John F. Kerry in 2004?

A skeptical blog examining John F. Kerry's candidacy for President in 2004.

"The longest journey begins with the first step. And that first step is electing John Kerry." -- Howard Dean, 3/25/04

Why Blog about Kerry?
The means influence the ends
Comparing Kerry and Bush's record from 1966 - 1973
Kerry's service record and biography
"I request duty in Vietnam."

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Friday, May 28, 2004

National Security Week 

This is a great start:

As president, on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: This commander-in-chief will ensure that you are the best-led, best-equipped and most respected fighting force in the world. You will be armed with the right weapons, schooled in the right skills, and fully prepared to win on the battlefield. But you will never be sent into harm’s way without enough troops for the task, or asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

And you will never be given assignments which have not been clearly defined and for which you are not professionally trained.

This Administration has disregarded the advice, wisdom, and experience of our professional military officers. And often ended the careers of those who dared to give their honest assessments. That is not the way to make the most solemn decisions of war and peace. As president, I will listen to and respect the views of our experienced military leaders – and never let ideology trump the truth

Kerry also had some tough love for the Saudi regime:

If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally be serious about confronting the role of Saudi Arabia in financing and providing ideological support of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We cannot continue this Administration’s kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money. As President, I will impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that engage in money laundering or fail to act against it. I will launch a “name and shame” campaign against those that are financing terror. And if they do not respond, they will be shut out of the U.S. financial system.

The same goes for Saudi sponsorship of clerics who promote the ideology of Islamic terror. To put it simply, we will not do business as usual with Saudi Arabia. They must take concrete steps to stop their clerics from fueling the fires of Islamic extremism.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, he closed with a true unifying message that is probably beyond the comprehension of the ruling party in power:

I have spoken today about the architecture of a new national security policy. But at issue here is not just a set of prescriptions; at stake is a vision of an America truly stronger and truly respected in the world. This is not a partisan cause. Patriotism doesn’t belong to any one Party or President. And if I am President, I will enlist the best among us, regardless of party, to protect the security of this nation.

I am beginning to feel a sense of optimism I haven't felt in years about the future.

posted by Aziz P. | 6:49 AM

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command" 

"When I was in the Navy, the captain of the boat was in charge and the captain always took responsibility," Kerry told teachers and students at Colton High School. "Today I have a message for the men and women of our Armed forces ... I will take responsibility for the bad as well as the good."
Kerry also accused Bush of being out of the loop on the Iraqi prisoner abuse. Bush expressed annoyance at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld because he was not told the severity of the abuse until he saw on television last week the photographs of U.S. soldiers mocking naked prisoners.

"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said.

Will Rumsfeld be fired? Josh Marshall - optimistically predicting that Rumsfeld is finished - still observes that Accountability takes a back seat to something much higher priority in this Administration: re-election.

Confirmation hearings for a new Sec Def would, I think, inevitably turn into a national forum for discussing the management of the Pentagon, the planning for the war and the lack of planning for the occupation. The new nominee would be drawn into all sorts of uncomfortble public second-guessing of what's happened up until this point. Sure, that's stuff under Rumsfeld. But, really, it's stuff under Bush -- the civilian head of the United States military.

That, I have to imagine, is something the White House would like to avoid at any cost.

posted by Aziz P. | 1:49 PM

demand more 

I hate disagreeing with Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis, but I think it would be suicidal to vote against the $25b request for Iraq and Afghanistan. First of all, the money is badly needed for body armor, etc. Second, the war in Afghanistan is underfunded as it is. Third, there's still a Homeland Defense Credibility gap to cross with swing undecided voters, and voting against this money gives all too easy a soundbite to the opposition (Tom Delay already invoked the Support Our Troops meme).

What Kerry has to do is demand more money - about $40b. Make the discrepancy large enough that it becomes a wedge between Bush and the fiscal conservatives. Kerry needs to emphasise that this war has been fought on the cheap with poor planning, and that the troops still don't have the body armor they need. Given that the Senate will grill Rumsfeld on the failures of training and discipline, Kerry's message that the troops are not being supported by the Administration will resonate.

I don't see a flaw in asking for more money - either Bush refuses, and erodes his own credibility, or concedes in which case Kerry gets the credit and Bush inherits the consequences from within the GOP.

posted by Aziz P. | 11:47 AM

Sunday, May 02, 2004

November is a referendum on incumbent leadership 

US Presidents are limited to two four-year terms[1]. Elections held after the second term are really a referendum on the challenger, and in 2000 Gore ultimately failed (I've written before on why the 2000 election represented the highest ideal of our system of government).

Elections held after the first term, however, are a referendum on the incumbent. A President who'se only claim to fitness for office is "I'm better than the alternative" is guilty of lowering the bar of public expectation. Such an attitude essentially justifies any failure of judgement or systematic deficit of leadership, because such am incumbent can always demonize the opponent infinitely worse. In the modern age, such demonization (called the politics of personal destruction) is all too easy for a well-funded political party, and a temptation that neither party can resist.

