The Kerry Tone

If no other week from here until election is given a suffiicient amount of attention, I hope this will be the one the American people (and the world, for that matter) study the most. The President made an unapologetic speech to the UN onTuesday. Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave an impasssioned speech to a joint meeting of Congress today. Sen. John Kerry responded to both of them in rapid time. The President’s remarks to the UN and Allawi’s to the joint meeting of Congress stand in stark contrast to the negative (dare I say "condescending and arrogant"?) statements issued by John Kerry.

Honestly, if I were a Kerry supporter, I would be flat out embarassed at the response this man gave to not only the Prime Minister’s remarks, but to Bush’s speech to the UN yesterday. Kerry opened up this week swinging, with many on the left and right saying "finally! He’s talking about THIS war and not one that was fought 35 years ago, and what his plans are to win it." NRO, a frequent critic of Kerry, even wrote this week that Kerry said some noteworthy things in his speech. However, whatever traction he gained at the beginning of the week with his stirring speech on what went wrong in Iraq and how "we" can reverse it should be lost if anyone who was moved by what he said on Monday has paid any attention to his responses to Bush’s and Allawi’s speeches that were made later in the week. Let’s take a look, first at some remarks from Bush’s speech to the UN and then Kerry’s remarks that came after that. My comments will follow: Bush at the UN on Tuesday:

Not long ago, outlaw regimes in Baghdad and Kabul threatened the peace and sponsored terrorists. These regimes destabilized one of the world’s most vital — and most volatile — regions. They brutalized their peoples, in defiance of all civilized norms. Today, the Iraqi and Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom. The governments that are rising will pose no threat to others. Instead of harboring terrorists, they’re fighting terrorist groups. And this progress is good for the long-term security of us all. The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult conditions. They’re fighting to defend their nation from Taliban holdouts, and helping to strike against the terrorists killers. They’re reviving their economy. They’ve adopted a constitution that protects the rights of all, while honoring their nation’s most cherished traditions. More than 10 million Afghan citizens — over 4 million of them women — are now registered to vote in next month’s presidential election. To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer. Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have regained sovereignty. Today, in this hall, the Prime Minister of Iraq and his delegation represent a country that has rejoined the community of nations. The government of Prime Minister Allawi has earned the support of every nation that believes in self-determination and desires peace. And under Security Council resolutions 1511 and 1546, the world is providing that support. The U.N., and its member nations, must respond to Prime Minister Allawi’s request, and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, and free. A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies, because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region. So a terrorists group associated with al Qaeda is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today — conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians, and the beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders.

Kerry’s response:

"Iraq is in crisis and the president needs to live in the world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin," said Mr. Kerry. "After lecturing them instead of leading them to understand how we are all together with a stake in the outcome of Iraq, I believe the president missed an opportunity of enormous importance for our nation and for the world. He does not have the credibility to lead the world and he did not and will not offer the leadership in order to do what we need to do in order to protect our troops, be successful and win the war on terror in an effective way."

Note the difference in tone. Bush is upbeat, firm, positive, resolute, while Kerry is dour, pessimistic, and, well, misleading. What "fantasy spin" was he referring to? Did Sen. Kerry even listen to the entire speech? Bush talked of the problems going on in Iraq and what the UN needed to do to help the US and her allies to get the job done. That’s why he was there. Whether or not he was persuasive is another matter entirely. To add insult to injury, on top of the "fantasy spin" comment from Kerry on Tuesday, he came pretty close to calling Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a liar today. I think you’ll agree, once you see his remarks, whick I’ll post right after a few snippets from Allawi (the President spoke just prior to Allawi, but he reaffirmed statements he made earlier in the week to the UN):

I am a realist. I know that terrorism cannot be defeated with political tools only. But we can weaken it, ending local support, help us to tackle the enemy head-on, to identify, isolate and eradicate this cancer. Let me provide you with a couple of examples of where this political plan already is working. In Samarra, the Iraqi government has tackled the insurgents who once controlled the city. Following weeks of discussions between government officials and representatives, coalition forces and local community leaders, regular access to the city has been restored. A new provincial council and governor have been selected, and a new chief of police has been appointed. Hundreds of insurgents have been pushed out of the city by local citizens, eager to get with their lives. Today in Samarra, Iraqi forces are patrolling the city, in close coordination with their coalition counterparts. In Talafa (ph), a city northwest of Baghdad, the Iraqi government has reversed an effort by insurgents to arrest, control (inaudible) the proper authorities. Iraqi forces put down the challenge and allowed local citizens to choose a new mayor and police chief. Thousands of civilians have returned to the city. And since their return, we have launched a large program of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn now to our military strategy. We plan to build and maintain security forces across Iraq. Ordinary Iraqis are anxious to take over entirely this role and to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as quickly as possible. For now, of course, we need the help of our American and coalition partners. But the training of Iraqi security forces is moving forward briskly and effectively. The Iraqi government now commands almost 50,000 armed and combat- ready Iraqis. By January it will be some 145,000. And by the end of next year, some 250,000 Iraqis. The government has accelerated the development of Iraqi special forces, and the establishment of a counter-terrorist strike force to tackle specific problems caused by insurgencies.

