For a guy teeming with integrity, that was one dishonest speech. After accusing George Bush of “misleading” us into a war because he wanted to fight a war, that he fought “on the cheap,” and of presiding over venal, lawless officials, and kicking kids out of after school programs to give Enron another tax break, and denying health care to veterans, etc. etc. Kerry made a phony pitch for a positive campaign. He called on the President to join him in building “unity in the American family” and said, “let’s respect one another.” He hastened to add that would be a lot easier if the President would stop abusing the Constitution for crass political purposes. P.S. The homeless are back! Did they de-camp from Lafayette Park during the Clinton years?
But that still leaves a consideration of Kerry’s missing Senate record, the Vietnam variations at play in the speech, and the national security policy implicit in Kerry’s criticisms and recommendations.
Kerry’s Senate record strongly tells against much of Kerry’s speech (such as his hit-and-run shot on body armor for the troops). For a quick first take, see Ben Johnson’s “Kerry’s self-indictment.” On the Vietnam variations, see Lawrence Kaplan’s “Apocalypse Kerry.”
On the national security policy implicit in the speech, I haven’t found anything helpful yet. It is striking, however, that Kerry’s criticism of pre-emption actually appears to endorse military action only after another attack:
I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.
Indeed, in the proposition that “our national security begins with homeland security,” the Kerry doctrine appears to be something close to the mirror image of the Bush doctrine:
And the front lines of this battle are not just far away they’re right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any city or town. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn’t be letting 95% of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn’t be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn’t be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.
Despite its quicksilver shiftiness, Kerry’s speech will come back to haunt him in the campaign.