Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004 / 19 Tishrei, 5765

Bernadette Malone

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Bush and Kerry as dinner guests | Imagine John Kerry and George W. Bush both came for dinner at your house and did their Thursday night debate informally at your dining room table. If these two men were just dinner guests discussing Iraq — and not Presidential candidates competing for the grand prize — the question we'd all be pondering wouldn't be "who won the match?" but "who made more sense?" And isn't that a more useful question to consider when you're choosing a President?

No doubt, Bush would have been the less polished guest at your table. He wouldn't have been downright unpleasant, but he would have appeared weary from the day, annoyed that the night was dragging on, and that basic social grace required he respond to stupid points. ("Absurd" and "amazing," he called them at the podium at the University of Miami.) He probably would have been slumping in his chair with his elbows on your tablecloth.

Kerry, on the other hand, would have been the dinner guest who was "on" all night — driving the polite chatter, sitting upright with his chair pulled back from the table and his legs crossed, and clearly ready to impress you and everyone else in the dining room.

But perhaps you might have picked up that Kerry was talking in circles, looking for opportunities to disagree with Bush when there really were no essential disagreements, just to show off how smart and nuanced he was. Bush would make a point, gruffly and oversimplistically, and Kerry would respond, "Yes, but," and then take you on a tour inside his cavernous, flexible mind, hoping to win your admiration. It's indeed a cavernous and flexible mind that can conjoin the positions he laid out Thursday night. Here's what he'd bring to your dinner table:

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Nuclear proliferation is the biggest problem facing the Unitd States, and yet we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, even though I believed the intelligence showing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

This war is a mistake, but no, the men and women dying in Iraq are not dying for a mistake. We shouldn't "outsource" the fighting to non-American troops in Afghanistan, and yet we should be using more European troops to fight in Iraq. This is the wrong war and the wrong time, and yet I'll be able to convince the French and Germans to join this wrong war at the wrong time.

I'll never let anyone veto a pre-emptive action by the United States, yet pre-emptive action must pass the "global test" first.

It's best to have a coalition assembled when facing down an enemy, but I want to deal one on one with North Korea, instead of multilaterally with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea on our side.

If John Kerry were sitting at my dinner table making these seemingly conflicting statements, I'd be wondering whether I was simply not smart enough to understand his nuanced logic, even though I was a philosophy major in college, or whether he was full of gas.

Bush would be making his points so plainly that his logic would be easy to follow, and his earnestness would be impossible to miss. Would I agree with all of his points? Maybe not. Was it really a good idea to invade Iraq if the main goal was to free its people from a dictator so they could become an ally in the War on Terror?

I'd agree with Bush that it was a good idea to invade Iraq, but for a different reason: We needed to make an example out of a criminal nation that disobeyed the United Nations and violated the terms of the 1991 cease fire — WMD or no WMD. A disagreement over premises, but I'd wind up at the same conclusion as Bush, who, in general, made much more sense than Kerry.

That answers the question posed at the beginning of this column. But as to the question of whether I'd want to endure a second dinner with a guest whose teeth were on edge the whole night and who seemed less than thrilled to be at the table — however cogent he was — count me as undecided.

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08/16/04: Proven Kerry lie takes page from Gore play book
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06/14/04: Reagan, through the eyes of a 7-year-old
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03/24/04: Is March depressing, or is it just me?
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01/26/04: Kerry wins debate by being mediocre
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11/10/03: Time for "diversity" for GOPers?
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10/20/03: And who can blame them?
10/07/03: Irony seems to have been lost on most in ‘leakgate’
09/30/03: Will the Dems finally produce an alpha male before it's time to name a nominee who can scare Bush?
09/23/03: ‘K Street’ will reinforce American cynicism
09/09/03: When real life starts to imitate virtual reality, itís time to reboot

© 2004, Bernadette Malone