In reading the bizarre missives from Sen. John Kerry contaminating my inbox, I have to wonder whether he's operating as a foil for Hillary Clinton. Is he saying especially stupid things about the war because he believes them or to enhance the presidential prospects of latter-day warhawk Hillary?
Of course I'm being facetious, since John Kerry is not about to sacrifice himself intentionally for anyone, even Hillary. But Kerry's recent statements on the war, including his gratuitous speech at Georgetown University Wednesday, again remind us just how close we came to a national train wreck in almost electing him to be commander in chief. Juxtaposed against Hillary Clinton's pro-war pronouncements, they also illustrate that the Republican Party is not the only party with its set of problems.
Despite all the debate among conservatives over the Harriet Miers nomination and the hint of scandal in the air, Democrat leaders, in their most candid moments alone, must realize (and agonize over) the woeful state of disarray they find themselves in over this war.
Besides, Republican fighting over Miers does not represent a major schism in the party. Republicans are virtually unanimous in believing that the next Supreme Court nominee should be a competent, constitutional originalist. They just disagreed about whether Miers fit the bill, or whether she should be entitled to a stronger presumption in that respect until the confirmation hearings.
Assuming President Bush nominates a strong, non-stealth originalist this time around, Republicans are likely to unite behind him with a renewed enthusiasm that will only grow stronger to the extent that Democrats obstruct the nomination.
So before Democrats get too sanguine about 2006 and 2008, they should remember they are still the antiwar party during wartime.
When you review Kerry's latest statements on the war you can't escape the impression that he is still trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
He so desperately wants to recapture the loyalty of the antiwar Democrat base, but every time he tries to fashion a coherent policy toward that end, he finds himself running head-on into the brick wall of reality. Every time he tries to articulate an Iraq policy sufficiently distinct from President Bush, he finds himself hamstrung by his own previous inconsistent positions and by his mortal enemy: common sense.
Kerry called on President Bush to withdraw 20,000 troops from Iraq over the Christmas holidays, assuming the parliamentary elections in December are successful. Never mind his earlier harangues about President Bush's irresponsibility in having too few troops in theater.
Why not 25,000 troops, Sen. Kerry? Why not January? February? Now? The answer is: He has no clue, but he feels the need to say something -- anything -- just bold enough to retain a shred of the relevance he has long since lost.
Notice that Kerry conspicuously fails to tie his recommendation to our overall goal in Iraq, which is to secure the long-term stability of Iraq and the self-determination of the Iraqi people. His goal, in keeping with his lifetime naivete and pacifism, is to withdraw our troops -- period. It doesn't matter how noble the cause -- whether in Vietnam, Iraq, or elsewhere. It doesn't matter how many will have died in vain if we follow his prescription. It doesn't matter what condition we leave Iraq in upon our precipitous withdrawal. If it did, he would dispense with the artificial withdrawal dates and realize that the timing of our withdrawal must be determined by our completion of the mission.
But Kerry's idea of the mission is quite different. Being an unabashed globalist, he believes that the "presence of 159,000 U.S. troops in Iraq is deterring peace efforts," as if our terrorist enemy (any more than the North Vietcong, whom he similarly misjudged) is interested in a peaceful resolution of this war. According to Kerry's counterintuitive analysis, "the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down."
Kerry is obviously confusing causes with results. Without question we will not have defeated the enemy until Iraqi security forces can assume primary responsibility for keeping the peace there. But prematurely removing our troops will retard, rather than accelerate that goal.
Despite his personal irrelevance, Kerry is not some wild maverick crying in the wilderness. He is articulating the tired, irrational and reckless position of the Democratic Party mainstream.
But neither the constant hand-wringing of the mainstream media and Democrats over 2,000 American deaths in Iraq, nor their never-ending, obscene ploy to put meat on the skeletal charge that President Bush lied to get us into war will obscure the fact that he has been a historically great wartime president.
For Democrats to make significant inroads in 2006, they are going to have to manufacture a credible position on the war. And for Hillary to prevail in 2008, she's going to have to devise a way to thread the needle between her faux warhawk persona and her rabid, hate-gorged base.