Kerry performed beautifully in the debate the other night. He was relaxed and polished, and he delivered his lines perfectly. It’s apparent that he put in a lot of time preparing and it paid off in his performance. Unfortunately, the performance masked the absence of substance. His debating skills looked much better on the screen the other night, than on the printed page the next morning. It was an exercise in well articulated incoherence. He said,
I know I can do a better job in Iraq. I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this president has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table. It's a recurring theme of his, that he would be better at building alliances, but what we have for evidence of his diplomatic skill are his disparaging remarks directed at the allies who have stood with us. He calls them a "fraudulent" coalition of the "bribed and the coerced." For more evidence we get his accusations that the Iraqi interim Prime Minister gave a misleading overly optimistic assessment of conditions in Iraq, while at the same time he allowed his campaign manager to call the Prime Minister a puppet with President Bush pulling the strings. This is his idea of diplomatic prowess?
His craving for international appoval surfaced again and again. It appeared most glaringly when he talked about having to pass a "global test" before he would take action as commander in chief. He is like a socialite whose standing rests on being invited to the right parties. His entire opposition to the war in Iraq now rests solely on an absence of approval from the right countries.
SEN. KERRY: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat. Nor was I misleading on the day that the president decided to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances, and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I've had one position, one consistent position: that Saddam Hussein was a threat; there was a right way to disarm him, and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way. First, this is quite a climb down from earlier statements of his that claim Bush misled us into war. It used to be about weapons of mass destruction and cooked intelligence, but he's had to concede that he's seen the same intelligence and his vote in favor of our use of force is based on it. Now that he agrees that it was right to use military force to disarm Iraq, he claims that diplomacy had not been exhausted. Translation: France did not grant permission, therefore Kerry was opposed.
Both Bush and Kerry said the single-most serious threat to the national security of the United States is the possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Kerry went on to say:
Right now, the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense. You talk about mixed messages, we're telling other people, you can't have nuclear weapons, but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using. Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world, we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation. His intention "to shut that program down" affirms those core beliefs that are at the root of his 20 years of Senate opposition to defense projects, and it contradicts his promises from the stump for a stronger America. What's worse, by saying that U.S. weapons research will send a mixed message, he confers legitimacy on the terrorists, as if he intends to negotiate disarmament with them. Does he think the terrorists will be won over by American unilateral disarmament? What exactly does he have in mind, nuclear test ban treaties with terrorists?
Kerry put on a masterful performance. He was always on the attack and he always had an answer. But he can't escape who he is. His tough talk on the campaign trail and in the debate is not supported by his record of votes in the Senate. A closer scrutiny of the debate transcript argues that his actions as commander in chief will reflect the Senate record, not the campaign rhetoric.