He’s Ready, Should a War Break Out

I made this point on our radio show on Saturday; it seems obvious, but I haven’t seen it made in this way.
In the key paragraph of his acceptance speech, John Kerry said:

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.

My question: What’s with the future tense? We’ve already been attacked, repeatedly, and everything the Bush administration has done to combat terrorism since Sept. 11 is part of its “swift and certain response” to those attacks. Logically, Kerry’s formulation seems to imply that, should he be elected, the terrorists will have a clean slate, and Kerry will await yet another attack before contemplating aggressive action against them. Otherwise, why the suggestion that he will be waiting for a new attack before launching a “swift and certain response”?
If you think this is reading too much into one paragraph of Kerry’s speech–albeit a paragraph that was crafted with extreme care, representing Kerry’s position on the key issue of the day–then consider this exchange, noted this morning by Glenn Reynolds:

On domestic issues, Kerry gave a “rock hard” pledge not to raise middle-class taxes if he becomes president, though he said a national emergency or war could change that.
Reminded that the country is at war already, Kerry said, “We’re going to reduce the burden in this war, and if we do what we need to do for our economy, we’re going to grow the tax base of our country.”

So the future tense in Kerry’s speech was no accident. In his view, we are not currently at war. But if someone should attack us during his administration–should an enemy bring down one of our office towers, attack one of our Navy’s ships, bomb our embassies abroad, attack the Pentagon, try to destroy the United States Capitol Building–well then, by golly, he’ll figure out a way to “respond.”
The choice in November really could hardly be more stark.

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