John Kerry tries mightily to both distinguish himself from Bush on Iraq, while seemingly agreeing with Bush’s purposes. In doing this he calls for a strategy with more "realism" as well as a "realistic path to democracy in Iraq." He wants to reconnect "our ideals with American common sense." His emphasis, as always, is on paying attention (and giving things to) our allies. This smells like helping the UN and the French--who mistrust American purposes, means, and power--tie our own hands.
The reason for bringing this to your attention is not that his views are silly or simply disagreeable--they are neither--but to note the very large problem he will have in the election. The Michael Moore/Al Gore insanity will not get him any votes. He must disown that sort of extremism, while persuading more ordinary undecided citizens that he can do better. This is becoming increasingly difficult now that sovereignty has been transferred, Saddam is on trial, and the numbers of Americans losing their lives has dropped to 49 in June (from 140 in April, and 84 in May). He must argue that he can do what Bush wants to do in the mid-East, but do it better. This means he has to question Bushs choices regarding Afghanistan and Iraq, and thereby question Bushs integrity, prudence, and character. He will have to argue that he is more trustworthy than Bush, without seeming that he is Frances candidate. That will be a hard mountain to climb.
Kerry has also announced that life starts at conception, in his humble opinion. The reason that this is shocking is that he has had a very strong pro-abortion record. Up until now, regardless of his flip-flopping on other issues, no one in his right mind would have thought he were capable os saying this: "I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." His spokeswoman said that Kerry has always thought (using a Clinton formulation) that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare," but this is the first time he discussed when life begins. It seemed to be the case that Clinton could get away with this kind of sophistry, but Kerry is not clever enough to do so. He has a 100% voting record on abortion according Naral-Pro Choice America. It’s not the GOP that paints him as a flip-flopper, he himself is his own artist. This will be used against him in the campaign, and entirely to Bush’s advantage.
There is also much hype about Kerry’s choice for vice-president. David Lambro does a pretty good job showing why none of the names mentioned will be of much help to him. The running mate will not get Kerry elected; no VP nominee ever helped a presidential nominee get elected, although some have clearly hurt (Farraro for Mondale, Miller for Goldwater, are exmaples). Think about it this way. If the major issue in the election is Iraq and the war on terror (which I believe is the case), then the VP nominee must be a serious, mature person with some foreign policy credentials. John Edwards debating Dick Cheney on foreign policy will be like a high school student debating Aristotle. The only three people I know of who could have some authority in such a debate are Sam Nunn, John Breaux, or maybe Bob Kerrey. Bob Graham is out, he is a silly person (unless Kerry wants to get someone who could help him get only one state); that is unlikely because the Demos are currently (wrongly) thinking that they can win nationally by five to ten points. His selection, which, apparently, is going to be announced Tuesday or Wednesday, therefore will be a surprise to the congnoscenti. It cannot be Edwards or Gephardt or Vilsack (you can’t have two Catholics on the ticket). It must be a serious person with foreign policy credentials. This is a war election first. Second, it’s on "values." Kerry must choose someone who is a moderate on the second, and a hard-liner on the first. It should be Breaux, Nunn, or Bob Kerrey. If Kerry can surprise us, he will have a better chance of being elected. If he can’t surprise us, he will have proven to one and all that he is dull. If he ends up choosing Edwards, he will reveal that he does not think the election will be on the war. And he will be wrong. I say he does not pick Edwards.