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If you can't say it to someone's face, then don't say it...

Mark AR Kleiman doesn't think much of Bush's current campaign tack:

It's too early in the campaign season to be handing out the award for the dumbest charge, but Team Bush has certainly staked an early claim with its attack on John Kerry's comment -- known to be the truth by anyone who pays any attention to such things -- that many leaders in friendly countries overseas are rooting for him to win, though diplomacy prevents them from saying so in public.

The White House spokesgeek and others -- including Colin Powell, who surely knows better -- are demanding that Kerry identify the leaders who have told him privately that they're for him.

Well, "dumb" is probably the wrong word for it; as a tactic, it's quite brilliant, as it puts Kerry in an untenable position. Of course, Mark means that the charge is substantively dumb, not tactically dumb -- but I'm not sure I agree. It's a valid substantive criticism of Kerry that he stuck his foot in his mouth by saying something he shouldn't have.
Kerry's obvious response to this -- which he hasn't yet made, as far as I know -- is that when a foreign leader tells you something that he can't say in public, you're not supposed to quote him on it, because if you do then he'll never tell you anything again he doesn't want to have his name attached to. It's called "keeping confidences," and it's a very valuable charateristic to have in a President.
You know what else is a valuable characteristic to have in a President? Not revealing things people told you in private in the first place. If a person tells you something he "can't say in public," then you shouldn't say it in public, either -- at least not when the essence of the statement is the identity of the speaker. The violation of confidence isn't just using the speaker's name, but using the speaker's words. After all, without the speaker's identity, what Kerry is left with is, "Someone likes me better than Bush, but I won't tell you who." And Kleiman thinks that this makes Bush look foolish? I beg to differ.

By the way, why is Kerry bragging about this, anyway? is it really appropriate for a candidate for president to say, in effect, "Vote for me because I'm more popular in Europe"? Yes, I know, politics don't stop at the water's edge anymore -- if they ever did. But shouldn't one be a little more subtle about it? "Vote for me because I'll work to rebuild international alliances," perhaps? (It seems slightly less like a prom queen campaign speech if one uses the latter phrasing.)


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Comments (1)


Clearly the statement made by Kerry that a number of world leaders favor him over Bush was dumb on the face of it. Either he is lying or he is breaking their confidence. Let us assume for a moment that what he said was true. If they had wanted this information to be made public, they would have come out and said it. Since they didnít, he should not have broken their confidence. So even if Kerry had been telling the truth, all he would have succeeded in doing was to embarrassing these leaders.

However, the bigger issue as far as I am concerned is the fact Kerry believes that it is to his benefit that non-Americans favor him in an American election. I know many Democrats want to allow the UN to have a veto on US foreign policy. It appears that they now want foreign governments to decide who should be President of the US. Shall we simply give up our sovereignty and have the French, Belgians and Germans decide who should govern our country?


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