The Corner

Speaking of Endorsements

Let me put my belated two cents in on Sullivan’s endorsement of Kerry (I found the Galt link at his site). I am not persuaded by the argument that the responsibility of governing would force Kerry and his party to be aggressive and smart in fighting terrorism, for the reasons that other commentators have mentioned; and I think the “hawkish case for Kerry” in general depends on ignoring not only his record and his base but some of his comments from this year. (I think Kerry’s occasional remarks during this campaign about not having changed on 9/11 and our needing to go back to the status quo ante were revealing, and alarming.) At the same time, the underlying impulse to get the Democrats to “buy in” to the war is right. But I think that the better way to do that may be to defeat them in 2004, in the hope that they nominate someone more hawkish in 2008.

Second: A number of critics have raised the question whether Sullivan is being a “one-issue voter,” who is letting his strong opposition to the FMA determine his positions on other issues. He denies it. Perhaps the same-sex marriage debate has colored his view of Bush and Kerry: Can any of us really say with 100 percent confidence why we believe all the things we do? To be Breyer-like for a moment: I can’t say with 100 percent confidence that I wouldn’t cut Kerry more slack in other areas if he were pro-life. I’d like to think it wouldn’t affect my judgment about his foreign policy, but who knows? All we can do is try to make sure that our arguments are sound.

One more thing: People are a little too dismissive of “single issue voters.” I’m not such a voter myself. But if you believe that same-sex marriage is a matter of fundamental human rights and that the denial thereof is discrimination, you pretty much have to believe that the FMA would write discrimination into the Constitution and perhaps even that it’s an assault on the human dignity of gay people. And if you believe those things, is it so terrible to give the issue a lot of weight in making a decision about the election? If a candidate were running on a platform of banning interracial marriage–which Sullivan considers an analogous issue–we wouldn’t scoff at someone who said, “I’m voting against this guy, and I don’t care what he has to say about taxes or missile defense.” Not to say that Sullivan is right in all these things, just that the single-issue accusation doesn’t strike me as all that damning. If anything, Sullivan may be too defensive about it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.