Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Will and Den Beste Debate Debate Questions for Kerry

George Will's Sunday NY Post column listed questions the media should, but isn't, asking John Kerry:
[W]hat does the adjective mean n the phrase "special interest"? Is the National Education Association a special interest? The AFL-CIO?

You abhor "special tax giveaways for the privileged and special interests." When supporting billions in ethanol subsidies, mostly for agribusinesses, did you think about corn-growing, caucus-holding Iowa?

Is the National Rifle Association a "special interest"? Is "special" a synonym for "conservative"?
There's lots more. It's a good list. But I prefer uber-thinker Steven Den Beste's list (formed with help from readers). Den Beste's proposal is simple, succinct and short:
1) Do you believe we are in a war?

2) If so, do you intend to win this war?

3) If so, how do you intend to win this war?
I don't think Kerry could answer, in part because he'd choke on myriad previous (but opposite) positions. Even better, Den Beste's approach might force voters to identify priorities. As Byron York discovered on "Super Tuesday," Democrats have forgotten the war:
In four of the five states for which exit polls are available--Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina--Democratic voters placed national security/terrorism at the bottom of the list. Only in tiny Delaware, on the east coast and not far from Ground Zero, did Democrats place more emphasis on the issue--and even then, it was in next-to-last place.
This seems crazy, but is echoed by Jim VandHei's description of the Democrats' election strategy, in the WaPo:
Voters this year likely will be presented with two clear, but not dramatically different, approaches to solving the nation's domestic problems, ranging from failing schools to soaring drug costs.
The President's re-election campaign must challenge such torpor. Bush should remind America that there is one, overriding domestic issue in this election: protecting civilians from murder by Muslim extremists. Three thousand already are dead, and the President's most important duty is minimizing or preventing further terrorist attacks.

Despite the exit polls, I think most Americans consider the war the nation's top priority (the far-left is over-represented in Democrat primaries). This election will be decided by voters horrified that irrational bandits could threaten their family or its prosperity. We're a nation of immigrants, proud of our achievements, and of America's too. We detest terrorists--Arab or home-grown--who prefer chaos to cultivation and murder to forward movement. We, our fathers or our grandfathers, came here to escape similar anarchy or authoritarianism; we'll be no man's slave. We've thrived under American democracy and the rule of law. So far, it's been a fairy tale--but we know magic alone won't thwart 21st century foes.

Democrat presidential candidates are stuck in the fairy tale. They yak about something--anything--other than war, hoping no one lifts the foreign policy curtain, or stays awake for the third reel. That's because the left hasn't had a foreign policy since Vietnam. Unless you count "unilaterally" revoking promises to defend South Vietnam; ignoring Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe while insisting America's maintaining parity threatened global annihilation; kissing, and funding, Arafat; and downplaying or ignoring Saddam--except to distract from scandal.

Senator Kerry's typical of the breed. In campaign speeches, Kerry's always opposed war--or peace, or anything proposed by anyone named Bush. Except, er, when he didn't.
Kerry [has a] dual stand on the military campaign that liberated Iraq -- he voted for it but vehemently condemns it. In 1991, by contrast, he did the opposite: He voted against using force to roll back Iraq's invasion of Kuwait yet he claims it was an operation he firmly supported. "I believed we should kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait," Kerry told The Washington Post last month.
This is expediency without consistency. Even his manner is odd--on any other issue, Senator Kerry is the "Knight of the Woeful Countenance." Yet, when the subject turns to war--particularly Kerry's service in Vietnam--his macho bellicosity undercuts the "peace at any price" message.

Kerry's been worse since he's been winning. It's almost as if he's deliberately inarticulate on war and peace. In Sunday's Wisconsin debate, Senator Kerry ranked his foreign policy number one with a bullet:
This is one of the reasons why I am so intent on beating George Bush and why I believe I will beat George Bush, because one of the lessons that I learned -- when I was an instrument of American foreign policy, I was that cutting-edge instrument. I carried that M- 16. I know what it's like to try to choose between friend and foe in a foreign country when you're carrying out the policy of your nation.

And I know what it's like when you lose the consent and the legitimacy of that war. And that is why I said specifically on the floor of the Senate that what I was voting for was the process the president promised.

There was a right way to do this and there was a wrong way to do it. And the president chose the wrong way because he turned his back on his own pledge to build a legitimate international coalition, to exhaust the remedies of the United Nations in the inspections and to go to war as a matter of last resort.
So, Kerry proposes morphing into Rambo, grabbing a rifle, ducking friendly (e.g., French) fire, and bringing the fight to. . .who? Not Iraq--quelle horror! Certainly not the U.N. Hmmm. On second thought, let's recall Rambo until we've played "mother may I?" with 191 U.N. nations. Oops!, they're all out to lunch, but I'm told we've won a significant concession from the Mali delegation, which promised to meet sometime next fall.

More seriously, though Kerry clearly faults Bush's diplomacy, the Senator's shy on practical alternatives. Andrew Sullivan says such Kerry's tales aren't enough:
The president went to the Security Council twice to achieve support. Twice--after twelve years of Democratic and Republican administrations grappling with the perceived threat from Saddam. The relevant question therefore is: What would Kerry have done after the failure of the second resolution? Stand down the military? Retreat before Saddam and Chirac? Demobilize? Call for more inspections? Unless he can tell us precisely what he would have done differently in this "process," his positioning is just, well, positioning.
Issues like re-vamping social security, tort reform, economic growth and Judicial appointments are important. But, post 9-11, America needs leaders who deliver more than small-ball. Sketchy platitudes and a hairdo won't do.

John Kerry wants to be Commander in Chief of a country at war. Applicants for that position must first pass an exam--Steven Den Beste's three questions. This threshold test is mandatory for the job seekers, whether their resume came from a search firm (Kerry), from the "inside" (Cheney) or even from the boss (Bush). Of course, final consideration will be limited to candidates whose exam scores are 100 percent or better.

Now everyone pick up your number 2 pencils.