Describe his position in a sentence with five clauses or less), this latest new-and-improved Kerry strategy seems folly. But it is conceivable (although not likely) that Kerry can make a comeback based on Iraq. Here is why the gambit at least makes sense and how–if he makes the right moves–it could work for him.

NECESSITY: John Kerry will not win the election trailing President Bush by 20 points on national security. Pointing to the chaos in Iraq offers the best opportunity to dent Bush’s national-security credentials.

ATMOSPHERICS: Bush loses every time there is a picture of another car bombing in Iraq. So the summer helped him, when there were two political conventions and the Olympics, among other things, to keep Iraq on the back pages. The more Kerry highlights Iraq–rather than Vietnam or health care or whatever–the more incentive the media have to cover events in Iraq.

TRUTHFULNESS: The Democrats have wasted a few weeks trying to erode Bush’s reputation for honesty by picking away at his National Guard record. But no one cares much about 35-year-old events. On Iraq, Bush is forced to give the sunniest possible picture, one that will depart from more pessimistic analyses within the government (witness the recent National Intelligence Estimate) and perhaps even from reality. It is here that meaningful points can be scored against his truth-telling.

FERTILE GROUND: Although support for the Iraq War ticked up after the Republican Convention, the public has been roughly divided on whether it’s been worth it for most of the year. This shows that about half of the people have some inclination to agree with Kerry if he makes a four-square case against the war.

If it makes sense to focus on Iraq, what should Kerry say and do?

FLIP-FLOP AGAIN: Repudiating his Iraq authorization vote would be the mother of all Kerry flip-flops. But it would finally give Kerry an Iraq position that is coherent, even if it has been inconsistent over time. You can’t argue that we have been misled into a mistaken war, yet stand by your vote to authorize the “mistake.”

RESORT TO NATIONALISTIC DEMAGOGUERY: U.S. troops have been essentially placed at the disposal of a foreign government. Kerry should pledge never to allow this abdication of a commander in chief’s responsibility to happen again. A cheap shot? Yeah, but you better believe Republicans would take it if a Democrat were in office now.

ATTACK HALF MEASURES: Kerry should say he would never undertake an assault on enemy forces and then pull back to leave the job undone, exposing U.S. troops to the depredations of the enemy they were about to smash. This is pretty much what happened in Fallujah.

HAMMER THE “POLITICIZED WAR”: It has been domestic political considerations in Iraq that have kept U.S. troops from going all out in Fallujah and elsewhere. This is natural, since war always has to be related to its political goals, in this case creating a stable, legitimate Iraq government. But it provides fodder for another line of attack: for Kerry to denounce the “politicized war.” He can also claim that American politics are keeping Bush from flushing out enemy areas, since he allegedly doesn’t want to risk more U.S. casualties right before the election.

Of course, Kerry’s Iraq attack might prove futile. Most of these criticisms come at Bush from the right. Kerry won’t be able to make them convincingly–or at all–if he doesn’t believe them. In his heart, he probably still believes there is a French division somewhere over the horizon that will bail us out in Iraq, if only we bow and scrape enough. In any case, now the election will turn on exactly what it should, and be won or lost on the most important issue facing the country.

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.

(c)2004 King Features Syndicate

Most Popular

Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More
Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do You Want 51 or 52 States Next Year?

“The prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have never been greater, but many significant obstacles loom,” The Hill declares. The Constitution declares, “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do You Want 51 or 52 States Next Year?

“The prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have never been greater, but many significant obstacles loom,” The Hill declares. The Constitution declares, “new States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction ... Read More