- The late Lillian Hellman was a ghastly piece of goods in numberless ways, but she did still have a percentage of courage and wit. At a campus event quite late in her life, when asked in a whiny way by a member of the audience “why have you not endorsed gay lib?” she paused briefly. Her thick and darkened spectacles were opaque. “The forms of fucking,” she finally declared, “do not require my endorsement.”
That would be vaguely analogous to my view of this depressing and trivial election campaign, in which I do not in any case yet have the right, let alone the inclination, to vote.
….Sen. Kerry has made enough formal commitment to regime change in Iraq to make the prospect of his election a thinkable one, also.
….If I could choose the person whose attitude toward the immediate foe was nearest to mine, I would pick Bush (and Blair). But if I departed from the strictly subjective, and then considered the ways in which this administration has bitched things up, and further imagined what might happen to a Democratic incumbent who was compelled to get real, I could see a case the other way.
….It’s absurd for liberals to talk as if Kristallnacht is impending with Bush, and it’s unwise and indecent for Republicans to equate Kerry with capitulation. There’s no one to whom he can surrender, is there?
So Hitch says we can live with either and he endorses neither. Weaselly, and certainly a cop out, but at least he isn’t a citizen and can’t vote, so he would not be able to carry out an “endorsement” – at least that’s his story.
But no such mitigating factors apply to Mickey Kaus, who has written what may be the most cynical, dispirited glob of real politik sludge I have ever read by a writer I admire and/or take seriously.
- Bush has virtually no appealing second term domestic agenda. Kerry’s domestic plans are attractive, especially the expansion of health care coverage, plus he’s uniquely positioned to defy traditional Democratic interest groups–especially unions. He doesn’t owe them much –most supported his oppponents–and, thanks to the Internet, he isn’t that dependent on them for campaign dollars.
Okay, he favors Kerry’s domestic agenda, and the part about not being beholden to unions is interesting.
- If all we were talking about was Iraq, it would be hard to have much more confidence in Kerry than Bush (though we might still want to punish Bush for his mistakes).
In the larger war on terror, however, it’s no contest. Both candidates will hunt down and kill existing terrorists. The issue is how many new terrorists are we creating–as Donald Rumsfeld famously wrote, “Is our current situation such that ‘the harder we work, the behinder we get.’?” Let’s say that n is the number of net new terrorists who’ll come online in the next four years. Isn’t it obvious that n is a lot lower if Kerry is president than if Bush is president? Even if you think the Iraq war was worth fighting, as it may well turn out in the long run to have been, it’s hard to deny that it has angered millions around the world, and that Bush is a focal point of their anger. A tiny but definitely non-trivial percentage of these people will be angry enough to try to do us harm, and as the years go by technology will make it easier for them to accomplish this. We lower the volume of lethal hatred simply by thanking Bush for his efforts and retiring him.
Significantly, President Kerry will not have to do anything to accomplish this. He won’t need any grand foreign policy framework. It will happen to him automatically if he wins, whether he likes it or not. In all probability he will have to fight against the tide of smarmy international goodwill that will envelop his administration–forcefully reminding the world that he intends to be tough, America should still be feared, etc. Unless he’s an utter incompetent, however, he should be able to accomplish that while simultaneously lowering the level of anti-Americanism and at least partially defusing the self-fulfilling prospect of a “clash of civilizations.”
….If all Kerry does is lower the hatred level while making the best of Iraq (and continuing to pursue Al Qaeda) he will have done his job. In every other respect, he has “one term president” written all over him. This may not be so good for the Democrats in the medium run. That doesn’t matter either.
So Kaus’s ultimate reasoning for favoring Kerry is that he is anyone but Bush, that the most important issue in this election is “lowering the hatred level” toward the U.S. of terrorists and potential terrorists.
How is this anything other than appeasement? Why not make the terrorists really happy and vote for Nader, Badnarik, or Cobb, the Green candidate: any one of those would certainly lower the hatred level much more efficiently than Kerry, who is pretty well committed to carrying on in Iraq and the greater war on terror.
Another problem, he says a key question is how many terrorists are we creating? First, we aren’t “creating” any terrorists, we are fighting a war we didn’t start, against those who hate us for who we are and what we believe. If we do ANYHING against the terrorists, we are, to follow this theory, “creating” more terrorists. So is Kaus saying the best course of action would be to do nothing?
This is illogical as well as repugnantly craven. The object of the war on terror is not the incremental, feverish reduction of the “level of hatred” among those inclined to hate us – what had we done to raise the level of hatred prior to 9/11 other than exist? – the object is to crush the aspirations of Islamists everywhere, and capture or kill all whose aspirations will not be crushed.
Appeasement, mollification, conciliation cannot fit anywhere into the plan: these things make success against terror less likely, not more likely. Bin Laden’s primary justification for the attacks of 9/11 was that we were a decadent, weak, lazy – as well as evil – people who wouldn’t defend ourselves and were therefore ripe for the taking.
He no longer feels this way – should we return him to this comfort zone where he once again believes he can attack with impunity? I think not, Mickey.