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June 29, 2004

We'd Like To Debate Our Opponents' Policy Positions... Except the Media Won't Help Us Discover What Those Might Be

The media is forever tut-tutting that Americans spend most of their time arguing about character and personality issues rather than policy issues.

Fair enough. I think they've got their heads up their asses about that -- character and personality have long been used as issue-proxies -- but whatever.

They're very concerned that this election campaign will once again go into the gutter over gotchas and flip-flops and insignificant Willie Horton issues. (Insignificant by the media's lights, I mean-- most would say that a convicted murderer let out of jail for the weekends who then imprisons and multiply-rapes and stabs a woman would be a somewhat important issue. But that's just us krazy konservative kultists.)

The media would very much like to have a campaign which, for once, focuses on politicians' detailed policy positions.


Then how about you help us do so and actually trouble yourselves into inquiring as to what John Kerry's positions actually might be?

What is John Kerry's position on using tough tactics, or even torture, on important Al Qaeda prisoners? I don't know what it might be, and I read quite a bit. I know that John Kerry offers us vague formulations and mentions the need to "balance" the rights of prisoners against national security, but that's a no-brainer; George Bush is also trying to "balance" competing factors. The question isn't whether or not there's a 'balance" to be struck, which everyone already knows; the question is Where does John Kerry come down on the balance?

Where's his fulcrum? To the left, or to the right? Does he expressly rule out any harsh interrogation methods for all prisoners? Or for most prisoners? Or would he do what Bush is basically doing, but "just a little bit less"?

Do any of you know? Does Chris Matthews know? Does even John Kerry himself know?

I don't think anyone knows, because John Kerry isn't saying, and the media, trying to safeguard John Kerry's political viability, won't ask him. The media knows that no good can come from asking John Kerry such difficult questions, unless you count providing information the public and letting voters make an informed decision as to which candidate's policies they prefer as "good," of course. But the media doesn't count that as "good" -- not in this case, at least.

The media knows that whatever John Kerry's actual, specific position on this issue might be, it will cost him votes. If his position is too similar to Bush's, he loses those voters flirting with Nader. If his position is too close to Nader's, he loses a big chunk of independents who aren't quite sure we can swear off all tough tactics in dealing with Al Qaeda.

John Kerry wishes to remain vague on the point, because, by remaining vague, he hopes to dishonestly convince both right- and left- leaning voters that his actual position is the one they prefer. I say "dishonestly," for the simple reason this is in fact dishonest: obviously one of those groups will wind up being disappointed by his actual position. By being vague, Kerry is lying to somebody; we just won't be sure to whom he's lying until he's in office for a couple of months.

Similarly, I don't know precisely what Kerry wants to do with all of these illegal combatants at Guantanamo. Does he want to give them all lawyers, as the Supreme Court now seems to require? Does he simply want to set them all free unless they're charged with a crime? What, exactly, the fuck might his position actually be? I don't know, and the media damn-sure aren't going to ask any questions which might illuminate me.

I also don't know where John Kerry stands on bugetary matters. I know, by the estimates most favorable to him, that his spending will exceed his "revenue enhancements" by $900 billion. I know he also claims he'll balance the budget. So I know, to a mathematical certainty, that he's either being dishonest about his spending, or his taxing, or the prospect of him achieving a balanced budget, or a little mix of two or three of the above. But he won't say precisely how he intends to both spend $900 billion more than he's taking it while balancing the budget.

I do know this: When the Bush people took at guess at which of his promises he'd break -- and, once again, at least one of them will have to be broken -- the liberal media cried foul and accused Bush of "distortions" and "misrepresentations."

Again, Media: We wouldn't have to guess which promises John Kerry would break if you could somehow manage to courage to ask him yourself. Would John Kerry reduce the scope of his spending (in which case he can't beat up on Bush for not doing enough to help the "middle class")? Would he raise taxes on the middle class (in which case he's doing precisely what Bush guessed he might)? Or would he let the deficit balloon (in which case he can't complain about Bush's deficits)?

The media seems to be claiming that because John Kerry won't be specific as his budgetary priorities, George W. Bush will just have to live with that vagueness and is "dishonest" for attempting to pin him down on a specific plan.

Dick Cheney can instruct you on some pleasurable-but-difficult solitary activities regarding that claim.

So, Media: Which is it? If we're going to have a "debate" on the "issues," we actually do require you, at some point, to inquire as to John Kerry's delicately-nuanced and gauzy-gray positions.

If you refuse to do so, as you have steadfastly refused so far, then we're just going to have to have the typical "you're a liberal/you lied" election you say you hate so much.

If John Kerry isn't offering us any actual concrete policy positions on the war on terror, and instead only offers us himself -- his resume, his personality, his character -- for consideration, then how can we have a debate on anything other than John Kerry's fitness for office?

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posted by Ace at 06:13 PM

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