Politics & Policy

Monday-Morning Quarterback

The comfort of hindsight.

The Bush campaign has hammered away at John Kerry as an incorrigible flip-flopper, but hasn’t said enough about a related Kerry vice: His tendency to be a Monday-morning quarterback who offers up 20/20 hindsight as though it were wisdom and foresight.

Consistent with the Democratic party’s love for liability law, Kerry is a stereotypical ambulance chaser. He waits for something to go wrong–the war in Iraq, the shortage of flu shots at home, anything–and then leaps forward to criticize and to smugly insinuate that he “would have” done better.

“When it comes to Iraq,” Kerry declared, “I would have done almost everything differently.” Of course, Kerry constantly proposes his alternatives after the fact, not before, when it might matter and when he might have to bear responsibility or blame.

Kerry wonders why, given our failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the president doesn’t join him in saying that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But the issue is totally misconceived. The question is not, as Kerry puts it, whether in light current information we should have invaded, but whether invading was the right call–indeed, the only call–given what was known at the time. A true leader must make decisions in real time, often with imperfect and incomplete information, and he must take responsibility for his actions.

Bush, not having the luxury to spin and fine-tune his arguments in light of history, recognized that if America decided in favor of preemptive war, better to do it sooner than later: U.N. sanctions and weapons inspections had failed; U.S. forces could be poised for attack for only so long; and Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, if indeed they existed, needed to be eliminated before they became operational.

Kerry, who supported the original war resolution, now criticizes Bush’s actions as hasty–even though he and other Democratic leaders, including Clinton and Gore, repeatedly warned about Saddam’s WMDs throughout the 1990s. In 1992 Gore even chastised the first President Bush for not reigning in Saddam’s WMD program–as Kerry, no doubt, would also have done in 2004 had President Bush not acted.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, Kerry was asked whether he thought the Iraq war was “worth it.” Kerry, despite his initial support, said no: “We should not have gone to war knowing the information we know today.” Sawyer, just to be sure, followed up with: “So it was not worth it?” Oh well, Kerry answered, it all “depends on the outcome ultimately and that depends on the leadership.” Sawyer, incredulous, wondered aloud: “So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?”

In that moment, Kerry revealed the depth of his cynicism and opportunism, as well as his utter unfitness for command.

Matthew Berke is a writer living in New Jersey.

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