Editorial: Democrats offer their version of a war president

August 01, 2004

"And we, John and I, we will have one clear unmistakable message for al-Qaida and these terrorists: You cannot run. You cannot hide. We will destroy you." - Sen. John Edwards

"Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military." - Sen. John Kerry

Strong words, these quotes from speeches last week to the Democratic National Convention by that party's presidential and vice-presidential nominees.

Not as strong as President Bush's, "Bring them on," but certainly a far cry from the words of Michael Moore and Howard Dean and the rest of the party's anti-war contingent.

Coming out of their party's quadrennial confab, the Democrats clearly are hoping to out-Bush Bush on national defense.


With a Vietnam War hero at the helm, the Democrats hope to put to rest the party's reputation for being weak on defense that began with its rejection of President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, continued with President Jimmy Carter's failure to free American hostages in Iran in 1979 and was supported by President Bill Clinton's inadequate response to terrorism throughout the 1990s.

While the parties differ substantially on some issues, particularly the social questions of abortion and gay rights, and mildly on others, such as tax cuts, deficits and health care, it's likely that people who are influenced by the parties' positions on those issues have long since decided how they will vote.

That leaves the question of who can best defend America from the threat of terrorism: Kerry or Bush?

On one hand, Kerry offers a fresh approach: "We need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us," he said in his Thursday night speech.

On the other hand, Bush offers a proven record: Because Americans have seen him do it, they know that he will take decisive action against the terrorists and the regimes that harbor them.

From the Democrats' point of view, their convention was a success. The meeting established the credibility of their candidates. They moved the image of their party toward the center in an effort to reach the remaining undecided voters they need to win in November.

In the process, they have clearly focused this presidential election on the issue of national defense, and as the country faces its greatest threat since World War II, that is exactly what the election should be focused on.

The Democrats did a good job of portraying Kerry as the man best-equipped to lead the country in a time of war. The Republicans will try to convince Americans that he is not.

All Americans should take heart at the knowledge that the two parties no longer disagree on whether there is a war that must be fought.

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