The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Monday, October 11, 2004

Nuisance and Nuance 

The New York Times Magazine has an article by Matt Bai called Kerry's Undeclared War in which he sat down with John Kerry for a rather lengthy interview. Some parts of it struck me as strange which I will point out here (all emphasis is mine):

Even Democrats who stress that combating terrorism should include a strong military option argue that the "war on terror" is a flawed construct. "We're not in a war on terror, in the literal sense," says Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton-era diplomat who could well become Kerry's secretary of state. "The war on terror is like saying 'the war on poverty.' It's just a metaphor. What we're really talking about is winning the ideological struggle so that people stop turning themselves into suicide bombers."

This is the key. This statement is where you have the general split between the hawkish neocons, and the dovish liberals. Do you believe that 9/11 was an act of war, that will forever change how we view terrorism in America, or was it more like a natural disaster to you.


When I asked Kerry's campaign advisers about these poll numbers, what I heard from some of them in response was that Kerry's theories on global affairs were just too complex for the electorate and would have been ignored -- or, worse yet, mangled -- by the press.

There are two problems with this statement. I'll mention the last one first. The media always mangles stuff. They want sound bites. They want headlines. But more importantly, so do the protestors and the get out the vote people. They want something to chant. They love taking one little statement and concentrating on that one thing. You either deal with it or don't.

The bigger issue is that Kerry thinks his theories are just too complex for us. I'm a pretty intelligent guy. You will never win points with me by saying that I won't get it. That says more about you than me. It says that you think that I'm stupid. It says that you think I need to be coddled. No thank you. What it means is that you don't know how to express yourself well enough for me to understand. Or worse yet, you just don't want to try. That's your problem, not mine.

If you've ever spent time in the business world, you're familiar with the vision statement. At the beginning of the project, it's usually the first thing you come up with. You define as succinctly as possible your goal for this project. Everything that happens after that in the project must mesh with that vision. If it doesn't, you need to rethink what you're doing. That's Kerry's biggest problem. He may have a lot of complex ideas, but he's never come up with a vision that all those ideas try to succeed in accomplishing. We never said that you have to use the exact same method everywhere, in fact that would be pretty bad. We're just saying that they should all attempt to accomplish the same overall goal. What's your goal John?


In our conversation, Kerry seemed unusually sensitive to these allegations, to the point where he seemed unwilling to admit to having evolved or grown in the way that politicians -- or human beings, for that matter -- generally do. When I asked Kerry how Sept. 11 had changed him, either personally or politically, he seemed to freeze for a moment.

"It accelerated -- " He paused. "I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it."

If you can't answer that question honestly and pretty easily John, you shouldn't be our President. If you honestly think that Sept. 11 didn't change you, then you shouldn't be our President. How can you say that you are going to fight a "new kind of war" if you didn't change on that day?


Kerry told me he would stop terrorists by going after them ruthlessly with the military, and he faulted Bush, as he often does, for choosing to use Afghan militias, instead of American troops, to pursue Osama bin Laden into the mountains of Tora Bora, where he disappeared.

Of course then just a paragraph later he says:

"I think we can do a better job," Kerry said, "of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies, and most importantly -- and I mean most importantly -- of restoring America's reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us."

This always gets me. He complains all the time about our current partners in the war on terror, then talks about how he wants to work internationally more. He calls our current coalition the "Coalition of the Bribed and Coerced", yet he talks about gaining their respect. In one breath he complains about using troops from another country instead of our own, in the next he complains that we're handling too much of the load and need to get other countries involved. No wonder Bush always looks so frustrated during the debates. Which is it John? Are you going to work alone or work with other countries?


When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance," Kerry said. "As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

And that John Kerry is why we are where we are today. That was how we treated terrorists in the 80's and 90's. They were a nuisance. They were a problem somewhere else that we tried to deal with. For those of us who think differently after Sept. 11th, we realize that this is no longer the case, and can never again be the case. For if there is ever again a time where we view them in that way, that is the time when we will pay that high price again.

For more on this article... take a look at The Belmont Club... he's got some pretty good stuff.

Update: Thanks to the Blog Father (InstaPundit) and to Hell In a Handbasket for the linkage.

Comments:

Nick:
Off Thread, but where do I go to look for instructions on using HTML in blogger?
I like the look of your post.

  Posted at October 11, 2004 4:47 PM by Blogger Doug  
Also, do they have a bandwidth throttle or something?

...i.e.
Why is Wretchard's site often so slow when other blogs are responsive?

  Posted at October 11, 2004 4:49 PM by Blogger Doug  
While I wish I could take full credit for the look of my blog, this template was mostly designed by Maystar Designs. Granted I have added to it and done some modifications of my own, she created the base design. You can find a lot of her's, and plenty more at blogskins. As far as an HTML reference goes... there are far too many to mention. For a tag by tag reference, I use the Comprehensive HTML Cross Reference. For a more general instructional, I would suggest hitting Amazon for a good book. You could also find some good instructionals from the World Wide Web Consortium.

As far as site performance goes, Blogger provides free hosting through the blogspot domain. Since the majority of Blogger powered blogs use the free hosting, I would imagine anything with a blogspot address would have performance issues depending on the size of the blog, and the relative load on the blogspot server farm. Other sites have faster response times because they host their own, and therefore pay for a certain bandwidth guarantee through their hosting service. I do not know if blogspot incorporates any artificial throttling however.

