Nothing stirs Democrats’ anger like the fearmongering rhetoric Bush/Cheney employed on the march to war. “The Iraqi regime’s record over the decade leaves little doubt that Saddam Hussein wants to retain his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and to expand it to include nuclear weapons. We cannot allow him to prevail in that quest. The weapons are an unacceptable threat.”
“Can we afford to ignore the possibility that Saddam Hussein might provide weapons of destruction to some terrorist group bent on destroying the United States?”
“Every nation has the right to act pre-emptively if it faces an imminent and grave threat.”
The problem with this rhetoric is that it belongs to Senator John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner. He voted for unilateral war in Iraq, citing the same basic rationales offered by the White House. The only difference was that Kerry simultaneously expressed ambiguous “on the other hand” doubts. Ever since his vote, he has elaborated nuanced explanations as to why he didn’t actually mean what he seemed to be saying.
Does it matter? Maybe not. Democrats are so anxious to oust Bush and infatuated with “electability,” many seem eager to skip past important substantive questions. If Kerry locks up the nomination in the next few weeks, one can expect him to move swiftly to the center, broadcasting to wider audiences why he is not one of those peacenik liberals Republicans like to demonize. To avoid “buyer’s remorse” later, Democrats might ask for clarification on three fundamental matters before it’s too late.
Kerry supports Bush’s new doctrine of pre-emptive war. True, the Senator did question whether the Administration had sufficient evidence to invade Iraq and did urge further diplomacy, but the war resolution he supported in October 2002 required neither. Headed “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq,” the resolution consigned open-ended, undefined powers: “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” Kerry’s claim that he was not giving Bush “carte blanche” for invasion is believable only if you haven’t read the text.
Lately, Kerry has further embellished his antiwar credentials, denouncing Bush for “ideological pre-emption,” claiming “the vote I cast was not a vote to go to war” and opposing $87 billion for the Iraq conflict. Yet he also continues to defend the concept of pre-emptive unilateral war. He belittled Howard Dean’s insistence that “a true international coalition” (Kerry’s words) should have been the condition for war. “For Howard Dean to permit a veto over when America can or cannot act not only becomes little more than a pretext for doing nothing–it cedes our security and presidential responsibility to defend America to someone else,” Kerry explained. Which is it, Senator?