Kerry's arguments don't carry

Posted: Dec 05, 2003 12:00 AM

There's one thing we can all agree on when it comes to Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. He's got very important hair. Beyond that, opinions vary.

My opinion is that Kerry's got no chance of becoming president of the United States. But unlike many Democrats running for president, Kerry still matters. He's a respected member of the Senate, considered a statesman by many and a serious man by many more. Again my opinion differs from that consensus; though, in politics, you have to take seriously the people who are taken seriously by others.

But I've got to say Senator Kerry does his best to make that as hard as possible.

Kerry's problem, in a nutshell, is that he thinks if he wraps a great many words around a nonsensical or factually loopy position it will become smart and/or true.

Consider Kerry's recent onslaught against President Bush's foreign policy. "Simply put," Kerry declared at the Council on Foreign Relations, "the Bush administration has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in modern history."

That's tough stuff. And, there's nothing wrong with saying that if A) you mean it and B) you have an actual argument to back it up. I don't think either apply to Kerry. Let me put it this way: There's nothing wrong with saying Osama bin Laden is an evil maniac. But if your rationale for that statement is rooted in the fact that bin Laden doesn't like Pop-Tarts for breakfast, well, then it was nice talking to you.

Kerry's arguments are closer to Bush-doesn't-like-Pop-Tarts than a serious case from a serious candidate.

First of all, Kerry voted for the war. But let's put that aside for the moment.

In his speech, Kerry said that he was worried Iraq would turn into some kind of long-running quagmire. "As we discovered in Vietnam, success on the battlefield, or even in a series of battles, can often be the beginning and not the end of a conflict."

OK, fair enough. But then he said, "I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election, the administration is now considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy."

Um, which is it? Are we in for too long a haul, or are we cutting and running?

The fact is that short of buying a ranch outside Baghdad, President Bush couldn't be more clear that we're in Iraq for the long haul. And if Kerry were concerned about the problems of bugging-out of Iraq, you'd think he would have voted for the Iraq reconstruction package. No, instead, Kerry voted for attacking Iraq but not rebuilding it. Then later, he turned around and criticized both the war and the lack of reconstruction.

The logical Mobius strip of Kerry's thinking twists even further. The man denounces President Bush's "unilateralism" in Iraq, saying again and again we need to work with our allies. But in the case of North Korea, he wants us to abandon our multilateral approach in favor of "bilateral negotiations." In Iran, he also wants more aggressive unilateral diplomacy, even though we've been letting the Europeans take the lead in dealing with the Iranians and their nuclear program.

Now, this isn't to say that Kerry has no good ideas. Rather, his good ideas are completely unconnected to good arguments for them. It's like his position against the death penalty. He says life in prison is a tougher sentence than death. OK, but he's ignoring the fact that criminals themselves don't think so. Moreover, he's in favor of capital punishment for foreign terrorists. So, by his logic, he supports tougher sentences for American criminals than for foreign murderers.

Now, I'm sure that Kerry's confusion isn't the result of a mental defect or even glue-sniffing. Rather, I think he just wants to be president really, really bad. Even his friends say that he's been running for president for decades. He used to go by "JFK" in college, and, dang, that hair really is very presidential.

For these reasons and others, Kerry believes he needs to do two things. He needs to beat Howard Dean, who's crushing Kerry by 30 points in New Hampshire, and he needs to do it by being more like Howard Dean than Dean himself. So, Kerry apes Dean's unhinged rage and translates it into equally unhinged lugubrious nonsense.

One reason why all of this matters is that Dean gets a free pass for his rage because he's an outsider. Kerry is a spokesman for what is supposed to be the loyal opposition inside the halls of power.

When he relinquishes reasoned arguments in favor of long-winded sputtering, he accelerates the intellectual self-immolation of the Democratic Party. And as enjoyable as that might be, it's not good for the country.