Did you see the reactions to the presidential debates? Right after the event, most media outlets considered the event a draw. That’s nonsense. John Kerry hasn’t received enough credit for winning a big victory over Bush. Kerry did make some mistakes, but everyone does that in an improvisational situation.
For instance, after he said, “I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are,” he probably shouldn’t have followed up with, “I might be out of the office for a while. Where’s my knife? The one I stab terrorists with.” Kerry also defended his policies very well when Bush accused him of “changing positions,” but the audience may not have believed his denial. Kerry’s wife inadvertently undermined his credibility by insisting after the debate that Kerry is, in fact, very skilled at changing positions.
Let there be no confusion, however; Kerry won because the entire Bush campaign thus far has been an ad hominem attack on Kerry. Instead of presenting a plan for our homeland security, Bush was trying his best to label Kerry as a wavering, morale-siphoning traitor. If Bush had been the one asked by moderator Jim Lehrer what, specifically, he would do to improve the security of the United States, his response would have been something like this: “Let me tell you exactly what I’d do. I’d use vague rhetoric and broad hand gestures. And I’d finish the job by belittling my opponent.” The strategy was excellent as long as Kerry wasn’t there to defend himself. But when Kerry got the opportunity to debate, he easily won by showing 62.5 million Americans that the Bush campaign’s stereotypes just won’t hold. All of a sudden, Kerry is much too big for the box that Republicans have built for him.
That’s a big win for Kerry. But, as you’ve probably already heard, he didn’t throw any “knockout blows.” Kerry was still pulling punches. In the debate about national security, Kerry threw away the biggest weapon his campaign could possibly yield. He never once mentioned that if you vote for Bush, the terrorists win.
Throw away all that you have been taught to assume about the war on terrorism being Bush’s strength. This is easily refuted with two simple facts: Terrorists want what is worst for America – and there’s nothing worse for America than President Bush.
In foreign affairs, as Kerry pointed out, America has exhausted almost all of its “soft power” – the ability to persuade other countries to follow our lead without resorting to force. And due to the overextension of our armed forces, we can’t back up any more threats with force. The bottom line is that America is a weaker country than it was four years ago. You can bet that terrorists love to hear that.
Domestically, things are even grimmer. With the adoption of weaker environmental standards, the Bush administration is well on its way to causing more American deaths than al-Qaeda. I’m sure that makes terrorists jealous, but they’re probably thrilled nonetheless. Consider the Bush administration’s economic mismanagement, blurring of the lines between church and state and attacks on scientific findings that don’t fit their agenda. You’d think they were trying to make the country weaker. Even if it’s unintentional, it’s still the terrorists’ agenda. It’s a wonder that Kerry didn’t call Bush out on aiding terrorists. Perhaps that’s because he’d have been obligated to hunt Bush down and kill him on the spot.
Loren Williams is a Daily Nexus columnist.