Jonah Goldberg

More to the point, Kerry's "leadership" on foreign policy has been abysmal. He voted against the first Gulf War, for the second and then against the money necessary to keep the peace, i.e. to "nation-build," which was once the core of liberal foreign policy. He's offered multiple explanations for each of those votes, many of them conflicting.

He was against almost every weapons system during the Cold War and he sided with the nuclear freeze movement. He still boasts of fighting "Ronald Reagan's illegal wars in Central America," which, to be charitable, was not the stance taken by pro-defense Democrats in the 1980s. He was one of the few Democrats who voted against lifting the arms embargo that was contributing to the mass slaughter of Bosnians.

Kerry's 1997 book on foreign policy, which he touts as prophetic on the war on terrorism, predicted that various mafias - not al-Qaida, not Islamic fundamentalism - posed the biggest threat to national security. It also underscored Kerry's view that the war on terrorism is nothing more than a law enforcement problem.

Whether Kerry's record reflects a coherent foreign policy or, more likely, a history of knee-jerk liberalism tempered by opportunism remains an open question. But what is clear is that Kerry represents the Democratic establishment's approach to foreign policy: adverse to the use of force, quick to defer to other nations and the U.N., untethered to an identifiable principle when caught in the winds of public or elite opinion. But, unlike previous Democratic candidates, he's a war hero.

Meanwhile, as Kerry is so quick to point out these days, George W. Bush isn't. He served in the National Guard and lackadaisically at that.

But Bush's policy is hardly lackadaisical. He says this is a war, not a law enforcement exercise. He prefers regime change to appeasement, democratic change over tyrannical stability. He thinks the U.N. is a tool of foreign policy, not a dictator of it.

This is a real contest of visions during a time when foreign policy matters to voters. So, if Americans reject Kerry in favor of Bush no one will be able to claim the American people didn't choose on the merits of the message instead of medals of the messenger. Let the contest begin.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.