suggestion that terrorists support Sen. John F.
Kerry for president is ugly, but basically silly.
The suggestion that Kerry supports the terrorists
is flat-out disgusting. President Bush has allowed
surrogates to spread the former idea, but he himself
has helped to promote the latter. Last week, Bush
declared that Kerry's criticism of him and his
Iraq policy "can embolden an enemy" and called
Kerry "destructive" to the war on terror.
election day 2000 and through his first term,
Bush has talked a better game of democratic values
than he has played. And he is not one for nuances
in any event. But the point here is not subtle:
The right to criticize the policies of those in
power is not just one of democracy's fringe benefits;
it is essential to making the democratic machinery
work. And questions of war and peace ‹ dead young
Americans, dead Iraqis, a radicalized Middle East,
billions of dollars: Was it worth all this? ‹
are the ones that ne! ed democracy the most. Why
would any president even wish to plunge this country
into war and keep it there without a level of
support from the citizenry that is strong enough
to survive the obvious counterarguments?
own campaign strategy has put the events of 9/11
and their aftermath at the center of this election.
The president asks to be reelected based on the
claim that his response to that event has been
a success. It would be convenient for him if any
challenge to this notion were considered beyond
the pale. Increasingly convenient, in fact, as
the word "success" seems less and less applicable.
But Bush's convenience is not what this election
attempt to delegitimize criticism rather than
rebut it comes as part three of a three-part Republican
strategy. (At least we hope there are only three
parts.) Part one was the first wave of Swift boat
ads (and the ridiculous hoo-ha around them), raising
questions about Kerry's Vietnam service. From
there it was an easy leap to part two, the second
Swift boat wave and the accompanying fuss about
Kerry's leadership of the Vietnam antiwar movement.
Part three drives it all home: As during Vietnam,
so during Iraq. The guy is still at it, disloyally
attacking his own country in wartime and giving
aid and comfort to the enemy.
this page noted during the second Swift boat attack,
the Vietnam antiwar movement (or at least the
part of it Kerry was associated with) was the
essence of patriotism, trying to rescue our country
from a terrible mistake and to prevent the waste
of any more young lives. Those who attack Kerry
today for opposing the war back then overlook
the fact that the country came to agree with him.
If Kerry and others had refrained from criticism
out of a crude notion of patriotism and a misguided
"respect" for American troops, many more of those
troops would be long dead today.
position on Iraq is not a model of clarity and
consistency. His critique of the Bush policy has
the tang of opportunism. But he is more right
than wrong, certainly more right than Bush, and
in any event more within his rights to make the
argument than Bush is in trying to suppress it.
And, as with Vietnam, the nation's policy is gradually
shifting Kerry's way. Would Bush have made even
the halfhearted efforts of recent weeks to share
the burden and direction of the war with the United
Nations if he hadn't been looking over his shoulder
at the Democratic candidate for his job? To accuse
Kerry of aiding the enemy while taking his advice
with Kerry, George W. Bush is a coward. This is
not a reference to their respective activities
during Vietnam. It refers to the current election
campaign. Bush happily benefits from the slime
his supporters are spreading but refuses to take
responsibility for it or to call point-blank for
it to stop. He got away with this when the prime
mover was the shadowy Swift boats group. Will
he ge!t away with it when the accusers are his
own vice president, high officials of his own
administration (Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage) and members of Congress from his own
party (House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert or Sen.
Orrin Hatch)? The answer is yes: Based on recent
experience, he probably will get away with it.
Posted: September 29, 2004