If the deciding issue in this campaign were to be which candidate is a smoother debater, John Kerry would win. George W. Bush was painfully inarticulate at times last night.
Yet, the biggest gaffe in the debate was not stylistic. It was deeply substantive. And it didn’t come from President Bush. It came from Senator Kerry, who delivered it in plain English. It came when Jim Lehrer asked Kerry to state his position on preemptive war.
“No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when I do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.”
Global test? Prove to the world?
Who is going to score this global test to which Kerry would subject U.S. national security decisions? How about the Communists who still run China? What about Algeria, Angola, Chile, Benin?
All of these nations are currently members of the U.N. Security Council. Surely, if our national security actions are to pass a “global test” we must get the Beninese on board.
President Bush rightly pounced on Kerry’s invocation of a “global test.” “I’m not exactly sure what you mean, ‘passes the global test,’ you take preemptive action if you pass a global test,” said Bush. “My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this secure.”
So, what “test” of any kind ought to be imposed on a U.S. President when he uses military force, preemptively or otherwise? There is only one test and Bush passed it in the case of the Iraq War.
It is called the Constitution–Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of which says: “The Congress shall have power . . . to declare war.”
On October 10, 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 296 to 133 for a resolution authorizing the President to use force in Iraq. On October 11, 2002, the Senate approved the resolution, 77 to 23. John Kerry voted in the affirmative.
What exactly did Kerry vote for? The resolution was entitled “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.”
If Kerry did not want the President to use military force against Iraq, he should have voted against the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.”
Good people made good arguments both for and against the war. Good people voted both for and against the war. Good Americans can disagree on the war now. But Kerry voted under our Constitution, in the United States Congress, to authorize President Bush to make war in Iraq–and now he wants to impose an international test on that decision and future U.S. decisions on military action.
Kerry doesn’t respect the constitutional authority of the constitutional office he holds now. Why should Americans trust him with a higher one?