August 05, 2004

Biden V. Kerry

Itís too bad someone like Sen. Joe Biden didn't run in the Democratic primary. (It would have helped even more had he won it, but that's another discussion.)

Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic, compares and contrasts two foreign policy speeches in Boston, one by Joe Biden and the other by John Kerry.

Biden started by correctly naming America's enemy. Unlike Kerry, who mentioned "terrorists," "antiterrorist operations," and "a global war on terror," Biden never mentioned the "T" word. Instead, he spoke of the "death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism." The difference is more than semantic. Terrorism, as commentators have pointed out, is a tactic. Sri Lankan suicide bombers who blow themselves up in the name of Tamil independence are terrorists--but we are not at war with them. If militants in Iraq shoot only at American soldiers and not at civilians, they are not technically terrorists--but they are our enemies nonetheless. Radical Islam is an ideology, and calling it the enemy implies that America is fighting a war not just of national interest, but of ideas. "Radical fundamentalism," Biden said, "will fall to the terrible, swift power of our ideas as well as our swords."

Kerry also lauded American values, saying, "I know the power of our ideals. We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared." But, because he hadn't defined the enemy by reference to its ideas, his statement about American principles lacked context and force. A beacon is also a very different metaphor than a sword. Biden said the "death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism ... breached our shores on September 11." Notice the implication: The war against radical Islam began before September 11--in other corners of the globe. Thus, victory requires the United States to play an active role in conflicts within other societies, particularly Muslim ones. Kerry's statement, by contrast, can be read as a call merely for the United States to live out its ideals at home, secure that the world is watching. Indeed, his speech said nothing about promoting democracy in Iraq or anywhere else.

There are people in the Democratic Party who understand what we're up against here. Hopefully, if John Kerry wins, he will staff them.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 5, 2004 09:34 PM

>>>"There are people in the Democratic Party who understand what we're up against here. Hopefully, if John Kerry wins, he will staff them."

That's all we really want, for a Dem to actually name the enemy. Is that too much to ask for?

Posted by: David at August 5, 2004 10:37 PM

And the indication that he will staff such people is ???

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at August 5, 2004 11:10 PM


I said "hopefully" he will staff them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 5, 2004 11:49 PM

Its possible once he's in Captain Kirk's seat getting all the real information he'll turn into a hawk. However, he surrounds himself with Jimmy
Carter, James Baker, Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy and worst of all is who will really be sitting co-pilot and DON'T THINK FOR A SECOND SHE WON'T BE, THEREZZZZZZZA HEINZ KERRY.

Posted by: Mike at August 6, 2004 12:16 AM

The best thing that could have happened would have been for Democrats to have nominated Biden or Kerrey--as in, Bob Kerrey. Or Lieberman.

Well, wish in one had, crap in the other, see what fills up first, right?

My hope at this point, honestly, is that Democrats get an embarassing, truly humiliating, ass-whupping in November. Sorry my blue-state pals, but I'm praying for it. Because if that happens, guys like McAuliffe and Trippi and Dean and Kerry will be shown the door, and sensible people like Biden and Lieberman and Kerrey and others will be running things over there--and America will have a Democratic Party worth trusting again.

If Kerry wins, on the other hand, I'm not too worried. The Republicans in Congress will not let him bail on Iraq or do anything truly stupendously stupid. But it won't be a good thing for the Democratic party unless somehow, despite all indications, Kerry is a popular and successful President. (Which, frankly, I will hope he is, I just don't believe it.)

Posted by: Dean Esmay at August 6, 2004 12:32 AM

RE- hoping for a democrat loss to restore the party to sanity: I've been taking this position for about a year and a hlaf now, ever since it became obvious that Lieberman would not even break 10% in the primaries. I have been a lifelong Democratic voter. But I moved last year, and am reregistering to vote in a new state. I am not sure I am going to register as a Democrat. This is truly a major change for me. But I don't feel like I have changed at all. It feels like the party has moved alot further than I have in a very short amount of time. And I really do not like where they have gone.

Posted by: shaulie at August 6, 2004 05:27 AM

" There are people in the Democratic Party who understand what we're up against here. Hopefully, if John Kerry wins, he will staff them "-- MJT

If J*K was REMOTELY interested in facing reality he would have given Biden's speech and not the drivel he actually delivered.
We simply cannot run an anti-terrorist war on the basis of wish fulfillment.Almost the first words out of Kerry's mouth were related to how he had a SECRET PLAN to get US troops out of Iraq.This is bad optics and worse policy.

