Medals Don’t Make a President
So says Charles Krauthammer.
For 2 1/2 years since 9/11, the Democrats have been adrift on national security. With Kerry, they have finally stumbled their way onto an answer: “We still have no answer, but we have a man with an unimpeachable military record. What have you got?”
The Democrats want to make the issue one of biography. It is, after all, no contest. Kerry has his Vietnam medals; Bush can barely produce his National Guard pay stubs.
Two years ago, biography was not enough. The Democrats got slaughtered in that election campaign because the President had a plan for the post-Sept. 11 world Ã¢€” a forward strategy of war abroad and homeland-security reorganization at home Ã¢€” and the Democrats had nothing.
Democratic Senator Max Cleland, another genuine war hero, was defeated in Georgia after he and other Senate Democrats had held up the establishment of the Homeland Security Department because of union rules. Democrats bitterly complained that Cleland’s patriotism had been questioned. But it was not a matter of patriotism; it was a matter of seriousness: when crazed jihadists are flying airplanes into American buildings, the usual rules Ã¢€” including union rules Ã¢€” are suspended.
The Democrats simply did not understand that. They lost big. In 2002, past heroism was not enough. In 2004, it might just be. Why? Because Sept. 11 is fading.
The issue of our time is the war on terrorism. Bush’s strategy throws out the old playbook on terrorism Ã¢€” the cops-and-robbers, law-and-order strategy of arrest and trial followed by complacency Ã¢€” and takes the war to the enemy. Kerry says terrorism is “primarily an intelligence and law-enforcement operation” Ã¢€” precisely the misconception that had us waking up on Sept. 12 realizing that while the enemy was preparing for war, we were preparing legal briefs for grand juries.
And where did Kerry stand on the most critical national-security questions of the past two decades? In 1991 he voted against the Gulf War, which he now says he was in favor of. Twelve years later, he voted in favor of the Iraq war, which he now tells us he was against. Then he voted against the $87 billion for reconstruction and troop support while telling us that of course he supports both the reconstruction and the troops.
War hero he is. But a man of so many pirouettes hardly inspires confidence as a resolute President.
True. But it might not matter. President Bush made a calculation early on that the war on terrorists would be fought by the professionals and that ordinary citizens should just go about their daily lives as if nothing had happened, albeit with a bit more vigilance. The sense that we are “at war” has faded. If Kerry can make the case that we’re not really fighting a war on terrorism but merely trying to arrest Osama bin Laden, the issue could indeed be largely neutralized.