Dear Senator Kerry:
Stop being a terrible candidate.
I know you want to defeat President Bush in November. I understand that you have a “base” to pander to in your speeches. I realize that it’s hard to sound different from President Bush on foreign policy issues. For the months leading up to the Democratic National Convention, you pretended as though you weren’t running for president. That makes some sense because the facts are out there and seem indefensible to me, but you should’ve spoken out sooner. Unfortunately, I now know why you haven’t spoken out earlier. You’re a bad candidate who doesn’t understand the concept of espousing one message and pounding it into the electorate.
Allow me to highlight your latest blunder, as reported in this USAToday.com story:
“George W. Bush’s wrong choices have led America in the wrong direction on Iraq and left America without the resources we need here at home,” the presidential candidate said. “The cost of the president’s go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting.”
Kerry said the “hard reality” is that Bush’s choices have led to “spreading violence, growing extremism, havens for terrorists that weren’t there before.”
“I call this course a catastrophic choice that has cost us $200 billion because we went it alone, and we’ve paid an even more unbearable price in young American lives.”
President Bush is a bad diplomat, a bad strategist, and a bad leader. Got it. Hammer that point over and over again. It’s that simple. But you can’t stop there. A little taste of “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty” theatrics and you’re ready to perform at will. Don’t do that because you keep putting your foot in your mouth. As evidence, I offer this:
“$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can’t afford after-school programs for our children; $200 billion in Iraq, but they tell us we can’t afford health care for our veterans; $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can’t afford to keep the 100,000 police officers we put on the street,” Kerry said.
“He doesn’t believe that America can be strong in the world while we also make progress here at home. He believes we have to choose one or the other. That’s a false choice, and I reject it.”
That’s simple-minded. There is a large, complex, grey area in most issues of this significance. Just because President Bush pretends that the world operates like a black-and-white, wholesome 1950’s sitcom and, even then, usually only sees one of those two colors, you are free to analyze a little deeper. From your statement, you seem to imply that we can choose both with equal commitment. That’s old ideological Democratic nonsense. Lyndon Johnson tried it in the 1960’s and it failed miserably. You’ve referred to Iraq as a Vietnam-style quagmire, but do you really think you’ll be better able to manage a war and an expansive domestic agenda? President Johnson couldn’t do it. President Bush hasn’t been able to do it. How are you better?
The correct answer is “you’re not”. Fixing and finishing (finishing, not ending) President Bush’s foreign policy agenda is critical in the coming years. You deftly hit upon some of President Bush’s mistakes, but pretending like we can just walk away from those mistakes in the next four years is ludicrous. Neither you nor President Bush is approaching our foreign policy correctly. We are where we are. We need to understand that the war on terror isn’t going away. We need a coherent strategy for restoring order in Iraq. We need to demonstrate that the United States is willing to respect our diplomatic relationships and commitments. (I do not mean to imply that we mustn’t act alone if the situation calls for it, but we must eliminate our bully-mentality diplomacy.) We need to accept our mistakes, not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign that our leaders our human. We can’t adjust until we accept that there may be a better way.
America is a great nation. Whether you defeat President Bush or not will not change that. But to fix and improve what needs fixing and improving, you have to begin at the beginning. Make us certain that you know where the beginning is and that you grasp the magnitude of the task ahead. President Reagan used that strategy in 1980 and President Clinton used it in 1992. That focus inspires confidence in your potential. That confidence can make you a great candidate. With that, you might get to be president.
If that’s too much for you, at least stop being a bad candidate.