The Opposition’s Missed Opportunity

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.

10 thoughts on “The Opposition’s Missed Opportunity

  1. This is silly. To begin with, the general has recanted his comments.

    Kerry made the statement more than seven months ago. His statement was also in keeping with what Colin Powell said here:

    Mr. Powell called on Mr. Aristide to help defuse the situation by putting in place a political agreement, brokered with other Caribbean nations, to disarm his loyalists, reform the police and welcome political opponents into a new governing council.

    Mr. Powell said the United States would not support Mr. Aristide’s removal in a coup.

    “We cannot buy into a proposition that says the elected president must be forced out of office by thugs,” the secretary said. [my emphasis]

    That’s essentially what happened.

    Haiti has a literacy rate of just over 50% according to the CIA Factbook. The language is French and Haitian Creole. The communications infrastructure is devastated.

    That dog won’t hunt.

  2. Kerry on Haiti in February:

    ”This administration has been engaged in very manipulative and wrongful ways,” Kerry said. “They have a theological and an ideological hatred for Aristide. They always have. They approached this so the insurgents were empowered by this administration.”

    That doesn’t sound very much in accord with Powell. In fact, it sounds like a contradiction of Powell.

    Neither does this:

    On Haiti, Mr. Kerry said that if he were president, he would consider threatening to deploy an international peacekeeping force to persuade the insurgents to back away from their goal of toppling Mr. Aristide.

    His message to the rebels, Mr. Kerry said, would be: “You’re not going to take over. You’re not kicking him out. This democracy is going to be sustained. We’re willing to put in a new government, new prime minister, we’re willing to work with you, but you’re not going to succeed in your goal of exile” for Mr. Aristide.

    The general’s sentiment to not influence a foreign election is admirable, but the damage has already been done. He does not retract his statements so much as distance his employers (Brazil, the UN) from them.

    Moreover, this does not address my general point: far from being a super-diplomat, Kerry has already shown a track record of incompetence in fostering good relations with other nations, specifically our closest allies and the Iraqi government.

  3. The second comment is in keeping in line with what Powell said.

    In any event, no one but Heleno and the Kerry bashers have provided any linkage between the statements. Heleno is angry and frustrated. Consider what he said to the same Brazilian news agency he made the comment about kerry to:

    [Reporter] We have a news agency report here from Washington, USA, which says that the United States accuse supporters of the deposed president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, of using violence to destabilize the government and obstruct the work of the international troops to restore order in the country. At the moment, are the Brazilian troops redoubling their efforts in relation to this security issue?

    [Gen Heleno] That is correct, we have established some strongholds in strategic locations throughout the city, with small-scale patrols and light patrols who are able to take rapid action. It is not possible to define whether these groups are Chimeres, who are the supporters of ex-President Aristide, who were armed at that time. It is difficult to say who is a Chimere and who is a bandit, but the actions of these small groups end up causing the population to live in fear.

    Haiti has a panic syndrome, it is a country where rumours spread like wildfire. Sometimes, two or three shots fired in the air in the city centre are enough for the radio stations, which are the major means of communication here, to report that the city is in chaos just a few minutes later. And we are also experiencing a situation of psychological warfare, manufactured by someone who is in command of these groups. And psychological warfare has an immediate effect here. [my emphasis]

    Three days before he popped off about Kerry,the ame general said that he didn’t know if it even was the Cimeres or common thieves committing these attacks. kerry is not to blame here.

  4. One last point: no one has provided any actual linkage between Kerry’s statements and the violence. This is merely General Heleno making a comment and not providing any support for his statement. As for proof it doesn’t even rise to the level of hearsay.

  5. Is Kerry speaking in line with Colin Powell?

    If he is, he is essentially blasting the Bush adminstration for doing what he would have done. Which, again, speaks to my thesis: Kerry is confused.

    If not, your quotes show by themselves Kerry’s willingness to undermine a multilateral solution to a thorny problem, in apparent contradiction to his preferred diplomatic approach. (Not that it would be the first; see North Korea for another example.)

    I will not quibble if you are trying to show that the general doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I think it’s clear what he said, and that he still believes it. You don’t like what he said; well, there are a lot of people saying things I don’t like, and with far fewer qualifications in the area they’re talking about than a general would have regarding military matters. So, on that, I will let the evidence speak for itself, and let people make up their own minds.

    And I still don’t see how the substance of my post is discredited by any of this.

  6. Jeff,

    There’s no proof linking Kerry’s statement to anyone’s actions, just General Heleno’s comment. Again, it doesn’t rise to the level of hearsay, it’s just unsupported opinion and doesn’t prove that anything Kerry has said “has encouraged pro-Aristide guerillas, causing an upswing of violence in Haiti that the Brazilian peacekeepers are now complaining about.”

  7. But there is proof–the general’s statement. And I expect generals to have greater credibility when speaking on issues of peacekeeping than random blog posters I’ve never heard of before.

    Of course, you could post some proof that Haitian pro-Aristide insurgents are not in fact drawing support from Kerry’s statements. Or you could produce proof that this particular general is incompetent. Or you could post proof that you are a better general than he is.

    Forgive me for not holding my breath on seeing any of these soon.

  8. “But there is proof–the general’s statement”

    No, that’s an opinion. I’ll type slowly this time: It doesn’t rise to the level of hearsay. He provided no linkage, just his statement and it doesn’t amount to proof no matter how hard you want to believe it.

  9. It doesn’t rise to the level of hearsay.

    The general is in Haiti, and is actually running things. You are not. The general is, well, a general. You are not. Yet you actually expect me to believe you, and disbelieve the general. On what basis? Your good looks?

    If you tell me how things are in Haiti, sitting at your comfy desk in the USA, that’s hearsay. If he tells me how things are in Haiti, sitting at his less-comfy desk in Haiti, I’m going to assume he’s probably right unless someone can present some evidence to contradict him. What other information do I have from which to form an opinion?

    I cannot credibly claim, to use a parallel example, that Gen. Shinseki’s “opinion” regarding troop levels in Iraq “doesn’t rise to the level of hearsay”, despite the fact that his claims are less credible in that several other generals disagree with him. I don’t like his conclusions, but I cannot wave them off so easily. Why? He’s a general. At one time, he ran at least part of the show. Thus, he has credibility I can never hope to have. His opinions are not very convenient, but that’s just too bad for me.

    Again, for the umpteenth time, if you have evidence that this general is wrong, post it. You seem very committed to the thesis that this general is off his rocker; I’m going to be charitable and assume you formed this belief based on some evidence, and not just because you want to disbelieve whatever isn’t convenient. I’m willing to be convinced, but I need something to work with here.

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