The Thirty Years War

No, I’m not talking about that Thirty Years War. I’m talking about the Thirty Years War that seems to be being played out in the current presidential campaign. Mr. Kerry apparently considers his service in a thirty-year-old war to be his most significant qualification for the presidency. He certainly hasn’t spoken much about anything that’s happened since then lately. His partisans attack Mr. Bush for his participation in the Texas Air National Guard during that period. Veterans of that war attack Mr. Kerry mostly for what he did in the immediate aftermath of his service in that war.

Get over it. The last president to run primarily on his service during a war was Dwight Eisenhower back in 1952. That was only seven years after the war. And he was Allied Supreme Commander. Mr. Kerry, a hefty portion of the electorate hadn’t even been born when the war you served in was concluded. It’s ancient history to them as surely as the Spanish-American War or the Civil War or the Peloppenesian War is.

We have issues. And they aren’t being discussed in serious ways.

First and foremost is the War on Terror. Mr. Kerry, what are your objectives and strategy in the global War on Terror? Gaining the support of France and Germany is not an objective. It isn’t even a strategy. It is a tactic. President Kerry will need to think in terms of objectives and strategies and not merely in terms of the tactics that were the concern of Lt. Kerry thirty years ago.

Mr. Bush, we know what your objectives are. Do you still believe in your grand strategy of democratizing the Middle East? If no, what is your new strategy? Will anything less than liberal democracy in Iraq further that strategy? Is that what’s happening now? How will we ensure that that’s what happens? Are the American people behind this strategy?

There are other issues as well. During the next term the oldest baby boomers will begin to retire and shortly thereafter reach full social security retirement age. Mr. Kerry, that will happen during your second term. You have told us what you oppose: you won’t privatize social security; you won’t reduce benefits. Will you support raising the social security retirement age? That is a racist policy since life expectancy of African Americans is shorter than that of white Americans. Will you raise the social security tax? That’s regressive. Will you raise the FICA maximum to cover the shortfall? Will you extend the pool of taxpayers contributing to the system by having local, state, and federal workers contribute to Social Security? Will Social Security payments come out of general revenues? What’s your plan?

Mr. Bush, we know what your plan is: privatize social security. What happens to those whose investments fail? Or at least fail to provide enough money for their old age? How do we live up to our obligations for those who retire under the current plan?

Both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush appear to support expanded immigration into this country. Many immigrants into this country are unskilled or semi-skilled. If you believe in the laws of supply and demand, expanding the pool of unskilled or semi-skilled workers in the absence of a more rapid expansion in the number of jobs for unskilled or semi-skilled workers will tend to cause wages to fall both for the new unskilled or semi-skilled workers and for unskilled or semi-skilled workers already here. Is this acceptable to you? If not, what do you plan to do about it? And how do you plan on securing our borders from criminals and terrorists who would do use harm?

That’s only a start on the conversation we should be having. So let’s stop talking about the Thirty Years War and give us something other than vapid half-answers to the pressing questions at hand.


I am certainly not the only one having similar thoughts. Steven Taylor of Poliblogger writes:

And, one final thing: I am sick to death of Viet Nam at this point. Any chance we can have a debate over the preponderance of Kerry’s life in public office?


New contributor hilzoy at the group blog Obsidian Wings draws our attention to David Brooks’s NYT column:

We’ve got 43 million people without health insurance. We’re relying on energy sources that are politically dangerous and economically unsustainable. Wage growth is not what it should be, and yesterday’s jobs numbers suggest that strong economic growth may not be producing strong job growth. Would it be illegal in these circumstances for at least one presidential candidate to propose policies remotely in proportion to the problems that confront us?

Apparently related thoughts are on quite a few of our minds today. hilzoy suggests:

I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to Bush’s and Kerry’s speeches in their entirety, but I’m willing to assume that Brooks is right to say that they don’t contain many specifics. But are their speeches really the place to look for a detailed exposition of their policy proposals? Might one not, in addition, check out, oh, I don’t know, their web sites?

Actually, I’ve been to the web sites. I want more.

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