Posted by: dougf at August 6, 2004 06:09 AM

I do not believe Hillary Clinton is going to allow Kerry to have control of the Democratic Party.

Partisan politics within the Democrat's party is the reason why Kerry is going to lose the 2004 presidential elections.

Posted by: syn at August 6, 2004 06:27 AM

Michael, I share your wish. But judging by the last two administrations I wouldn't count on it. Bill Clinton ran this first time as a moderate and immediately staffed and began to govern from the left. He dashed back to the center again for re-election.

George W. Bush ran as a moderate. He staffed and governed to the right.

I suspect that both of these moves were rewards to the most loyal segments of the base and that's exactly what we should expect from John Kerry as president. So it's a reasonable expectation that President Kerry will dash quickly to the left.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 6, 2004 07:02 AM

Biden's right, I believe, but Kerry had to hit the right political notes.

Just imagine if he'd gone the whole speech with mentioning "terrorism," as Biden did. Good-bye election.

I have the feeling that Kerry understands full well that the war isn't against "terrorism," because terrorism is a tactic not an enemy. But he also understands that the Bush and the media have framed this struggle as a war on terror, and Kerry has to talk about that way.

Posted by: Oberon at August 6, 2004 07:15 AM

oops -- I meant "without mentioning terrorism"

Posted by: Oberon at August 6, 2004 07:17 AM

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if the USA had no military defense at all. Like, none, and no quick way to build any.

And imagine that there were some radical fundamentalist muslims who were mad at us. We wouldn't be particularly worried about the muslims. We would be worried about mexico. And also about every nation that had a lot of military transport available, that pushed their weight around and sort-of threatened to invade us.

But we do have a strong military. So what we're worried about is nukes and terrorism, because those are the things our military can't defend us against. We aren't so worried about nukes on missiles because we know where the missiles come from and we can hit back so hard that nobody would be stupid enough to hit us that way. There's the possible issue of nuclear attacks from submarines where we might not know which submarine did it. But there aren't a lot of nations with submarine nukes, and we are pretty good at tracking them. There might be an issue with low, slow cruise missiles. Private individuals have flown low-power small robot planes across the atlantic now, using GPS, with no telemetry. Something like that might get through; I don't have the clearance to guess what our defenses are.

And then there's terrorists with nukes.

We're scared about terrorists precisely because we have no credible defense. The idea that our terrorism problem is a (small) group of radical fundamentalists is utterly silly. If we had no defense against mexico, we would be afraid of mexico because they would likely push for redress of their very real grievances against us. We have potential problems with anybody we can't defend ourselves against, and when we have no defense against al qaeda it means we have no defense against any other terrorists either. So we should be afraid of everybody in the world who's upset enough at us to do terrorism.

Unless we accept that there will be more 9/11 pinpricks and we can't prevent it no matter how hard we hit al qaeda. Which I think we mostly agree on -- we just make different conclusions about that.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 6, 2004 08:11 AM

Well, I suppose it all boils down to the choice between a candidate that one "hopes" will make prudent decisions when confronted with the current reality versus one who's actually demonstrated their capacity to do so.

Posted by: MB at August 6, 2004 08:13 AM

Sorry to be posting off topic -- but the article excerpted below SHOULD be of interest to many readers, particularly those of the "slander Kerry for a good cause" persuasion. I would rather post this at Roger Simon's site, where the issue has been under discussion this week, however, he now requires posters to join a spam-generating registration service...
from today's Boston Globe:

Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | August 6, 2004

WASHINGTON -- A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam ''Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry's combat medals.

But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ''terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- one of the main allegations in the book. The affidavit was given to The Boston Globe by the anti-Kerry group to justify assertions in their ad and book.

Elliott is quoted as saying that Kerry ''lied about what occurred in Vietnam . . . for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."

The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star. Over time, some Kerry critics have questioned whether the soldier posed a danger to Kerry's crew. Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives.

Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.

''I still don't think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. ''It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."

Posted by: Markus Rose at August 6, 2004 09:02 AM

>>>>"It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."

If he didnt' see it he shouldn't have signed it. Good for him.

Now, is he calling everybody else a liar? THAT would be interesting.

Posted by: David at August 6, 2004 09:39 AM

Well, I suppose it all boils down to the choice between a candidate that one "hopes" will make prudent decisions when confronted with the current reality versus one who's actually demonstrated their capacity to do so.

