Considering the President’s faults, he is indeed fortunate to be facing the modern Democratic Party.
Not that the Democratic Party is entirely shiftless. On the major issue of the day, several of the primary candidates and several other prominent Democrats can maintain strong and credible positions. I continue to believe that Senator Joe Lieberman, as the nominee, could have outmatched Bush on the foreign policy front: strong support for the broad outlines of the Terror War, along with credibility in criticizing the President for his mistakes. Given this Administration’s rather lackluster communication ability, this could have been fatal.
But, alas, this is not the way things turned out. For whatever reasons, Senator John Kerry was the candidate who managed to survive the primary process. Polls afterwards suggested that Kerry was seen as “the electable candidate” of the field, a position I find puzzling given Kerry’s anti-war background in the Vietnam era and his subsequent political career.
Kerry is a mass of contradictions. A decorated war hero, he turned unconfirmed rumors concerning Vietnam atrocities into Senate testimony, which was later used against our prisoners of war. Having campaigned against and voted against strengthening our military time and again, he now proclaims that he will “restore” American strength. The supposed diplomat has uses his campaign stops to ridicule our current allies, all the while pinning his hopes on countries with long histories of opposing us who reject his overtures in advance. He proclaims his ability to bring more international help into the Iraq situation, even as he denigrates the effort generally, thus alienating any world leaders from participating. While he has said before that the Iraq elections will not be able to be conducted on time, he brushed off and insulted the current UN-approved government when its leader visited, despite the fact that he would have to work with this leader as President if the elections are postponed or if the current Iraqi leadership were to win.
(For a recent example of John Kerry’s diplomacy in real life, read this account. In sum, Kerry’s proclaimed support for Haiti’s former leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has encouraged pro-Aristide guerillas, causing an upswing of violence in Haiti that the Brazilian peacekeepers are now complaining about.)
In non-war issues, he isn’t much better. He would reverse the “tax cut for the rich” while preserving it for everyone else; charges that this would hit small businesses as well, possibly costing jobs, go unanswered in favor of class warfare rhetoric. And the money gained by repealing that tax cut is spent many times over: on defense, education, veteran’s benefits, health care, Social Security, and so on. This “chicken in every pot” mentality has caused him to overpromise: his domestic policies now contradict each other, and as President he will be unable to fulfill them all. Which promises will remain unfulfilled by President Kerry? It’s hard to say.
If Bush’s signature weakness is communication, Kerry’s is confusion. Bush seems to know what he wants to do, but can’t seem to get his message across; Kerry, on the other hand, seems to have no message besides “Bush screwed up” and “I have a plan”. Given all that’s at stake, I’d rather have a poor communicator than a poor decision-maker.