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Monday, October 04, 2004

President Bush fails a global test: reality

During the Sept. 30 presidential debate, John Kerry said the following:
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test—that passes the global test—where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

Here we have our own secretary of state who's had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy, in the Cuban missile crisis, sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with [French President Charles] de Gaulle, and in the middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, [the secretary of state] said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And de Gaulle waved them off, and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me." How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?

Then it was President Bush's turn to speak. For a moment, the president looked entirely blank. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. After a moment, Bush said, "What does he mean by global test?"

Since the debate, Bush has been trying to use the global test comment-taken entirely out of context-as the mantle upon which to rest his disintegrating campaign. In his stump speeches, Bush has been making observations such as this:
[John Kerry] said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. That's what he said. Think about this. Sen. Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions. I have a different view. When our country is in danger, the president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America. I'll continue to work every day with our friends and allies for the sake of freedom and peace. But our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals.

In an excellent article for Slate, William Saletan points out that in using the term "global test," John Kerry clearly wasn't asking for an international opinion poll. Rather, Kerry was merely noting that the U.S. has to act in a way that is factually justifiable.

As Saletan says:
The test isn't moral. It's factual. What you and the Frenchman share is the evidence of your senses. The global test is the measurement of the president's assertions against the real world, the world you and I can see...This is the test Bush has failed. He has failed to produce evidence for his prewar claims of Iraqi WMD and operational ties to al-Qaida, or for his postwar claims of success against the insurgency...He frames this as patriotism, boasting that he doesn't care whether he offers evidence sufficient to convince people in France. He shows no awareness or concern that evidence is also necessary to convince people in Ohio... [Bush's] comments show a pattern of blowing off external feedback in general.

Saletan's article "The Global Test: It's called reality" can be read here.


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