Well, the first debate is now over. I’d have to say I thought it was a good one. In our age of watching almost scripted “debates” it was good to see each candidate going after one another. With all that said, it was still pretty scripted. I think watching it we all were able to create, in our minds, the “Saturday Night Live” “debate” that was to follow. With that in mind it is amusing to listen to pundits say why each candidate “beat” the other. Personally, I think the debate was a draw, lacking any “gotcha” moments. However, I do think Senator John Kerry has lost in one main area. Recently, Kerry has again decided that he is against the Iraq war and has come out fighting. In a recent event in Philadelphia, Kerry said, “As president, I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror.” He no longer says he’ll fight a “sensitive” war on terror. Maybe he still means that and just has an odd definition for “sensitive.” In any case, one of the components of his fight against terror will be to “rebuild America’s strong alliances, critical not only to our military operations but in everything we do to track down and capture terrorists.” This fits in with his attacks on the Bush administration for the fact that they “bully instead of persuade. They act alone when they could assemble a team. They confuse leadership with going it alone.” As he stated in the debate, he believes President George W. Bush “pushed our allies aside.” Kerry, however, plans on involving NATO and allies in Iraq to help “in rebuilding the country, providing troops and financial commitments.” And he promised in the debates to have a summit – think this year’s “lockbox” statement – to bring our allies to the table. Kerry evidently didn’t mind sounding like an infomercial – “if you vote for me in the next 20 minutes, you get a summit at no extra charge!”Now I could quibble with his specific points, but for the sake of argument let’s just continue in this vein. Pretty much his argument for his candidacy on this point is this – Bush lost our allies with Iraq and I will gain them back. If this isn’t what he means, he needs a new speechwriter. Some new developments have already doomed this position. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told foreign news channel France 2 last week that French troops would go in, “ni aujourd’hui, ni demain.” Now, not knowing French, you might guess that he said, “we surrender.” Normally, you’d be correct. In this case what he said was that French troops would go in, “not today, not tomorrow.” Just today in the Financial Times the German and French governments made clear that they, “will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry is elected.” Put more specifically, Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign policy expert for the ruling Social Democrats, stated, “I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president.”Both governments have stated that they do not expect any change in their situations. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder is not likely to change his position as he was elected in 2002 on a platform that renounced sending troops. France is no more likely as well. Yet John Kerry continues to assail the administration, stating that, “the Bush administration would have you believe that when it comes to our allies, it won’t make a difference who is president. They say the Europeans won’t help us, no matter what. But I have news for President Bush – just because you can’t do something, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”Unfortunately, the facts are not bearing Kerry out on this one. Whatever he actually said in the debate, Kerry has already lost a huge part of his supposed “solution” to the Iraq war. That is until he potentially finds a new “nuance” to his position and, again, comes out for unilateral action in Iraq as he did in a 1997 “Crossfire” show on CNN. In any case, at this point John Kerry seems to pin his hopes on his charm to bring the French and Germans into an alliance. Hopefully this charm doesn’t involve the same “charm” he used in a March 2 interview on CNN’s “American Morning” where he dismissed the allies in the War on Terror as “window dressing.” I’m sure the sons and daughters of those who are helping in the war would be glad to know a presidential candidate can sneer at their sacrifices.So if I were John Kerry, I’d be very worried. Whatever the pundits say, he lost the biggest part of the debate – his argument. Clemm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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