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Ready for the debate

I hope the Bush debate prep team has something better to beam him through the earpiece than what the conservative pundits are offering him. Best or worst of all is Dick Morris, who yesterday proposed three lines that are guaranteed to get Bush "back in the race." Each is stupider than the one before: If Kerry says that Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11, Bush should say that Germany wasn't involved in Pearl Harbor but we went to war against fascism anyway. And on the little matter that Hitler did declare war on the U.S., he suggests saying "does anyone doubt that Roosevelt would have gone to war against Germany anyway?" (Of course he would have, but there is the small matter that Germany had invaded all its neighbors and was bombing the hell out of our closest ally, not something Saddam was doing.) (Why am I wasting my time on this.

If Kerry says Iraq was a diversion from the war on Al-Qaeda, Morris says, "Bush should hit him between the eyes: 'Al Qeada operatives are congregating in Iraq. We can kill them there before they can spread mayhem around the world.'" In other words, the legendary "flypaper" theory which assumes that there are a fixed number of terrorists in the world and that they aren't making more.

On lack of allies, Morris suggests this response: "We have the single most important ally in the fight against terror: Pakistan." So that's why we turned a blind eye to the A.Q. Khan proliferation ring? And to the Madrassas? And to Musharraf's consolidation of power.

I assume Bush will have some better answers than these, but I can't think what they would be.

For Kerry's part, I would like to see him do two small things in the domestic part of the debate:

First, reclaim some of the idea of uniting the country rather than dividing it. That was a powerful moment in the Cheney-Edwards debate, although it was really Gwen Ifill's moment when she asked why the country seemed so much more divided. The story Kerry should tell is really the story that E.J. Dionne tells in Stand Up, Fight Back: that Bush had two huge chances to bring the country together and lead more than one fierce faction -- after the contested election and after 9/11. And both times, he willfully blew the opportunity.

Second, I'd like to see Kerry deal more creatively with the inevitable tax-and-spend liberal attacks. Here's my line: "Under your administration, government spends a lot more and does a lot less. The Medicare bill is one example. I promise that under a Kerry administration, we will spend less, pass less debt on to our grandchildren, and still do a lot more." And that has the advantage of being true.

(Why not go all the way to a direct implant in the hippocampus? We have the technology...We can make him...better than before.)

Posted by Mark Schmitt on October 8, 2004 | Permalink


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I love the suggestions for Kerry. On the crazy flypaper theory, I agree it's crazy, but I suspect that the Bush team soundbites play well. After all, on the face of it, fighting them there rather than here does sound good. The emotional appeal to people who are understandably worried and want to do something to head off the threat of terrorism should not be underestimated. So I hope Kerry has a nice *short* forceful response.

Posted by: Dan | Oct 8, 2004 5:56:10 PM

Thanks for stealing my Six Million Dollar Man idea! Just kidding, I do think in some ways it is a perfect analogy for Bush--Blowout, Damper Three, crash and burn. A man barely alive. Let's hope Rove can't rebuild him. http://ironmouth.com/PermaLink.aspx?guid=60335a0a-d418-4c9f-ae33-1b714d6eaddf

Posted by: Rob W | Oct 10, 2004 1:30:00 AM

The military-historical ham-handedness of the Germany/Japan metaphor aside, Morris is on to something that people left-of-center seem congenitally unable to understand: Like fascism before it, and Communism as well, Islamofascism is a baleful ideology that does not know national boundaries. Our War on Terror is a war against the region that produces and nourishes it and the stormtroopers of jihad.

Nattering on about Iraq being a "distraction" or unrelated to Al Qaeda was missing the point before the invasion, and is the reason -- rather than some Republican-nourished crushing of dissent -- why few people then heeded the anti-war opposition. Now it's missing the point and both petulant and obnoxious.

If the theater of the War on Terror is regional, then Iraq instantly comes to the fore as the most logical point of entry for an invasion. It was long in violation of international law, openly funded terror and harbored terrorists, possessed a strong and comparatively secular middle class, and desperately yearned to be liberated from a tyrant whose disregard for human rights should have galvanized the Left into a unified bloc of moral outrage. (C.f. Paul Berman and Christopher Hitchens on the abject failure of the latter to transpire.)

