Under Washington's new scorched-earth ethic of bitter partisanship, there is a supermajority requirement for any significant action. Nothing as important as increasing the progressivity of the income tax or confirming important judges can happen without the support of 60 senators. Both candidates' promises, and their warnings about what the other fellow will do, should cause voters to ask the calming question: Will 60 senators support that?
Foreign policy is the realm of presidential freedom from Congress -- too much so -- and is Kerry's primary interest. But disregard, as voters will, Kerry's complaints about how Bush entered the war that Kerry (and Edwards) supported. Looking ahead, as voters do, what is the big difference between Kerry and Bush?
It is Kerry's vague promise to do something that he says Bush cannot do -- mend America's breach with ``the world,'' and especially with Europe. But in seeking help in Iraq, Bush already has gone, Stetson in hand, to ``the world,'' in the form of the United Nations, and to Europe, in his request for NATO to accept a mission there.
Furthermore, on his recent European trip Bush again aggravated many Europeans by urging the European Union to act favorably on Turkey's desire to join. Few American voters have thought about this subject, but America has an interest in further integrating into the West -- Turkey has long been an important NATO member -- a mostly Muslim nation that is, so far, secular and democratic.
Hesitation by the EU is understandable. Admitting Turkey would extend the EU's borders to Syria and Iraq. The reforms Turkey must make to become congruent with EU values are not complete. And smaller European nations, especially, worry about Turkey's size. The Financial Times notes that in 10 years, when Turkey's population might be 80 million, it might have more votes in EU affairs than Germany will have.
But if, as president, Kerry would abandon support for Turkey in order to avoid friction with Europe, he should say why. And if he would risk that friction on Turkey's behalf, he must acknowledge, to Bush's benefit, that international harmony is not the highest aim of foreign policy.