George Will

WASHINGTON -- Mr. Kerry, in your convention speech you threw caution to the wind and endorsed what you called ``one of the oldest Commandments: `Honor thy father and thy mother.''' Oldest? Were they not all published together?

     Here are some other questions:

     You invoke the Commandment to explain why you ``will not cut'' Social Security benefits. Does that include raising the retirement age, which Congress set at 65 in 1935, when the life expectancy of an American male was 62?

     Regarding military action, your platform says ``we will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake.'' But the platform's preceding paragraph denounces President Bush's ``doctrine of unilateral pre-emption.'' If unilateralism is wrong, are you not committed to some sort of ``green light from abroad''?

     Are you glad that in 1981 Israel set back Iraq's nuclear weapons program with a unilateral pre-emptive attack on the reactor near Baghdad?

     Your platform says: ``A nuclear-armed Iran is an unacceptable risk.'' But Iran's radical Islamist regime is undeterred by diplomatic hand-wringing about its acquisition of nuclear weapons, which may be imminent. Is pre-emptive military action against Iran feasible, or are its nuclear facilities too dispersed and hardened? What would you do other than accept Iran as a nuclear power?

     Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian says, ``We have reached an internal consensus that insists on Taiwan being an independent sovereign country.'' Beijing's military chief recently said Taiwan will be reunified with the mainland by 2020, the first reunification deadline ever set. On an island physically similar to Taiwan, Beijing recently simulated an invasion. Would you respond with force -- unilaterally, if necessary -- to defend Taiwan?

     The Clinton years were, you say, glorious because ``we were not at war and young Americans were not deployed.'' Did not the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, followed by the attacks on the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole and the East African embassies mean we were at war but were uncomprehending? Have not scores of thousands of young Americans been deployed, ashore and on ships, since 1942?  

     You supported humanitarian military interventions in Somalia, the Balkans and Haiti. Would you intervene militarily to stop the accelerating genocide in Sudan?

     You say, ``I stood up and fought against Richard Nixon's war in Vietnam.'' Nixon's war? Did it start after John Kennedy put U.S. combat troops there, and after Lyndon Johnson increased the number to 500,000?

     The easily distressed abortion rights groups were distressed when you said that your faith teaches you what elementary biology teaches everyone: life begins at conception. But you say personhood does not. Fine. When does it? What are its defining attributes?  Does, say, an elderly person with dementia have it, and hence a right to life?

     You oppose, on federalism grounds, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. You say marriage law is traditionally a state responsibility. But so was abortion law for the Republic's first 197 years, until 1973. What is the difference?

     When the Pope said Catholic legislators have a duty to oppose gay marriage, you said he had ``crossed the line'' because ``it is important not to have the Church instructing politicians.'' Have you felt that way even when the Church has instructed politicians take liberal positions regarding economic justice, race and other matters?

     Your platform says, ``The price of gas is at an all-time high.'' But it isn't as measured in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, or as a portion of Americans' purchasing power. Do you have some other way of justifying the platform's claim?

     You have often said -- e.g., in Algona, Iowa, last year, when your campaign was impoverished -- that ``there's too much money loose in the American political system.'' Now your campaign is awash with money. So are the 527 groups that are supporting your campaign -- but of course without even a smidgen of ``coordination'' with it, because that would be a crime under the new campaign finance law. Do you advocate new laws to discourage the kind of people who are choosing to participate in politics through financial contributions on your behalf?

     You and other supporters of increased government regulation of political spending say this does not abridge freedom of speech. What does most of your spending pay for?  

     Throwing caution to the wind, your platform insists that ``small towns are at the heart of America.'' Your sense of America's small-town heartbeat comes from where -- Sun Valley?


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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