Monday, October 11, 2004

John Kerry: The Way We Were...

It has already been widely reported that in an interview with the New York Times magazine John Kerry equated terrorism with a nuisance crime like prostitution or illegal gambling. Matt Bai, the author of the story, asked Kerry "what it would take for Americans to feel safe again”? Here is Kerry’s reply:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' the article states as the Massachusetts senator's reply.

''As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.''

The Bush Administration is already planning to use the quotes in a television ad. The Kerry Campaign is complaining that Kerry’s words are being taken out of context. The Kerry Campaign released this statement:

"This is yet another example of the Bush campaign taking John Kerry's words out of context, and then blowing it up into something that is nothing," he said.

"The whole article is about how John Kerry recognizes that the war on terror requires a multipronged approach. It's not just the military aspect, but you need diplomacy to be able to enlist your allies. The Bush people have never understood that. John Kerry has always said that terrorism is the No. 1 threat to the U.S."

The question that the Democrats are trying to fight is whether or not John Kerry believes that terrorism is just a nuisance right now. In defending Kerry’s statement from that angle they expose thier fundamental inability to understand the threat of terror. The question that has to be asked of the Senator is: When was terrorism ever just a nuisance? Kerry states that we have to “get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance''. Was terrorism just a nuisance in the 1990’s when we were attacked time after time, when the plans that killed 3,000 Americans on September 11th were hatched and when we never responded with more than tough words or missile launches into empty camps? Terrorism was much more than a nuisance in the 1990’s. The administration at that time just chose to pretend that we were not at war, that the problem was overseas, far,far away where it could not hurt us. It would be very easy for America to return to that frame of mind. We could simply withdraw from the war, remove our troops from Iraq, remove most of them from Afghanistan and go about our business like September 11th never happened. If there is a bombing overseas of an American embassy, we can issue a strong statement, and we will simply wait here for the next more devastating attack on our shores. That is exactly what we did in the 1990’s. We treated terrorism like a nuisance, and 3,000 Americans died.

September 11th was supposed to have changed our attitude about terrorism, but for John Kerry it changed nothing. In fact, later in the interview when the author asked Kerry how September 11th had changed him, he had trouble answering:

When I asked Kerry how Sept. 11 had changed him, either personally or politically, he seemed to freeze for a moment.
''It accelerated -- '' He paused. ''I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it.''

Kerry can say that he wants to return to a time when terrorism was a “nuisance” because September 11th did not change him. Just because you pretend terrorism is nothing more than a “nuisance” doesn’t mean it is just a nuisance. John Kerry does not understand the war, he does not understand the stakes, and if elected president his policies will reflect the fact that September 11th did not change his thinking.

We can either fight the terrorists or we can withdraw and pretend they are just a nuisance. I prefer to fight.

Be sure to check the current posts for updates.