Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Kerry waffles on water, respects Mullahs

The New York Times Magazine has a hilarious and revealing piece, "Kerry's Undeclared War."

Bai records this exchange:

''Can we get any of my water?'' [Kerry] asked Stephanie Cutter, his communications director, who dutifully scurried from the room. I asked Kerry, out of sheer curiosity, what he didn't like about Evian.

''I hate that stuff,'' Kerry explained to me. ''They pack it full of minerals.'' ''What kind of water do you drink?''

I asked, trying to make conversation.

''Plain old American water,'' he said. ''You mean tap water?''

''No,'' Kerry replied deliberately. He seemed now to sense some kind of trap. I was left to imagine what was going through his head. If I admit that I drink bottled water, then he might say I'm out of touch with ordinary voters. But doesn't demanding my own brand of water seem even more aristocratic? Then again, Evian is French -- important to stay away from anything even remotely French.

''There are all kinds of waters,'' he said finally. Pause. ''Saratoga Spring.'' This seemed to have exhausted his list. ''Sometimes I drink tap water,'' he added.

To be fair, water is a slippery issue. At least Kerry didn't lapse into his low, throaty growl, narrow his eyes into slits and say, "I prefer the blood of Charlie. Keeps me strong; replenishes electrolytes."

The article did a great job summing up the mission of the neoconservatives, vis a vis regime change. This shows how the Iraq war is most certainly not a deviation from the central war on terror:
The neo-conservatives have advanced a viral theory of democracy. In their view, establishing a model democracy in the Arab world, by force if necessary, no matter how many years and lives it takes, would ultimately benefit not only the people of that country but also America too. A free and democratic Iraq, to take the favorite example, will cause the people of other repressive countries in the region to rise up and demand American-style freedom, and these democratic nations will no longer be breeding pools for nihilistic terrorists.
Compare this visionary, idealistic and moral world view to Kerry's Scowcroftian, stability oriented view:
Kerry, too, envisions a freer and more democratic Middle East. But he flatly rejects the premise of viral democracy, particularly when the virus is introduced at gunpoint. ''In this administration, the approach is that democracy is the automatic, easily embraced alternative to every ill in the region,'' he told me. Kerry disagreed. ''You can't impose it on people,'' he said. ''You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process.''

''We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,'' Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. ''And that's all about your diplomacy.'

Engage more respectfully with Islam? Bush has been respectful to the point of obsequiousness in some cases, even refusing to storm mosques that are terrorist holdouts, as well as declaring Islam a "religion of peace." I fear that Kerry's respect would cross the line into appeasement and impede the war on terror. And then there's the mention of the religious leaders, mullahs, imams, and clerics as those that need our respect. I would have felt infinitely better if Kerry had qualified this with "liberal" or even "moderate" religious leaders, imams etc. But he doesn't, and he even throws "mullahs" into there, a reference, you have to believe, to the theocracy in Iran, rapidly trying to attain nuclear weapons, and oppressing their population. Yeah, they need more respect from us.

Oh, and you can't impose democracy on a people? Tell it to the Afghanis, buddy.

The conclusion of the article is magnificent:
What I came to understand was that, in fact, the attacks really had not changed the way Kerry viewed or talked about terrorism -- which is exactly why he has come across, to some voters, as less of a leader than he could be. He may well have understood the threat from Al Qaeda long before the rest of us. And he may well be right, despite the ridicule from Cheney and others, when he says that a multinational, law-enforcement-like approach can be more effective in fighting terrorists. But his less lofty vision might have seemed more satisfying -- and would have been easier to talk about in a political campaign -- in a world where the twin towers still stood. [emphasis added]

Well, that's why they call 'em the Sept. 10th party.


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1:38 PM  

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