The front page of the Washington Post carried bad news for the anti-Bush media (redundant, I know). After all their rhetorical shelling of George Bush's position, and after all the press-conference demands for his apologies and admissions of incompetence, and after all the anguished highlighting of bad news from the Sunni Triangle, the latest ABC-Washington Post poll found that Bush has "significant advantages" over John F. Kerry with the public on dealing with Iraq and the war on terrorism. Kerry's domestic-issues advantage has also evaporated.
All this has happened as the poll respondents said the war and terrorism have become more important issues in recent weeks. Clearly, the poll results suggest the American people have seen President Bush's resolve as a war president, have liked his staunch talk in the face of media rudeness, and have concluded that What's-His-Long-Face from Massachusetts is giving the public a cold plate of political sniping instead of a principled alternative.
But there's something else the American people may like about Bush, something very American. His press conference was studded with passionate remarks about the spread of human freedom -- that liberty is not America's gift to the world but God's gift to all mankind. It is not just the thought, but the thought process that the media reject because they cannot recognize it: conservative idealism.
Liberals would like you to think that John F. Kerry is the second coming of John F. Kennedy, when in fact it is Bush whose message is eerily familiar to those who remember J.F.K. stating in his 1961 inaugural address that we would "bear any burden ... to ensure the survival and success of liberty."
By contrast, John Kerry thinks the solution in Iraq doesn't have to include democracy or freedom, but whatever stable dictatorship will allow us to disengage, as he told reporters in Harlem on April 14: "I have always said from day one that the goal here ... is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that's a full democracy. I can't tell you what it's going to be, but a stable Iraq. And that stability can take several different forms."
Without scouring Kerry's record of routine flip-flops, I wouldn't be too sure that this is what he's "said from day one," but there is a certain consistency here. In his 1971 book "The New Soldier," Kerry couldn't find any idealism about spreading democracy in Asia: "We were sent to Vietnam to kill Communism. But we found instead that we were killing women and children." In the book, Kerry stated that those poor benighted Vietnamese "didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy."
In the 1980s, Senator Kerry tried to crush attempts to build democracy instead of communism in Central America, comparing the Reagan Administration's attempts to fight the spread of Soviet and Cuban revolution to ... Vietnam, of course. Perhaps Kerry thought those non-white Third World peoples must also not know the difference between communism and democracy -- except they repeatedly voted for the anti-communists in El Salvador and voted out the Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua. And communists continue to lose elections in those countries to this day. Now Kerry & Co. are trying to move Vietnam to the Middle East.
The Bush White House may speak in idealistic tones of spreading the gift of liberty, but what the Kerry camp worships isn't an idea, but a strategy, a calculated process of internationally negotiated settlements somehow quieting -- but not defeating -- rogues and killers who recognize no rules and are immune to diplomacy.
It does not matter if that international process negotiates a democracy away. It does not matter if the international process is riddled with corruption, like the disastrous United Nations' "Oil for Food Program." All that matters is that we've been supportive of an international process. The liberal elite will have to forgive the American people for the bad taste in their mouths over all this. As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal put it precisely: "Why would anyone vote for a Democrat who isn't even a democrat?"
The media elite are appalled at the conservative idealism that stands in bold contrast to Kerryism. On CBS, "60 Minutes" sage Mike Wallace moaned in agony: "The president of the United States, without a great deal of background in foreign policy, makes up his mind and believes he was sent by somebody to free the people -- not just in Iraq, but around the world?" Liberal author Bob Woodward shared Wallace's horror: "It is far-reaching, and ambitious, and I think will cause many people to tremble."
Perhaps what causes many people to tremble is the idea that the security of the United States and the cause of world freedom will be left in the cynical clutches of John Kerry and the manipulative media elite that shares his reverence for diplomacy over democracy, for process over principle.