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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Take the Gloves Off

As I noted a few days ago, the President keeps emphasizing that John Kerry "would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today." In fact, Bush has repeated this charge in various swing states: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Maine.

In Ohio, the President ramped the charges up even more:
Later this week, I'm going to have an opportunity to debate my opponent. (Applause.) It's been a little tough to prepare for the debates because he keeps changing his positions. (Laughter and applause.) Especially on the war. I mean, after all, he voted for the use of force, but against funding the troops. He said that we're not spending enough money to reconstruct Iraq, yet now says we're spending too much. He said it was the right decision to go into Iraq, yet now he calls it the wrong war.

AUDIENCE: Flip-flop! Flip-flop! Flip-flop!

THE PRESIDENT: I think he can spend 90 minutes debating himself.
As I've been saying for weeks, Kerry has to undercut Bush's position -- but I don't think Mr. Consistency can do this easily.

So, I think Kerry should come out firing in the debates. He needs to "take the gloves off." He should "go to the mattresses." Pick your favorite of these clich├ęs.
Mr. President, in March 2003, as I clearly said at the time, I was not ready to send American soldiers to war in Iraq. Instead, I would have let the international weapons inspections finish their job. We would have learned then that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

So, yes, it is possible that Saddam Hussein might still be in power today. But he would be a defanged dictator, ruling a country that posed no significant threat to the security of the United States of America.

Rather than sending 1000 young American men and women to die in Iraq and pulling special forces out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, my administration would have relentlessly pursued public enemy #1, Osama bin Laden. I find it incredible that in March 2002 you claimed truly "not [to be] that concerned about him." Today, three years after 9/11, you virtually never talk about the man you once wanted "dead or alive," but you boast daily about toppling Saddam Hussein as if you personally slew Goliath.

Rather than wasting two or three hundred billion tax dollars on a war in Iraq that has left us less secure, my administration would have focused US resources on real threats to American security, like the dictator in North Korea who continues to rule and the ayatollahs who continue to govern Iran. You once said these states were part of an "axis of evil," but your administration has done almost nothing while these states relentlessly pursued nuclear capabilities.

The plain truth is that America cannot use force to topple every two-bit dictator in the world today. We must carefully and accurately access the most important threats and act on those. This administration has failed its most important job.
That's my Kerry debate advice.

Updates: A slightly different version of this post appears at Check out their site, one of my former students was a co-founder.

Also, the Iraq war has "only" cost about $140 billion to-date, but virtually everyone agrees the US will be there for another year or two, at about $4 billion per month. Some perfectly reasonable estimates suggest costs upwards of $350 billion from March 2003 through December 2005.

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