Great point. Now which one is which?

Posted by: Tang at August 6, 2004 10:40 AM

To me, Kerry just looks like a big, arrogant goof who hasn’t figured out that he isn’t liked. How he got the nomination of the Dems is beyond me. Why didn’t Biden run? Don’t the Dems have any leaders who know we are at war? Why didn’t they run?

Oh, yeah, I forgot. The Dem primary voters were the anti-war crowd, the radical fringe of their own party. Good for them for being engaged, but where were the rest of the Dems? Where were the Dems who see that we are in a war for our survival? Why didn’t they go vote in the primaries?

The result is a man who I believe is totally unelectable. He will not do better over time, in my opinion, just spiral downhill until he ends up with a bout 44% of the vote in November.

Posted by: thedragonflies at August 6, 2004 10:43 AM


I respect you defending your guy, and the retraction speaks for itself. However, there's a sequence of events in Kerry's life that tells the story I choose to believe. The guy was an actual swift boat commander for a month. Three purple hearts without a scratch or scar is almost statistically impossible.

The democratic party is in trouble because stories like this will alienate what's left of the conservative democrats, especially in battleground states.

And add the fact this guy brought along a movie camera...he's a walking talking caricature.

Posted by: Raymond at August 6, 2004 11:10 AM

Y'all might want to check out Drudge right about now.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 6, 2004 11:21 AM

I think if the Swiftboat guys turn out to be hot air it will be the best thing for Kerry and I don't personally like the campaign. However, Kerry went to his convention "reporting for duty" and Kerry made these enemies himself not George W or anyone else by his own political and self admitted 'over the top actions' when returning from Vietnam. SO ITS KERRY'S BED HE MADE AND ITS THIS BED HE HAS CHOSEN TO HIGHLIGHT, SO ITS BETWEEN HIM AND THE GUY IN VIETNAM HE HAS ANGERED.

Meanwhile, Markus is all excited about to orgasm... ahhhhh but Markus don't get too excited -
Interestingly, the Globe does not mention that Kranish is the author of the official Kerry/Edwards campaign book.

And Drudge Report has a statement from Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, categorically denying Kranish’s story -

“Captain George Elliott describes an article appearing in today’s edition of the BOSTON GLOBE by Mike Kranish as extremely inaccurate and highly misstating his actual views. He reaffirms his statement in the current advertisement paid for by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Captain Elliott reaffirms his affidavit in support of that advertisement, and he reaffirms his request that the ad be played.”

Sorry Markus you'll have to find something else to be grinning about this weekend.
Take a gander over at Moore's website perhaps and dillude yourself in his propaganda that's documentary sometimes and personal opinion at others? hmmmmmmm...
works for me kid.


Posted by: Mike at August 6, 2004 12:05 PM

I'm singuarly unimpressed with Kerry's grand vision - which so far comes only in blurry pictures of what he might do (and he won't tell us until he has the power).

At the national level, Democrats understand nothing except power. Look at the lineup at the convention: Sharpton, Carter, Clinton..... None of those people should be in charge of a small town, let alone a country.

Maybe on the local level there are Democrats who are working hard for honest change.

But of the two national parties, only one has an official, sanctioned Socialist Caucus (headed by Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, among others, and including in their number John Conyers, Barney Frank, Shiela Jackson-Lee, Jim McDermott, Nancy Pelosi, and Maxine Waters).

The Democrats of today are not the party of our grandparents, not the party of FDR, Truman, or JFK (the real one). It has been taken over - over time - by the likes of Pelosi, Sharpton, and the rest.

Posted by: Mike at August 6, 2004 12:08 PM

While this particular Biden speech sounds sensible, Sen. Biden himself is a loose cannon, very inconsistent and prone to flailing. I have met the guy, and know some people who know him well, and they all regard him as not particularly bright and definitely undisciplined.
Perhaps the fact that he is Arlen Specter's best (only?) friend in the Senate is very telling.
It is sad that a guy like Biden is, still, one of the least appalling options the Democratic party can now cite. How they have lost their way...
Biden's sentiments in this speech are helpful, but he would be a disasterous candidate or chief executive.
Seems like only Lieberman or Bayh, or Nebraska's Ben Nelson, have their heads on straight. Not counting Zell or Breaux anymore...
Kerry's crew are cringe-worthy

Posted by: Seppo at August 6, 2004 01:23 PM

Seppo: exactly. If or I should when Kerry loses, I suspect the Dems will crack up much like the space shuttle Columbia, due to inherent instability of its left wing.

