In his speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush was a beacon of coherence, further distancing himself from Senator's Kerry's incoherence on Iraq, as he again unapologetically stood by his decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The president's speech was a study in convictions (his) and contrasts (with Kerry). In his response, Kerry again mentioned few concrete proposals other than his previously stated promise to withdraw troops within four years.
In a barely veiled attack on nations that have deluded themselves into believing they can seek refuge from terrorism by refusing to confront it, the president said, "Eventually, there is no isolation from terror networks, or failed states that shelter them, or outlaw regimes, or weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, there is no safety in looking away, seeking the quiet life by ignoring the struggles and oppression of others."
The president was again correct to connect the former Iraqi regime and the current terrorists (would the media please stop calling them "militants"?) with the slaughter of Russian schoolchildren and the genocide taking place in Sudan.
Bush made a moral case to the U.N., a mostly amoral body that has difficulty deciding much and even more difficulty acting on the few decisions it does make, such as cranking out resolutions demanding compliance with U.N. mandates. Those resolutions have had the same impact as a parent who threatens to punish a disobedient child but fails to follow through. It doesn't take the child, or dictators, long to realize such threats are idle chatter because they lack enforcement.
In a response to the president's U.N. address, Senator Kerry said the president had "failed to level with the American people." That from someone who has been on so many sides of the Iraq issue he resembles a person suffering from multiple personality disorder.
As recently as last December, Kerry said, "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein and those who believe today that we are safer with his capture don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."
Kerry now says he is glad Saddam is gone, but he doesn't like the way the president chose to get rid of him. But Kerry has never provided a credible alternative to ousting Saddam, or said how he would have forced Saddam to comply with U.N. resolutions or stop the murder of his own people, beyond the already proven empty rhetoric of asking for help from our European "allies" (who have made it quite clear they have no intention of helping in Iraq no matter who is president next year).
Perhaps realizing that more help is not on the way, Kerry's response to the president's address included this slight position shift: "Even if other nations won't undertake risky operations, they can do something." Cooking, perhaps? Tour guides? Song leaders? Whatever could he mean?
War needs soldiers. Too many of those who want the benefits of peace are unwilling to fight for it under the misguided impression that their pacifism (or cowardice) will buy them protection. It won't. It only delays the inevitable threat to free people everywhere.
Kerry accused the president of "lecturing" instead of leading the U.N. delegates. Bush did nothing of the kind. What he did was call for them to live up to the principles of the U.N. Charter.
"I have faith in the transforming power of freedom," said the president. Does the U.N.? Does John Kerry, and, if he does, how does he intend to spread the blessings of liberty to others who deserve it? His suggestions to date have been mostly incoherent.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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