Bush, the failure?

Posted: Apr 05, 2003 12:00 AM

It's rare when you get to brag about the fulfillment of a long-term prediction, especially when you don't make many predictions. But this one was fulfilled so early that I want to call your attention to it – especially those who doubted.

I wrote a column March 19 entitled "It's Multilateralism, Stupid," where I posited that Democrats, despite President Bush's inevitable success in the war against Iraq, would still use Bush's alleged ineptitude in foreign relations as a campaign theme.

Here are a few lines from my column. "Given international events and the war on terror, Democrats will only get limited use out of the Clinton-Carville slogan, 'It's the economy, stupid.' They're going to have to articulate a coherent foreign policy message that will survive a resounding American victory in Iraq. No small order. Not to worry; they're resourceful. It seems obvious that the Democrats' principal theme will continue to be that George Bush is wielding American power unilaterally and with an unparalleled arrogance. ... After the war, Democrats will likely say that our success in eliminating the Saddam threat pales in comparison to the damage we've done to our relationship with other nations. It just fits so well with their projected image of George Bush as a tough-talking, unsophisticated Texas cowboy – a bull in the china cabinet of foreign relations, breaking every relationship in the world through his ignorance and arrogance."

I was wrong that they would wait until after the war. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is so hungry for the limelight that he is already peddling the theme I forecasted. In a speech on April 2, Kerry said that by attacking Iraq, President Bush committed a "breach of trust" in the eyes of many members of the United Nations, creating a diplomatic chasm that can't be bridged as long as he is in office. So, Kerry had the audacity and poor taste to call for a "regime change" in the United States along with the "regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq."

Why is Kerry so exercised? Well, he's talked with foreign diplomats and world leaders of course, who told him they felt betrayed when the president chose to go to war instead of letting diplomacy run its course. (I wonder if the world-wise Kerry asked these leaders just how you go about negotiating with a regime that brutalizes and murders its own people, remains in power by terror and is so hopelessly dishonest it is even telling its people that it has American forces surrounded as we are breathing down Baghdad's neck.)

Kerry said these leaders believed that Bush wanted to do an "end-run around the U.N." Would that be the same U.N., Mr. Kerry, whose secretary-general continues to sympathize with Iraq? The same U.N. whose arms inspectors are still not convinced that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, though they knew he had used them before and that he didn't meet his burden of proving he'd disposed of them?

Kerry continued, "I don't think they're going to trust this president, no matter what. I believe it deeply, that it will take a new president of the United States, declaring a new day for our relationship with the world, to clear the air and turn a new page on American history." How convenient for you, Mr. Kerry.

Do you see why some of us complain that Democrats are way too casual about American sovereignty? Kerry is saying, in effect, that we ought to let world opinion dictate our foreign policy – we must do whatever it takes to humor foreign nations and the U.N. with little regard for our national interests. This is frightening stuff, folks.

Don't assume Kerry is by himself on this. As I was writing this column, I heard a Fox News contributor, the very left-wing Eleanor Clift (who says Fox is not fair and balanced?), articulate a similar and equally foolhardy theme. We will win, she admitted, "but at what cost? This is a political contest for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis and the Arabs in the Middle East, and the danger is that we can win the military victory and lose the peace. ... I think this looks more like a war of conquest than a war of liberation."

As Bill Kristol, who was debating (and eviscerating) Mrs. Clift on this issue, said of her comments, "this is pathetic." Precisely.