Kerry’s response to Allawi’s speech:

"I think the prime minister is obviously contradicting his own statement of a few days ago, where he said the terrorists are pouring into the country," Kerry said. "The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story."

Again, notice how Kerry deliberately spins the comments to make it sound as though Allawi is lying. As usual, he was off the mark, as one will see if they read the article in full:

Kerry was referring to comments Allawi made Sunday on ABC’s "This Week." But Allawi also expressed optimism about the mission in that appearance. "Foreign terrorists are still pouring in, and they’re trying to inflict damage on Iraq to undermine Iraq and to undermine the process, democratic process in Iraq, and, indeed, this is their last stand," Allawi said. "So they are putting a very severe fight on Iraq. We are winning. We will continue to win. We are going to prevail."

Kerry’s responses are classic examples of not only turning positives into negatives, but spinning optimistic yet realistic speeches into ‘make believe’ speeches given by those who he percieves view the Iraq situation through rose-colored glasses. Both the President and Allawi in their statements this week have continued to hammer home the point that much work needed to be done in Iraq, that there were still danger zones there that needed to be confronted, but they also presented a more positive, hopeful tone for Iraq’s future, where as the Senator sounded defeatist and pessimistic. Kerry may have offered solutions in his speech to NYU on Monday of this week, but his rhetoric the last few days has been one of a man who isn’t really interested in doing anything outside of the bare minimum it requires in getting our troops out of Iraq. As much as we’d all like our men and women to come home, the reality is that they are needed there to complete the mission the President sent them to do. And they are doing it.

The President at a campaign stop this week said what I have felt for the longest time about John Kerry’s negative tone regarding Iraq and how it appears to our troops in Iraq and to the coalition members and the Iraqis there who are trying to build a democratic Iraq (emphasis added):

And the way to prevail, the way toward the successful conclusion we all want, the way to secure Iraq and bring our troops home is not to wilt or waver or send mixed signals. Incredibly this week, my opponent said he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today. That’s not the first time he’s changed positions. You cannot lead the war on terror if you wilt or waver when the times are tough. You cannot expect the Iraqi people to stand up and do the hard work for democracy if you are pessimistic about their ability to govern themselves. You can’t expect the Iraqi people to have faith when you believe they were better off with Saddam Hussein in power. You can’t expect these people to trust America if we think mass graves are the wave of the future of these people and the torture rooms of Saddam Hussein. What kind of message does this send our troops, who are risking their lives and see first hand the mission is hard, when they hear people who grow — when they wilt in the face of pressure?

Yes, we’ve got problems in Iraq and they’re being addressed and will continue to be. However, any President, as a Commander in Chief, must stay resolute and not waver in tough times. While acknowledging there are serious situations in Iraq to be dealt with, this President (along with Allawi) also has appropriately presented to the American people the positive side of what’s happening in Iraq because we need to hear both sides of the story. We generally only get one side of it in the mainstream press. John Kerry has given us his plan for how he’ll handle the situation in Iraq should he be elected President. Fine. But the face he puts on any comments he makes about Iraq is the face of someone who really wishes he’d never voted in favor of the war resolution, and would rather walk on hot glass barefooted than to have to deal with the consequences of it. Our troops, and the Iraqi people and the terrorists they face there, MUST see strength in a Commander in Chief, not pessimism and certainly not weakness.

This is not the time for jello spines from our world leaders, in particular, a US President. Our men and women (alongside the coalition and the people of Iraq who are fighting with us) are in the fights of their lives there right now and the last thing they need is a shaky CIC who regrets voting to send them there in the first place who’ll do little more than the bare minimum required there to get them out, rather than seeing the goal of democracy come to fruition in a place where it would do such good, not only for the people who live there, but for the region, and in fact the world. The sacrifices our troops have made, and continue to make, should not be made in vain for purposes of expediency. The President understands that. In my opinion, John Kerry does not.

Update: The WSJ sounds off on a similar note.

After-midnight update: Instapundit has a roundup of reviews on Kerry’s response to Allawi’s speech today – suffice it to say that the blogosphere is not cutting Sen. Kerry any slack!

Even more: "I must say I was appalled at the complete lack of respect Senator Kerry showed for this man of courage, when he rushed to hold a press conference and attack the prime minister, a man America must stand beside to defeat the terrorists." – VP Dick Cheney