Some intelligent, thoughtful bloggers I have great respect for -- bloggers who would ordinarily never support a Democrat for president -- have announced their likely intention to vote for John Kerry this November. Their primary reason is disgust with President Bush's seeming incompetence and/or irresponsibility. There's some truth to that; Bush may be on the right side of the war on terror, but his execution has left something to be desired. And much of his domestic policies range from egregiously awful to plain ol' stupid.
I can sympathize with this position; in terms of domestic policy, there's a serious argument that can be made that a Kerry presidency would be superior to a Bush presidency. Not because Kerry is something to write home about, but because a GOP-controlled Congress and a Democratic president might be nicely gridlocked for four years. The problem is, there's still foreign policy. And Kerry is so feckless that it's hard to imagine him as commander-in-chief. And Edwards? A total lightweight.
For instance, this article in the New York Times, in which Kerry and Edwards boldly announce that the Iraq intelligence was bad:
Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards declared on Friday that slipshod intelligence invoked by President Bush to invade Iraq had cost the nation lives, billions of dollars and international prestige, signaling that the Iraq war would be a central issue in their White House campaign.
"They were wrong and soldiers lost their lives because they were wrong," Mr. Kerry said as Mr. Edwards, in an adjacent seat in the front of their chartered Boeing 757 jet, nodded in agreement. "And America's paying billions of dollars because they were wrong. And allies are not with us because they were wrong."
Mr. Edwards said, "My view is that what George Bush has done in Iraq, both in the lead-up to the war and more importantly his planning for winning the peace, has cost America dearly, and cost the possibility of success dearly."
Yadda yadda yadda. Bush lied, people died. Pretty standard fare, right? But here's what got my goat:
While the two men said they had discussed the crisis in Iraq in their frequent talks leading to Mr. Kerry's decision this week to choose Mr. Edwards, they did not offer any ideas about what the United States should do to end the war beyond what they had previously called for: enlisting the help of allies and the United Nations.
Both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry voted for the resolution authorizing Mr. Bush to go to war. In the interview, they declined to say whether they agreed with other pro-war Democratic senators who said on Friday that they would have voted against the resolution had they known then what was contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report.
"I'm not going to go back and answer hypothetical questions about what I would have done had I known this," Mr. Edwards said.
Mr. Kerry said: "The vote is not today and that's it. I completely agree with John Edwards."
It's one thing to be for the war. It's one thing to be against the war. It's one thing to have changed one's mind. But to not know? How can anybody vote for someone for president who doesn't know
whether he should have supported the war? I'm not saying it should be an easy question; I'm saying that anybody who expects to be elected president should know the answer. This isn't 9/12/01; this is more than a year after the war in Iraq. We've known that the intelligence was faulty for quite a while. Has he not thought about it? Has he been so indecisive (er, I mean "nuanced") that he's still thinking about it?
There's another (and I suspect more likely) possibility: that Kerry does know the answer, but that he -- along with Edwards -- is too much of a political coward to say what he thinks. But is that really any better? There's prudence, and then there's irresponsibility. Again, how can one vote for a person who has so little courage that he won't even answer as fundamental a question as "Would you have gone to war?" If he won't take a risk in answering the question, a risk which is merely electoral, what will happen if he's president and he needs to attack Iran or North Korea? Can we trust him to make a decision?
And if we can't, can anybody justify a vote for him, no matter how unsatisfactory Bush is?
[ADDENDUM: Note that the title of this post refers to the candidates, not the bloggers I cited at the beginning of the post.]