Posted by: Ray Zacek at August 6, 2004 02:02 PM

"However, he surrounds himself with Jimmy
Carter, James Baker, Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy"

And Sandy Berger and Joe Wilson (both only forced off Kerry's campaign by the spotlight on their actions).

I agree about THK. This is NOT a fear of strong women in the WH, I don't hate Hillary, I don't think she would make a bad President (she is certainly more of a hawk than Kerry). She is working hard as a Senator. She grew up a normal middle-class life.

But THK has been wealthy her whole life and has no idea how real people live, but thinks she knows what's best for everyone and can't take no for an answer, and has that European smug superiority. I don't want that in the WH.

Posted by: Yehudit at August 6, 2004 03:33 PM

"Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | August 6, 2004"

He claims Kranish misquoted him and he never retracted. Also Kranish is working for Kerry. More here:

Posted by: Yehudit at August 6, 2004 03:36 PM

Michael you are deluding yourself becuase you desparately don't want to vote Republican. It doesn't even matter what Kerry says he will do. Isn't it totally obvious that like Clinton, he lacks the seriousness to place the needs of the country above his own personal needs. You can say what you want about Bush. But unless you are a left wing moonbat (unfortunately this appears to be at least 25-30 percent of the electorate) you know his motivations are national security not driving up his poll ratings. Even if he has made mistakes (who hasn't) and even if you disagree with him on some otherwise important issues (who doesn't) you need to reward his fortitude. Otherwise how can we expect any president to put the needs of the country above his own ever again?

Posted by: Doug at August 6, 2004 05:56 PM

I have trouble seeing, when the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the Viet Nam anti-war protestors, how they can pursue sane policies that will keep the country safe. None of my favorite Democrats would have a chance of being elected. Only one of them tried, Joe Lieberman, and he was trounced.

The Democrats have ditched the DLC and centrism for the extreme left. While you might accuse the Republicans of having moved to the extreme right, it simply is not true, except on cultural issues.

I had hoped, in the past, that Joe Biden was one of those Democrats that could be trusted, but he has disabused me of that idea. I wish all Democrats could be trusted, and that we could carry on a civil debate. It is not possible, in the present environment.

When they stage their massive attempt to disrupt the Republican convention in New York, they risk 1968 all over again. That outburst elected Richard Nixon.

Posted by: Jim Bender at August 6, 2004 07:10 PM

One of the problems with the state of the country is that if Bush came out and spoke of a "death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism," and accuratetely named fundamental islam as the enemy, the PC crowd would jump all over him. Clearly based on their actions, the Bush administration has accurately identified the enemy as islamofascists and their enablers. But I'm not sure they could get away with expressly saying that is who we are fighting.

Hence GWOT, terrorists, and even al Qaeda serve as proxies for the actual enemy, who is broader than UBL's network and clearly draws from this one odious extremist ideology.

Posted by: Hacksaw at August 7, 2004 09:36 AM

Test. Happy weekend, all.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 8, 2004 06:38 PM

Clearly based on their actions, the Bush administration has accurately identified the enemy as islamofascists and their enablers.


What, exactly, are the Bush administration's successes again radical Islamicism?


Let me give you a head start: the Taliban are no longer in control of Kabul or Kandahar.


Posted by: Mork at August 8, 2004 11:55 PM


Here's Kerry's Iraq "plan":

Do you think this is a plan to win, or a plan to cut and run? It sounds like a cut and run plan to me.

Posted by: HA at August 9, 2004 03:39 AM

Mork --

How about rollback of UBL's network and al Sadr as successes 2 & 3?

Posted by: Ben at August 9, 2004 06:26 AM


"Clearly based on their actions, the Bush administration has accurately identified the enemy as islamofascists and their enablers."

Seems to me Michael's original point here was to credit Biden with not resorting to some vague terminology such as "terrorists" but using more precise terms such as "radical fundamentalism." My point was that it would be difficult for Bush to come out and say our mission is to once and for all destroy islamofascists since the PC crowd would rise up in an uproar. However, in taking the fight beyond UBL's network to take on the states and conditions that underlie islamofascist networks like al Qaeda, I argued that Bush "gets it" even though for political reasons he can't come out and call the enemy out by name.