Hope that answers your questions.

  Posted at October 11, 2004 7:10 PM by Blogger Nick  
Thanks a lot. I just wondered if blogger messes with your HTML in any way:
From you answer I assume it doesn't?

  Posted at October 11, 2004 7:32 PM by Blogger Doug  
The only thing that Blogger does to my HTML is that it converts a hard return in the post window to a <BR>. However, even that is an option that you can turn off.

  Posted at October 11, 2004 7:39 PM by Blogger Nick  
Thanks again.
And as to performance you're saying all blogs posted on blogger have the same slowdowns?

  Posted at October 11, 2004 7:43 PM by Blogger Doug  
You just gotta love the way Kerry and his supporters spin his comments. He's always "explaining" what he just said. Why not answer the question once...in a way that doesn't require another explanation...and then get on with the next question? When President Bush explains something, that's it. Said it. Ment it. And stands by it. He doesn't have to explain what he really ment to say. I will be the first to admit it, I not all that smart. Taxes still confuse me. I don't understand why the earth seems to be warming up. And I'll never figure out why I need HTML. But I DO know that 9/11 made my life much different then it used to be. And I DO feel less secure. So how can I trust the future of this country to someone who seems to be out of contact with what I do understand? Someone killed almost 3,000 Americans. In these United States. And we ARE affected everyday. If we aren't, it most certainly will happen again and again. Sorry John, you don't have what it takes for me to trust you.

  Posted at October 11, 2004 7:49 PM by Anonymous Anonymous  
Anon, even the best answer raises more questions. You can never have something that is perfectly complete. Not that I'm a Kerry supporter or anything. I think Kerry doesn't nuance a complex issue so much as he tells people what he thinks they want to hear or what will make him look good. Then you compare what he says on different occassions to different groups and things become "nuanced".

  Posted at October 11, 2004 8:39 PM by Blogger Jeff the Baptist  
Please excuse my grammer or mis-spellings...

Quote from above... I know it's a lot, but it takes the context to provide a wide base for rebuttal...

"In our conversation, Kerry seemed unusually sensitive to these allegations, to the point where he seemed unwilling to admit to having evolved or grown in the way that politicians -- or human beings, for that matter -- generally do. When I asked Kerry how Sept. 11 had changed him, either personally or politically, he seemed to freeze for a moment.

"It accelerated -- " He paused. "I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it."

If you can't answer that question honestly and pretty easily John, you shouldn't be our President. If you honestly think that Sept. 11 didn't change you, then you shouldn't be our President. How can you say that you are going to fight a "new kind of war" if you didn't change on that day?

------
He never says it didn’t change him (taken from your quote of his statement). He says it ‘didn’t change me much at all.’ The part I believe that you may have overlooked is that you expect him to express a change, which you appear to define by not allowing his expression in his own way. Your only previously stated boundaries for his answer are ‘personally or politically’. He believes he was answering your question. He is going to provide you with the strongest personal and political answer he can, simply because he is in a position that he needs you to repeat what he is saying... not that he is repeating what you are saying. He trusted you to listen.

Additionally, your (my perception of context) expression for change appears to be to be one where the only ‘proper’ answer he can provide will be one that falls within your unstated expectations of appropriate and in-appropriate defined by having arrived at a personal or political change similar to the one you had. You ask him a question. He answers. You never tell him that he did not answer your original question. Therefore it can be assumed that his answer did not matter to you; rather you explain his perceived deception and lack emotional response. He provides you with a response from his thoughts. He tells you ‘accelerated, confirmed in ME, the urgency of doing the things I THOUGHT WE NEEDED TO BE DOING”. He was already working on the problem, were you? He was thinking about what needed to be done, because he was already involved. Were you? He is not doing an emotionally driven reaction to tragic occurrence and hindsight. He has probably felt his feelings already, which have brought him to this point. A point he was already at, thus ‘it didn’t change me much at all’ – he didn’t need to change much, the only real changing involved at that point would be the realization that what he had guessed at was factual.

I think you made a good argument, but I’m willing to stick my neck out here.

  Posted at October 11, 2004 8:40 PM by Anonymous Anonymous  
A very insightful post. I do love how you see through the rhetoric and weigh Kerry's words as they are spoken, not as they are spun by those that dislike Bush so. Again I see Kerry vacillating and wavering upon points that are clearcut. Good job!

  Posted at October 11, 2004 8:55 PM by Blogger Edster  
anonymous — Kerry was working on it? When he skipped 3/4 of his Intelligence Committee meetings, even after the first WTC bombing? When he introduced legislation to CUT intelligence funding? When exactly was he working on it?

  Posted at October 11, 2004 9:11 PM by Blogger richard mcenroe  
While clearly prostitution is the wrong analogy for terrorism, it's somewhat disappointed me that no one seems to seeing the correct analogy: Slavery.

We will never eliminate slavery. But, having eliminated all its state sponsors, we've made it much less likely, much less common.

And no one in polite society says "Yes, slavery is bad, but ...."

  Posted at October 12, 2004 1:00 PM by Blogger Greg D  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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