Another conservative point-of-view on the debates:
Beginning with the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and the original JFK 44 years ago, style has often trumped substance in presidential campaigns. Aided by a set of questions authored by PBS's Jim Lehrer, which played directly into the hands of John Kerry and left President George Bush playing defense, the first presidential debate of 2004 was no exception. While the candidates' style points were close --- much closer than many expected --- it is substance, not style, which provides for the national-security interests of the United States.
While taking stage right to President Bush in last night's debate, Senator Kerry's stand --- or stands, shall we say --- on issues of national security placed him at far, far stage left. Style notwithstanding, the substance of Kerry's exchange on national security was anything but reassuring.
"My position on Iraq has been consistent." Sen. Kerry repeated those same words some half dozen times over the course of the 90-minute debate, so we just can't resist saying it: "Methinks he doth protest too much." (Of some mention, Kerry referenced his Vietnam "service" about half a dozen times, too.) Highlighting the "consistency" of his position, over the course of 90 minutes Kerry managed to say the war with Iraq was a "colossal error of judgment" on the part of the President and referred to the war as a "distraction" from "the real war on terror," but he managed to add that he believed Saddam was a threat when he voted to authorize the use of force, that the Iraqi people deserved to be free, and that he could "win the peace," while beginning to withdraw U.S. forces within six months, making our "bribed and coerced" allies, whose contributions he "respects," pick up the slack. He also implied he'd build a real coalition for Iraq, including France and Germany, and open reconstruction contracts to those nations --- the very ones who profited most (illegally under UNSC sanctions) from Saddam's rule, and who have both refused (as recently as this week) to be a part of any such coalition, even in the eventuality of a Kerry presidency. Consistent eh?
On the subject of our troops engaged in Iraq, Kerry remarked, "I understand what the president is talking about because I know what it means to lose people in combat. And the question, 'Is it worth the cost?,' reminds me of my own thinking when I came back from fighting in that war. And it reminds me that it is vital for us not to confuse the war --- ever --- with the warriors. That happened before."
More to the point, who was the one perpetuating that confusion? Was Kerry criticizing the war when he testified before Congress in 1971 of war crimes by U.S. forces in Vietnam? NO! --- Kerry was accusing U.S. troops in the field of countless atrocities, playing directly into the hands of the Communist North. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the Soviet bloc, said of Kerry's anti-American activities during the Vietnam War, "KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. ... As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements." General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam's most decorated military leader, wrote in retrospect that if not for the disunity created by Kerry and his ilk, Hanoi would have ultimately surrendered.
Kerry can't have it both ways. His undermining of U.S. resolve, and that of our allies, in the war against terrorism, specifically on the Iraqi warfront with Jihadistan, is a direct assault on Americans fighting in Iraq. American and Allied Forces, and countless Iraqis, are being injured and killed because of the political dissent Kerry and his ilk are fomenting --- not unlike the American casualties Kerry's 1971 protests caused in Vietnam.
Back to the war at hand, Kerry relentlessly attacked President Bush, saying, "Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us." Then, when asked about the most dangerous security threat in the world today, Kerry didn't hesitate to reply, "Nuclear proliferation," to which President Bush added, "in the hands of terrorists." Though we can --- and have --- laid bare Kerry's national-security credentials, President Bush said it best, last night: "To say there's only one focus in the war on terror doesn't really understand the nature of the war on terror...the front of this war is in more than one place."
Though he recognizes nuclear proliferation to be the imminent threat to our nation's security interests, Kerry seems not to grasp
-- dare we say it --- the "nuances" of dealing with such a threat. The Senator apparently thinks he can publicly ridicule Russian President Vladmir Putin as a tyrant one minute, then vow to secure all fissile materiel in the former Soviet bloc within four years the next minute. Does Kerry really believe we can do this apart from Russian cooperation? Who's the brazen unilateralist now?
To wit, Kerry's debate performance on these other fronts was equally disastrous. On the subject of Iran, Kerry was obviously confused on the whole issue of nuclear technology, as well as the historical facts concerning the sanctions against Iran.
The man who thought he spent Christmas in Cambodia first said we needed sanctions against Iran, then, when confronted with the fact that there are sanctions against Iran --- and you can't sanction them again --- Kerry blamed the President for the "unilateral" nature of those sanctions, to which Mr. Bush corrected, again, that those sanctions were in place "long before I came to Washington." Indeed, 29 October 1987, for the first set of sanctions, under President Reagan. 16 March 1995, under President Clinton, for a second set. 19 August 1997 for another set of sanctions, again under then President Clinton. Again, consistent?
By way of contrast, on the subject of North Korean nuclear armament, Kerry bemoaned the President's decision to abandon bilateral talks with dictator Kim Jung Il in favor of multilateral pressure --- a coalition, some might say --- involving China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. For some reason, when President Bush employs multilateral diplomacy it's a bad idea; Kerry would return to Clinton's tried-and-failed diplomacy of appeasement --- the same diplomacy under which North Korea was able to advance its nuclear program in secret, even adding enriched uranium to its plutonium-based weapons development.
And that's just how "consistent" Kerry can be in 90 minutes; let's not even think about four years.
Perhaps the key moment of the debate, as well as the point most clearly delineating just how stage left Kerry is on national security, was his comment, "No president through all of American history has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a way that passes the test. That passes the global test [original emphasis] where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing. And you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
Mr. Bush replied, "I'm not exactly sure what you mean: passes the 'global test.' You take pre-emptive action if you pass a global test? My attitude is you take pre-emptive action in order to protect the American people."
This tells all. The foreign-policy difference between Kerry and Bush is not multilateralism versus unilateralism. Both are, at times, legitimate tools of foreign policy, but not policies themselves. The difference, rather, is one of globalism versus national sovereignty in the promotion and defense of U.S. interests abroad. Kerry's globalist agenda, by his own admission, would sacrifice U.S. protection of her citizens and soldiers abroad to the caprices of the International Criminal Court. Kerry would seek UN approval for "preemptively" defending the United States --- approval of the same agency that so effectively issued no fewer than 17 resolutions against Saddam's Iraq and refused to enforce any of them, with Kofi Annan recently declaring the resolutions' enforcement "illegal."
With an approving reference to Charles DeGaulle, the French president who abandoned the U.S.-led coalition in the defense of the free world at a crucial moment of the Cold War, Kerry said he would restore our "credibility" with such leaders around the world. The Patriot unapologetically replies: It's time for these foreign leaders --- the likes of France and Germany, who have continued unhesitatingly to obstruct U.S. interests abroad and security around the globe --- to restore their credibility with us.
National security is not for the faint of heart, and John Kerry's feints of heart prove that the Senator from Massachusetts, replete with his history of foreign policy waffling and betrayal of the national trust, is simply not up to the task.
On the eve of our assault on al-Qa'ida and other Jihadistan forces in Afghanistan, President Bush addressed the nation, and closed with these words: "We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail." Indeed!