Published on Sunday, August 15, 2004 by the Capital Times / Madison, Wisconsin
Bush is Wrong, Kerry is Wrong
Never mind that Iraq had no significant weapons of mass destruction, and no capacity to develop any such weapons in the foreseeable future.
Never mind that there was no serious collaboration between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
Never mind that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been replaced by a thuggish "strongman" who has ordered violent attacks on Iraqis that do not share his politics, who has shut down news media that question his authority, and who talks about delaying elections until he deems them appropriate.
Never mind that Iraq has become a staging ground for terrorist groups that never operated there before the United States invaded the country on George W. Bush's order.
Never mind that a clear majority of Americans say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and worry that it has made America more vulnerable.
Never mind that more than 900 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives have been lost, and that more will be lost in what has become a quagmire.
Never mind any of the facts.President Bush, who seems to think that the whole war on terror is some kind of Wild West costume show, declared last week that he would do it all over again.
The president grudgingly acknowledges that most of the pre-war claims he and his aides made about a supposed "need" to attack Iraq were wrong. Yet, he says without a hint of irony, "Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision."
Bush's don't-bother-me-with-the-facts approach should close the case against his re-election to the presidency. Any leader who gets things as horribly wrong as Bush did ought to be viewed skeptically when he asks to have his tenure extended. But when that leader says he does not care that he screwed up so miserably, or that thousands of Americans and Iraqis have died as a result, it is time to move beyond skepticism. Common sense argues that the man must be replaced.
Unfortunately, Democratic candidate John Kerry was almost as foolish in his response to the president's know-nothing rant.
When Bush challenged his challenger to say whether he would still vote to give the president the authority to invade Iraq, Kerry responded, "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for the president to have."
The only difference, Kerry said, was that he would have used that authority "more effectively" than Bush.
Kerry pointedly refuses to say that it was wrong to go to war, or even to admit that he was mistaken to vote to give Bush the authority to do so. That's too bad. The Democratic nominee does himself few favors by suggesting he would be a kinder, gentler George W. Bush.
Kerry should pay attention to a point made by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. Feingold says that Democrats make a mistake by assuming that so-called "swing" voters are centrists who support the war. A lot of undecided voters, Feingold suggests, are Americans who believe this war is a terrible mistake and who want a leader who recognizes that fact and will bring it to an end.
In fact, the majority of Americans say the war was a mistake. It is too bad that neither of the major party presidential candidates shares the common sense of the electorate.
Copyright 2004 The Capital Times