As anyone who watches TV knows (and it is probably repeated every couple of minutes on talk radio, but I don't listen), the Bush campaign has tried to make an issue of John Kerry's vote against the $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq.
For comic "waffling" effect, they also note that Kerry also voted for the $87 billion.
Matt Miller Online has the syndicated columnist's "fantasy ad" for Kerry, explaining these votes -- and using them to define the difference between the President and the challenger. "If I were Kerry," opines Miller, "I'd use this fight over the funding for Iraq to showcase the difference between his values and the president's on a choice where the vast majority of Americans would side with Kerry."
"Here are the facts: George Bush is having our children pay for Iraq. He has put $160 billion so far on our kids' credit card to pay for a war we chose to wage. We are running record budget deficits of over half a (ITALICS) trillion (END ITALICS) dollars a year because George Bush says our children should pay for their parents' war.Miller then imagines Kerry challenging Bush to abandon the "hit-and-run" sound bites to explain why his administration's approach is better than Kerry's would be.
"My plan was different. My plan was to pay to finish the job in Iraq by repealing some of the tax cuts that George Bush gave to the best-off Americans.
"Every well-off American I've asked has told me they would have gladly supported such a plan. They feel, as I do, that it is un-American to stick our children with debts for today's wars in order to preserve big tax cuts for people at the top. It's just wrong.
"So I voted for my plan to pay for our own choices today, and against President Bush's plan to slip our children the bill so that he could give tax cuts to the wealthiest. I can't think of a clearer way to show you how my values differ from those of this White House. You'll be choosing between these values come November.
A pro-Bush blogger named Oberon says "No way dude," but I think he (or she?) underestimates the American people's intellect.
Was Kerry voting against the troops? No, he voted for the troops -- right? Even the Bush people say so. The vote against one version of the $87 billion was precisely the kind of gamesmanship that Congress engages in all the time. Bills are forwarded from committees and amendments are typically offered on the floor. This pits two or more versions of a bill against one another. Usually, the alternatives address the same issues, but are different in some important way.
It's a basic truth of Congress.
With the Republicans in power, the Democratic-preferred bills virtually never pass, but that doesn't mean they haven't proposed better ideas. In 2002, the Republicans used the Homeland Security Department bill as a weapon against Democrats like Max Cleland. Dems had pushed the agency, but wanted a bill that assured union rights. The administration actually originally opposed the new department, but worked to frame a bill that Democrats would have to oppose because it spit in the face of one of their core constituencies (labor).
Republicans play these games too. As Kerry said the other day, the President threatened to veto the $87 billion for Iraq "if it included money to pay for health care for reservists and required Iraq to pay back some of the money set aside for its reconstruction."
Neither Oberon nor I quote the last line from Miller's fantasy ad:
"I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because one of the choices you face this fall is whether you want a leader who will finally trust you with the truth - or one who can only achieve his goals by misleading you or insulting your intelligence."Surely what Miller and I argue here is readily understood.
Elections are about choices, but the "drive by" false choices are a poor way of thinking about them. Yesterday, I wasted 90 minutes watching Chris Rock's movie "Head of State" on HBO. The southern white candidate for President runs an ad pointing out that his black opponent (Rock) didn't speak at an anti-cancer forum.
Conclusion: his opponent is for cancer.
I think the American public can figure it out, especially if Kerry did something like what Miller suggests.