Let's make this simple. John Kerry is the candidate for those who wish we hadn't gone to war in Iraq. But John Kerry can't admit that, even though everyone knows it is true.
Kerry has been at such pains to keep this basic point as fuzzy as possible because an honestly antiwar candidate couldn't win the presidency in 2004. Sometimes he offers arcane explanations containing paragraphs like Rube Goldberg contraptions. Sometimes he speaks in a unique Kerry grammar one could call the future-past perfect. When asked if we were right to invade Iraq, he has responded that it depends on what happens in the future. And other times he's said we were right. And other times he's said we were wrong.
But my favorite response was when he was asked if we'd have gone to war with Iraq if he'd been president, and he shot back confidently, "You bet we might have."
Kerry cannot be honest about the most elemental issue of the election because he will lose the election if he does, and rightly so.
I don't mean to say that a supermajority of Americans think the Iraq war was the right decision in retrospect or that they think Bush has done a wonderful job since Saddam's downfall. But I do think that a supermajority of Americans really do want a president who will err on the side of protecting the American people first and worry about what the New York Times, the French or the United Nations think second. Americans have rarely punished presidents for prosecuting wars too aggressively, they've often punished them for the reverse.
That's the central explanation for Bush's huge advantage over Kerry on the issue of fighting the war on terrorism. It's amazing when you think about it. The media, the United Nations, the French and the Democrats have thrown everything imaginable, fair and unfair, at Bush, and he still leads by double digits on the issue of who's better at fighting the war on terrorism and winning in Iraq.
All of these pro-war pundits and bloggers who've defected to Kerry because of Bush's alleged "incompetence" need to explain why the candidate they now prefer is not the undisputed preference of the American people when it comes to national security. Surely all of these people can't be morons.