Thursday, May 27, 2004

Kerry's latest policy speech 

The headline Kerry outlines global mission for U.S. is misleading to say the least. The Bush campaign wasn't far off the mark in saying that Kerry's latest policy speech offered "nothing new in terms of substance." Just more of the same calls for renewed alliances and multilateralism: "Alliances matter... we can't simply go it alone... working with other countries is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength." Okay, already. We've heard this a hundred times. Alliances won't magically fix our problems in Iraq. How is Kerry going to get us out of this mess?

There are good reasons for Kerry not to go into specifics on Iraq policy. Proposing a specific policy that he is powerless to implement, and which will likely become irrelevant as conditions on the ground change, is just inviting political criticism. Specific proposals would just give the attack dogs more grit to sink their teeth into. But knowing this doesn't make it any easier to listen to the same tired old line about alliances for the ninety-ninth time. Not only does it make Kerry sound boring, it makes him sound far too negative. If Kerry won't propose a constructive vision of his own, there's not much ground to cover other than Bush's failures. Sure, that's a vast territory, but it's important to have a positive vision in addition to criticism.

Kerry's unwillingness to go into details about Iraq policy seems to be part of a larger strategy of staying quiet while Bush digs his own grave. So far, that strategy is succeeding admirably. But I'd be amazed if Kerry can coast on Bush's failures all the way to November without ever having to outline a specific foreign policy vision of his own. And frankly, I'd feel a lot better if I knew that Kerry had a plan for how to get us out of this mess in Iraq. Kerry is a good enough politician to know that it can be dangerous to come out and take a stand. But great politicians know that sometimes you have to take a stand.
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