Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Enter Stage Left

Don’t let the headlines fool you. Tony Blair is truly an unapologetic liberal in every sense. His domestic agenda is to the left of the 2004 Democrat platform, but his foreign policy was as transformed by September 11th as if the attack had been on his soil. Like President Bush, he has been challenged by opponents to admit misrepresenting the evidence that Saddam Hussein harbored WMDs. Perhaps buoyed by John Howard’s resounding victory, today he is credited with this timely quote: "What I do not in any way accept is that there was any deception by anyone. I will not apologise [sic] for removing Saddam Hussein. I will not apologise for the conflict. It was right then, is right now and is essential for the wider security of the region and the world."

The principles of modern American liberalism were crystallized during Vietnam, tested in the failed policies of Jimmy Carter, proven historically irrelevant by Ronald Reagan, and cast out of the people’s House in 1994. The movement has not evolved much in thirty-five years, unless you consider Howard Dean an improvement over Ramsey Clark. Theirs remains the lexicon of the 1960s and 1970s: "quagmire," "exit strategy," "think globally, act locally," and "conflict" instead of war.

After America was attacked on December 7, 1941, movement liberals largely abandoned the isolationist pacifism of "America First." After September 11th, movement liberals largely embraced the global pacifism of "Blame America First." Nowadays we must look abroad to find liberal leaders with unabashed confidence in democracy and an unshakable commitment to the defense of freedom.

Candidate Kerry has straddled absurdly inconsistent positions to the right and left of George W. Bush, but the record proves Senator Kerry is consistently liberal and has been certified as such by the National Journal. This year he wants to convince us that he can wave the two-fingered salute signifying V-for-victory-in-Iraq, but we all know it’s really a peace sign.

Much has been rightly made of Kerry’s admission in the New York Times Magazine that he misses the days when terrorism was viewed as a nuisance, like gambling and prostitution, and his goal is to restore that mindset and policy. This opinion, expressed confidently and clearly, is obviously genuinely his own.

I find this excerpt from his interview with Matt Bai equally revealing.

"A row of Evian water bottles had been thoughtfully placed on a nearby table. Kerry frowned.

‘Can we get any of my water?’ he 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 of 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."

Terry McAuliffe is probably thinking, "There goes the Sparkletts vote."

To summarize, a sympathetic interviewer was left to imagine a complex inner calculation to explain why the man who would be the leader of the free world could not handle a no-brainer question about bottled water.

When you are true to your convictions, life is less complicated because you don’t need to keep your stories straight and you can simply be yourself. If you are uncomfortable with your real self and your convictions, even the easiest questions will trip you up. Keep this in mind when you watch the final presidential debate tonight.

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