As for successes (which I would not I had not claimed, though I believe they exist), I imagine I can't convince you that a Middle East without bin Laden running Agfhanistan and Saddam running Iraq is in fact a better situation for all of us. Moreover, I suspect you don't consider the turnaround in Pakistan (which while partial has nevertheless been astonishing) with regards to its intelligence and security services and their relationships to terrorists to be meaningful. Nor apparently would you view the painfully slow realization by the Saudis that they too are victims of the ideology they have spawned to be anything to talk about. And I'm sure you have a thousand explanation for why Libya abandoned its WMD efforts that have nothing to do with the last three years.

Posted by: Hacksaw at August 9, 2004 07:24 AM

Joe Biden tends to be a blowhard. He is also inconsistent and tends to contradict himself. While I do like the “Joe Biden on a good day” I believe Gephardt is more the true Democratic type of hawk the Party should seek to follow and I was sorry to not see him do better in the primaries. In reality the “balance” of the Democratic Party is too anti-war and will not only disallow a Democrat to effectively campaign as a Hawk, but disallow him to govern as a Hawk.

Bill Clinton bombed Kosovo from 10,000 feet and never really confronted anything “direct and hard” terrorism or not. Had he done so I suppose he would have had to answer to the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world. On Bush’s side the Pelosi counterpart is a Tom Delay type, pro-Israel and certainly not dovish on such type issues. I distinctly remember Tom Delay’s criticism of Clinton was not doing more to win (similar criticism from John McCain and Bob Dole, both Republicans that supported Clinton’s actions). In the latter two cases the criticism was supportive and sincere for sure. This is what makes it tough for a naturally liberal minded Jewish person like me. Any dream candidate I can think of quickly becomes squashed by the realities of what is the Democratic Party.

Are being socially liberal and a true Hawk too counter intuitive to be normal? I don’t know for sure but it does seem to be extremely rare, at least in action. Sure there are some that appreciate what Bush is doing that are socially liberal, but are they more apt to appreciate what he is willing to do while in their hearts know they would find the inner-struggle much more debilitating on their part? In this I wonder because my instincts say that this is the case. My first time Republican vote like Ed Koch is just not that difficult. The more I read and listen to Ed Koch the more I think he carries my position, life and death trumps all and there is just no time for wishful thinking.

Michael, I know the point you are making and I know the “thinking out loud” serves a purpose of allowing people like myself to vent, speak and work through the issues at hand, however for me it isn’t just a list where I say this guy is right on 5 issues and that guy on 4 so I’ll vote for the first. This is a time to grade the gravity of the issues and let’s be honest, those social “wedge issues” that we have been stalemated on for a generation just don’t matter on one given day, especially if that is a day like 9/11 or worse. If one believes that Islamo-Fascism is a true problem then the choice is fairly simple, if one believes that it is a problem that can be politicized and played with ala “Bush lied about WMD’s” then one will certainly struggle and in the end vote for a waffling nuanced Kerry. In truth Bush has made mistakes and we waste precious time and energy arguing false issues. Intelligence gathering concerning WMD’s was the true problem yet Biden has lowered himself into the dregs on some of these same issues using them to bash this President.

A case can be made for Kerry, it is one I will never buy. People, who might justify Kerry with comparisons of Nixon going to China, spare me! We already have a Republican in the Middle East, Bush is doing his own version of “Nixon goes to China”. As Roger L. Simon asks, “What message do we send if we put Bush out now?” I’ll guarantee you one thing. It isn’t a hawkish one and a message of victory for the terrorists. I don’t want Kerry having to prove what Bush has already proven. I believe our chance for unnecessary harder fighting goes up if Kerry is elected. I don’t expect the terrorist to view Kerry the stronger horse, and of course Europe will view this the opportunity to get us to go “Koffi Annan” in the War on Terror. Do you think Bush is under political pressure? It isn’t anything compared to what Kerry will encounter. We need to make many changes and moves in the WOT, changing horses midstream is not one of them, that is if one takes the War on Terror as a true War and not just a Foreign Policy position.

I'm with Ed Koch, we are at War and the base of voters Kerry has to appeal to doesn't have the stomach for the fight by a longshot. Bush's base does have the stomach, but barely.

Posted by: Samuel at August 9, 2004 08:41 AM
J Thomas:
Posted by: David Fleck at August 10, 2004 07:40 AM
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