WASHINGTON -- When John Kerry speaks tonight he may promise, again, to cut corporate taxes and increase the size of the military by 40,000 persons. Both ideas are sensible -- and tactical. They are supposed to blunt Republican charges that he stands on one side of a vast ideological chasm separating the parties. Democrats make similar, and similarly silly, charges about this election as the hinge on which American and world history will turn.
What is strange about politics today is not just that it is so passionate -- particularly on the part of Democrats unhinged by their loathing of George W. Bush -- but that the passions seem displaced. They are not merely disproportionate to the parties' policy differences, they seem almost unrelated to those differences.
Would Democrats loathe Bush much less if 9/11 and hence the Iraq War had never happened? The depth of their loathing of him after the Florida unpleasantness but before his inauguration suggests otherwise. And Republicans relishing -- the verb fits -- their fear of Kerry cannot have missed the fact that, like most political careerists whose compass is caution, he actually represents a remarkably unremarkable response to Bush's policies.
Like Bush, Kerry says that success in Iraq is necessary, and he defines success as Bush does -- Iraq secure, prosperous and democratic. The drama of a Kerry presidency would not be in his attempts to enlist ``the world'' in helping to achieve that, but in his reaction to his failure to do so.
Kerry says he would not rule out pre-emptive military action, but Bush probably exhausted his ability to take such action by doing so against a nation that lacked the attribute that could justify it -- possession of weapons of mass destruction by a regime likely to use them. Yes, the world is better off because Bush rid Iraq of the regime that filled the mass graves, but he does not argue that human rights horrors justify pre-emptive war.
The first crisis of the next presidential term probably will be Iran's approaching possession of nuclear weapons. Bush's policy already is Kerryesque: ask ``the world'' to help. It is not working.