Presidential candidates in time of war claim to have a peace plan. Fifty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower said he would go to Korea to help end that war. He went, but the war ended in stalemate, which continues to this day.
Richard Nixon said he had a plan for ending the Vietnam War, after Lyndon Johnson got us deeper into "the big muddy," but he couldn't say what it was during the campaign for fear of hurting its chances. The plan turned out to be more bombing of North Vietnam, along with "peace talks" in Paris that gave the communist North the victory it had pursued on the battlefield.
Now John Kerry is the man with a plan. The newly minted Democratic presidential nominee appeared Aug. 1 on CBS's "Face the Nation." Like Nixon, Kerry says he can't reveal his plan because he doesn't want to "(negotiate) it publicly." Kerry says "a fresh start (meaning the election of himself) changes the equation, particularly changes it for leaders in other countries who have great difficulty right now associating themselves with our policy and with the United States because of the way this administration has burned those bridges."
One is forced to guess what Kerry's plan might be, along with the potential detriment or benefit to American prestige and credibility.
It is apparent from Kerry's statements that he highly values what other nations and even the powerless United Nations think of the United States. If they do not like the United States' policy to liberate a nation whose dictator slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own people (and at least as many others in Iran and, through Saddam Hussein's financing of terrorists, untold numbers worldwide), what policy would they like?
Should the United States tailor its policies to conform to those of other nations and entities whose primary interests can never be in America's best interest? Would Kerry defer to the French and German governments and, if positions clash, adopt their policies over those that most benefit the United States? Kerry should have to answer such questions. A president must always put America's interests first.
Kerry claims to have the ear of "foreign leaders," asserting early in the campaign that many of them with whom he has spoken prefer him over President Bush. When challenged, he would not (or could not) name one, and there is no record of his ever having traveled to another country to consult with leaders.
Kerry has said he believes the Bush administration did not send enough troops to Iraq and that, as president, he would not rule out sending more. But on "Face the Nation," he said he does not "envision" sending additional forces, even though he claims we have been fighting the war "on the cheap."
If he pulls American forces out prematurely and Iraq implodes in chaos, and if terrorists learn that the United States cannot be counted on to keep its promises and will run at the sight of its own blood (the message Osama bin Laden is said to have taken from the film "Black Hawk Down"), then John Kerry will be responsible for having plunged the country into another world war without a plan and with no vision.
A Newsweek poll finds that Kerry now gets higher ratings than President Bush as someone who can be trusted "to make the right decisions during an international crisis." How can this be when he seems incapable of making such decisions during the campaign? The poll must reflect media cheerleading for Kerry. Newsweek's Evan Thomas recently asserted that media support for Kerry (which he said is strong) will add 15 percent to Kerry's base of support.
Voters are being asked to buy a pig in a poke. To earn trust, one must give evidence of being trustworthy. John Kerry's positions, which have shifted with the political winds, do not bring confidence that he can be trusted with the decisions a president must make and from which a president cannot retreat without serious damage to his credibility and loss of lives.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.