Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Economist Endorses John Kerry (Subscription Reqd.)

It's uncanny how often the Economist's take on events turns out to be exactly the same as my own.

WHEN it comes to voting in an election, it is not always easy to decide which candidate you prefer. So why complicate an already difficult choice by trying to work out which candidate most other people might prefer? Mental gymnastics of this sort are coming to dominate the Democratic presidential campaign—and making John Kerry the clear front-runner. This week, as the Democrats in New Hampshire plumped for the senator from Massachusetts, the chiselled New Englander's chief selling-point was once again his apparent “electability”—the idea that he stands the best chance of beating George Bush in November.

In it to win

Good. Democratic America is beginning to think with its head, not its heart. At the beginning of this month, Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont whose fearsome anti-war rhetoric had made him the darling of many Democratic activists, had a 20-point lead in New Hampshire; Mr Kerry, who had voted for the Iraq war, was stuck in third place, behind Wesley Clark, another anti-war outsider. But then doubts about Mr Dean set in. Would America really vote for a man who refused to admit that Saddam Hussein's capture might be helpful and who wanted to repeal all Mr Bush's tax cuts? Democrats began to look at Mr Kerry's years of experience in the Senate and his record as a war hero in Vietnam in a new light.


The odds still favour Mr Bush (see article). But on paper at least, a Kerry-Edwards ticket would stand a chance of snatching from the Republicans a Carolina in the south, as well as, say, West Virginia and maybe even New Hampshire. Given Mr Bush's non-existent majority in 2000, that could prove to be enough. Yet first Mr Kerry would have to start landing blows on the president.


Mr Kerry's strongest card, though, could prove to be foreign policy. As a supporter of the Iraq war, he can convincingly criticise the White House's exaggerations about weapons of mass destruction. The former war hero can credibly chide the administration for its post-war incompetence, especially if American casualties continue to mount. And, as a foreign-policy expert with a long record of internationalism behind him, he can plausibly broaden the debate, demanding explanations for why Mr Bush's foreign policy has left America so unpopular in so many corners of the world.

Mr Bush ought to be able to summon up good answers to these questions. But it is in America's interest that they are raised and debated by a Democrat who stands a chance of winning. For all his faults, Mr Kerry looks closer to fulfilling that role than any of the current alternatives.

My thoughts exactly. I supported the decision to go to war, and I still think it was the right thing to do, but there are questions about the way the issue was framed to the public, as well as the way in which the aftermath has been handled, that Bush needs to be made to give answers to. He simply must not be allowed to waltz to a landslide re-election.