The way to begin raising the bar is to evaluate a President after their first term - and punish failure. Not failure as simple disagreement with policy positions, but failure of true leadership, failure in those respects where the President should be acting - and leading - as the Executive for all Americans, on issues that transcend the minor issues such as abortion and taxes and immigration. The score card for Leadership contains items like vision for America's role in the world, defense of the homeland, a commitment the Administration's own rhetoric on foreign policy, a willingness and dapatbility to recognize error and change course when needed.

A President who disagrees with me on social issues is tolerable, and even neccessary at times to maintain the ongoing national debate. But a President who fails to Lead is not tolerable, regardless of party affiliation or whether I voted for them or not.

I disagree with President Bush on social issues, and reserved the right to vote against him, based on that disagreement. But After 9-11, he had me on-board. I will never forget how he stood up on MY behalf as an American muslim and spoke needed words of restraint to the nation about a rush to judgement. I'll never hate him as a person. However, on the Leadership front, he has failed me and he has failed my nation. WARNING EXPLICIT LINKS NOT FOR CHILDREN The photos of the shocking torture and rape of Iraqi POWs at the Abu Ghuraib prison are ultimately a failure of policy, a failure of example, a failure of priorities, a failure of resolve[2]. This is just the most graphic symptom of a systematic failure to commit to the Iraq war the resources that were needed to succeed - and were this the Former President H.W. Bush executing the war, none of these failures would have been evident.

You must now take a detour and read Ginmar's Journal entry. It is a cleansing salve for the sickness of the Iraqi POW torture-rape story. If you clicked the graphic link above, you don't know how much you need to read this. But you do. Read it now.

Why am I reminded of the former President Bush? John Kerry spoke at Westminster College in Missouri and had this to say about how he would prosecute this war:

I believe that failure is not an option in Iraq. But it is also true that failure is not an excuse for more of the same.

Here is how we must proceed.

First, we must create a stable and secure environment in Iraq. That will require a level of forces equal to the demands of the mission. To do this right, we have to truly internationalize both politically and militarily: we cannot depend on a US-only presence. In the short-term, however, if our commanders believe they need more American troops, they should say so and they should get them.

But more and more American soldiers cannot be the only solution. Other nations have a vital interest in the outcome and they must be brought in.

To accomplish this, we must do the hard work to get the world?s major political powers to join in this mission. To do so, the President must lead. He must build a political coalition of key countries, including the UK, France, Russia and China, the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, to share the political and military responsibilities and burdens of Iraq with the United States.

The coalition should endorse the Brahimi plan for an interim Iraqi government, it should propose an international High Commissioner to work with the Iraqi authorities on the political transition, and it should organize an expanded international security force, preferably with NATO, but clearly under US command.

Once these elements are in place, the coalition would then go to the UN for a resolution to ratify the agreement. The UN would provide the necessary legitimacy. The UN is not the total solution but it is a key that opens the door to participation by others.

In parallel, the President must also go to NATO members and others to contribute the additional military forces and to NATO to take on an organizing role. NATO is now a global security organization and Iraq must be one of its global missions.

To bring NATO members and others in, the President must immediately and personally reach out and convince them that Iraqi security and stability is a global interest that all must contribute to. He must also convince NATO as an organization that Iraq should be a NATO mission?a mission consistent with the principles of collective security that have formed the basis of the alliance?s remarkable history in the pursuit of peace and security.

To bring others in it is imperative we share responsibility and authority. When NATO members have been treated with respect, they have always ? always ? answered the call of duty. So too with other key contributors. Every one has a huge stake in whether Iraq survives its trial by fire or is consumed by fire and becomes a breeding ground for terror, intolerance and fear.

This is an argument of enlightened self-interest to our allies, not bluster about expectations of obedience. These words could have been spoken by our first President Bush equally well. That is in fact the game plan that he pursued in building the Coalition to free Kuwait. This approach worked then, it worked in Kosovo, and it will work now. The truth is that the current President, bound by forces within his Administration and a basic lack of will to assert leadership, or even attempt to articulate his specific plan and vision for how to proceed, is a failure. The election is a referendum indeed so that the next occupant als understands that the Electorate will hold him accountable in the same manner.

[1] Amendment XII, passed in 1951 because the GOP chafed under the four-term war leadership of FDR.
[2] As usual, Phil Carter has the best military legal analysis of the case, and Juan Cole has the best political analysis of the effect on American credibility, not with the mythical Arab Street, but with the very-real and essential-to-the-domino-theory Arab middle class and imntellectual elite, who are receptive to our mission but distrustful of our motives.

posted by Aziz P. | 11:57 AM