KERRY vs. BUSH….After spending a day catching up with everything, I now realize that the Spanish elections were just another round of Warmongers vs. Appeasers?, the blogosphere favorite that reached a fever pitch before the Iraq war. As I understand things, the blogospheric right instantly declared the results a victory for cowardice and appeasement and we were off to the races. The tedious details are probably pretty familiar to everyone, so I’ll skip them.

But reading all the posts about Spain has caused something to bubble back into my brain that I can’t quite put my finger on. I sort of can, but not completely, if you know what I mean. Let’s see if I can make any sense of this.

  • Is Bush tough on terrorism? Regular readers all know that I don’t really buy this. I don’t doubt that he thinks he’s tough on terrorism, and he certainly sounds tough on terrorism, but in reality it’s not clear to me that he’s done anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done. What’s more, there are plenty of things he should have done that he hasn’t. Matt Yglesias summarizes this argument pretty well here.

  • Of course, there’s that whole Iraq war thing, isn’t there? That’s certainly something that probably wouldn’t have happened if a Democrat had been in office.

  • And there’s also the whole law enforcement argument. John Kerry says that fighting terrorism is primarily a matter of law enforcement and intelligence, something that seems little more than a simple statement of fact. Nonetheless, it infuriates conservatives who believe that this is the crucial distinction between people who are serious about terrorism and those who aren’t. Serious people believe that we are in a war that requires a military response.

  • But what kind of military response? Other than Iraq, that is. Even aside from the fact that our military is too overstretched to mount a major campaign at the moment, I don’t really hear a serious drumbeat for an invasion of, say, Iran or North Korea, let alone Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, from either Kerry or Bush.

  • On the other hand, at least Kerry is in favor of increasing the size of the Army. Bush isn’t even in favor of that.

  • Then there’s rhetoric. Sure, substance is more important, but what you say is important too and there’s no question that Bush talks very, very tough on terrorism. John Kerry, I think, is probably every bit as anti-terror as Bush, but like most Democrats he seems too afraid of sounding jingoistic to really make a full-throated “terrorists are bastards and we will never surrender to them” speech. Why is that?

I’m not sure what’s really on my mind here. I guess I’m trying to puzzle out what the real differences are between Bush and Kerry aside from tone and emphasis and all the small details that loom large in elections but aren’t really that important in the long run. And the more I think about it the less sure I am that I know. I’m hoping that putting my thoughts into words will eventually help me figure out what’s bothering me.

There’s got to be more to it than just whether we should have attacked Iraq. Right?

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