WASHINGTON It takes chutzpah, as they might say in Haifa, to declare that Hezbollah and Israel wouldn't be fighting now if John Kerry were president.
Kerry, who did declare that, apparently has more chutzpah than nuance, as it turns out.
"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened,'' said the Massachusetts senator, during a lunchtime visit to "Honest? John's Bar and No Grill Inc.'' in Detroit while campaigning for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "The president has been so absent on diplomacy when it comes to issues affecting the Middle East. ... We're going to have a lot of ground to make up (in 2008) because of it.'' Because of Bush's focus on Iraq, Kerry said, the president failed to address threats posed by other terrorist organizations.
"He has made it so much worse because of his lack of reality in going into Iraq,'' said Kerry. And then, "We have to destroy Hezbollah.''
It's impossible, of course, to know what we'd have been watching on television the past several days had Kerry been elected president. Would Hezbollah not have attacked Israel? To answer that, we have to back up a few steps and first ask whether we would have been less focused on Iraq had Kerry been elected in 2004.
Although Kerry voted for the Iraq invasion, he voted against $87 billion in supplemental funding to pay for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. His 'no' vote followed the defeat of an amendment he co-sponsored that would have rolled back tax cuts to help defray the cost of funding the war.
Whatever his motivations, the vote contributed to his most infamous "flip-flop'' and one of the Bush campaign's most effective ads, which quoted Kerry saying: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.''
Over time, Kerry clearly changed his mind about our position in Iraq, so might we gather that he'd have done things differently?
Let's pretend after all, Kerry is pretending that he could have soothed insurgents and terrorists alike and that, by now, most American troops would be home and Iraq would be enjoying the fruits of a fully functioning stable, democratic government.
We'll give him that tea leaf. Having managed postwar Iraq better than the Bush administration and arguably my neighbor's cat could have what about Iran? Without Iran's support and provision of munitions, Hezbollah wouldn't be kidnapping Israeli soldiers and launching rockets into Israel right now. Might we also assume that under the aura of a President Kerry, the Iranians would have passed on electing the Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
If only John Kerry had been president, might Iran's powerful clerics have decided instead to back a more pragmatic Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani? Might we never have heard clerics urging voters to the polls with words like this: "Every vote you cast is a bullet in the heart of America''?
Perhaps, perhaps, but we'll never know. Given that Iran's elections were arranged in advance by the country's clerics, it seems likely we'd be right where we are: Trying to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and from keeping its promise to erase Israel from the map through its terrorist arm, Hezbollah.
Finally, we come to Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians. With his broader focus, could Kerry have dissuaded Palestinians from electing Hamas to govern them? Or Syria to stop funding Hamas? Or prevented southern Lebanese from electing 14 members of Hezbollah to represent them in that country's Parliament?
These are but some of the events that have transpired in the past year and a half. Whether a different approach to Iraq would have simplified our present task of stabilizing the region is unknowable. But Kerry's boast in the midst of chaos, death and ruin is an embarrassing expression of political hubris that should make even loyal Democrats cut and run.
Kerry did get one thing perfectly right when he said we need to destroy Hezbollah. Israel apparently is aiming to do just that. Whatever might have been two years ago, Israel today must be grateful that George Bush not John Kerry is its wingman.