What Bush should have said, but didn’t

By Gus Bode

John Kerry’s trouncing of President Bush in Thursday’s debate on foreign policy appears to have had a dramatic impact on his poll numbers.

Bush led Kerry by as much as 11 percentage points a month ago. But, the latest Newsweek poll taken after the debate shows the candidates in a statistical tie, with Kerry actually leading Bush with 47 percent to the president’s 45 percent.

If an election can be swung by a debate, Kerry has to think he may have done it with this one. After all, foreign policy was supposed to be Bush’s strong suit. Polls favor Kerry on domestic policy, and it’s not a stretch to say Bush’s perceived strength and leadership in the war on terror are the only real reason he has stayed ahead in the polls throughout most of the campaign.


With that lead evaporated, and with debates ahead that are likely to favor Kerry, the Bush administration must be sweating.

How did this happen? The answer is simple:Kerry had it both ways on pretty much every critical foreign policy issue at hand, and Bush was either not smart enough or not quick-witted enough to call him on it.

Yes, Bush repeated ad nauseum that Kerry sent “mixed messages” and that no commander-in-chief should tell troops on the field that they are fighting a “grand diversion.” They’re good points, but Bush failed to supply direct evidence of Kerry’s flip-flops as Kerry provided it right in front of him.

Kerry criticized Bush for sending troops into battle without sufficient protection such as body armor and armored vehicles. What Bush didn’t say in reply, but should have, was that Kerry voted against the $87 billion appropriations bill that would provide body armor for those troops.

Kerry said Bush was wrong to go to war in Iraq given that there were no weapons of mass destruction. What Bush didn’t say, but should have, was that just a couple months ago Kerry said removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do – even if there were no WMDs.

Kerry said Bush was wrong not to engage North Korea bilaterally regarding its nuclear weapons program. What Bush should have said, but didn’t, was that Kerry, the champion of alliances and multilateralism, would break down a six-way negotiation process so that the United States could unilaterally appease a global menace.

Bush could have said something like this:”My opponent accuses me of ignoring the rest of the world when fighting our enemies. John Kerry would ignore the rest of the world when giving in to them. Which is worse?”


Bush could have said a lot of things to prove that a president cannot be all things to all people, as Kerry would lead us to believe.

Tim is a senior in journalism. The Last Word appears every Monday. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the DAILY EGYPTIAN.