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November 1, 2004



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Columns - November 1, 2004

Your Turn, NH:
John Kerry's beautifully articulated incoherence

Guest Commentary

Telephone Credit Union


SEN. JOHN KERRY performed beautifully in the Presidential debates. He was relaxed and polished, and he delivered his lines perfectly. It's apparent that he put in a lot of time preparing and his preparation paid off in the performances. Unfortunately, the performances masked an absence of substance.

His debating skills invariably looked much better on the TV screen than they did on the printed page of the next day's morning paper. In each debate Kerry's performance was an exercise in well-articulated incoherence. He said, "I know I can do a better job in Iraq. I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this President has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table."

It's a recurring theme of his, that he would be better at building alliances. But what we have for evidence of his diplomatic skill are his disparaging remarks directed at the allies who have stood with us. He calls them a "fraudulent" coalition of the "bribed and the coerced." For more evidence we get his accusations that Iraq's interim prime minister gave misleading, overly optimistic assessments of conditions in Iraq, while at the same time Kerry allowed his campaign manager to call the prime minister a puppet with President Bush pulling the strings. This is diplomatic prowess?

His craving for international approval has surfaced again and again. It appeared most glaringly when he talked about having to pass a "global test" before he would take action as commander-in-chief. He is like a socialite whose standing rests on being invited to the right parties. His entire opposition to the war in Iraq now rests solely on an absence of approval from the right countries.

This is quite a climb down from earlier statements of his that claim Bush misled us into war. It used to be about weapons of mass destruction and cooked intelligence, but he's had to concede that he's seen the same intelligence and his vote in favor of our use of force is based on it. Now that he agrees that it was right to use military force to disarm Iraq, he claims that diplomacy had not been exhausted. Translation: France did not grant permission, therefore Kerry was opposed. It's become so obvious that this is his position, he's been forced to declare, "Let me just make it clear: I will never allow any country to have a veto over our security." I am not reassured.

Both Bush and Kerry say the single most serious threat to the national security of the United States is the possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Kerry went on to say: "Right now, the President is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense. You talk about mixed messages, we're telling other people, you can't have nuclear weapons, but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using. Not this President. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world, we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation."

His intention "to shut that program down" affirms those core beliefs that are at the root of his 20 years of Senate opposition to defense projects, and it contradicts his promises from the stump for a stronger America. What's worse, by saying that U.S. weapons research will send a mixed message, he confers legitimacy on the terrorists, as if he intends to negotiate disarmament with them. Does he think the terrorists will be won over by American unilateral disarmament? What exactly does he have in mind, nuclear test ban treaties with terrorists?

Rhetorical style cannot mask the substance of what Kerry has said and done. His tough rhetoric on the campaign trail and in the debates is not supported by his record of votes in the Senate. A closer scrutiny of what he has said argues that his actions as commander-in-chief will reflect the Senate record, not the campaign rhetoric.

Tom Bowler is a business analyst for Sungard Securities Finance. He lives in Nashua.

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