If you oppose Bush because of the way he has conducted the invasion of Iraq -- or because of any number of his domestic policies -- I will join you sincerely and gladly. But don't puff fatuously about how Iraq isn't what this war is about, because doing so betrays the fundamental unseriousness of the left-liberal response to 9/11. And if Kerry loses to his astoundingly incompetent opponent, it will primarily be because the country has clocked that unseriousness.

Posted by: John-Paul Pagano | Oct 10, 2004 11:54:38 PM

I whole heartedly second John-Pauls post. I would only add further that if you look at the map of the middle east (http://www.sitesatlas.com/Maps/Maps/MEast.htm) you see that the results of this war on terror have left Iran surrounded by emerging democratic nations (not to mention US military bases and allies).

Repeatedly throughout the course of this campain, John Kerry has asserted that Iraq was a diversion and that our true threat is nuclear proliferation. He has said on more than one occasion that Iran was a bigger threat than Iraq and George Bush "allowed" them to go nuclear. What he fails to note is that there were zero UN sanctions against Iran where as there something like 17 against Iraq (which were incidentally being subverted by the UN and our "real allies" France germany and Russia). He also fails to make clear how sanctions against Iran could have any meaning if he believes that enforcing the sanctions against Iraq, through the use of force (something he voted for), was a mistake.

I realize that it isn't in John Kerry's anti-war vote interests to point this out but as a result of the way the President has handled this war on terror countries around the world but particularly Iran know that even bribing key members of the UN security council wont prevent them from having to abide by any sanctions placed upon them.

Incidentally, I think it's very telling how opposed Kerry is to the low yield nuclear "Bunker Busting" bombs that are under development. How serious is he really about stoping this threat if he is willing to discontinue the very program that would make it possible to take out facilities like those in Iran with a minimum amount of casualties. Further more, what sends a better message: "We'll stop building bombs before you do so you'll see how nice we are." Or "We have bombs that will get to the bombs you are trying to make, so don't bother trying to make them." Clearly to a mindset that has no regard for life, no matter how innocent or peaceful, the threat of force has much more weight. Kerry just doesn't seem to get it.

I expect that this is all something that George Bush wouldn't want to articulate in debates closely watched all over the world but I would think that reasonable, thinking people would be able to discern it just by looking at the map.

Posted by: Lloyd | Oct 11, 2004 9:24:00 AM

We should hit Bush on his weakest issue: We should blame him for making a mushroom cloud over a U.S. city more likely, not less. No one cares about petty firefights with wanna-be terrorists or Iraqi democracy. They'd bail on that country in a heartbeat. Kerry dances around the suitcase nukes issue with his plan to secure nuclear material. It's the only good idea in the entire foreign policy debate. We need a commercial that shows footage of North Korean reactors, uncontrolled Russian sites, and looted Iraqi ones with a menacing voice over. Then show a rapid-fire succession of photos of major U.S. cities and end with a question mark over a mushroom cloud. Is it honest? Damn right, it is! Does anyone in the Democratic Party have the guts to do it? No. We'd rather take a chance on losing in an effete discussion of Kerry's voting record. The Democrats' #1 problem is a lack of nerve. Plain and simple.

Posted by: Chris | Oct 11, 2004 4:52:14 PM

Blueprint Magazine | October 7, 2004
Nuclear Terrorism
By Graham Allison

An exerpt from Graham Allison's book: Nuclear
Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.


Posted by: Chris | Oct 12, 2004 9:14:14 AM

I'm surprised that anyone is still listening to Dick Morris. I thought the guy had so thoroughly fouled his own nest that no politician would come within a mile of him. I suppose he's able to make a living these days just appearing on cable pundit programs to opine about the current race for the White House. What will this wretch of a man do when the campaign is over?

Posted by: Mushinronsha | Oct 12, 2004 11:59:39 AM

Chris, your strategy worked for Johnson when he ran against Goldwater. Unfortunately Johnson then proceeded to draft thousands of young Americans into Viet Nam. With Kerry and some other Democrat's obsession with a 60's era renaisance (and Rangle and Hollings -both democrats- already trying to reinstitute the draft) I find the prospect of history repeating itself a little chilling.

Posted by: Lloyd | Oct 13, 2004 7:22:08 AM