Kevin Drum over at Political Animal has been beating a drum the past few days. He believes that Kerry's new emphasis on domestic issues is a mistake, that this election is all about Iraq and terror in general. I don't necessarily agree with him--who in their right mind would ignore issues that Bush has failed so consistently on, issues that all polls say is Americans' #1 priority?--but something he posted today makes a lot of sense.
Drum basically says that anyone who doesn't think there will be more pre-emptive attacks in a second Bush term is sadly deluded. " Bush's whole appeal is based on his military toughness, so if he's not planning to use military action in his second term, what's the point of voting for him?" I'd go even further to suggest that a re-elected Bush would view it as a mandate for whatever action he chooses to take.
But how can Kerry bring this subtext to the forefront? I suspect most people responding to Bush's militant rhetoric are doing so on some emotional level--if they do it to us we'll do it to them, we've got to show our might and not get pushed around--rather than a clear idea of what more wars would mean. Kerry would have some minor pitfalls to traverse--the whole appeaser thing always screamed at people who think talk should come before weapons--but he's already getting that.
But Kerry and his supporters could concentrate on clarifying what more wars would look like for us individual Americans. More young men and women going off to hostile lands. More separated and struggling families. More grieving families. More money being sucked out of the national economy--when at the same time we're struggling to meet the challenges of globalization, when we continue to have safety challenges here in our own country, when we desperately need to invest in new energy sources to reduce our foreign dependencies, when the alienation of America will inevitably affect our ability to trade. More hatred of Americans at home and abroad. More dread in everyday living.
When we turn our televisions on in the morning, what do we want to hear about: more young lives added to the toll of dead and wounded? Or do we want to hear that a new partnership has been forged with a people who used to hate us? That the stock market is up again based on stability across the world. That our government has found the grace and the money to finally pass a real prescription drug plan. That our new education system has worked so well that our biggest problem is building more colleges for the children now qualified to attend.
All this is, I guess, a long way of saying the Kerry has the opportunity to clarify the choice people will make in November. People need to know its a choice (because I'm not sure they do--Bush continues to claim that we can spend billions on wars but still have a robust economy), and need to understand it in real terms. Sure, Bush will have the opportunity to say the choice is between safety and peril, but the more explicit he is forced to get in his rhetoric the thinner it gets.
Plus a strategy like this will serve to put war back in front and center without dropping the homefront issues. Everybody wins!