How Bush distorts Kerry's views on terrorism.

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April 13 2004 5:56 PM

Kerry's Other War Record

How Bush distorts his opponent's views on terrorism.

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Of course there is one area where Bush really has favored a more military approach than Kerry: Iraq. But even if you accept the highly debatable premise that Iraq was central to the war on terror, it's hard to see how it can be the archetype for Bush's approach to fighting terrorism. Not even the hardest of the hard-liners today proposes additional land invasions as part of the war on terror. With Saddam Hussein now safely in American custody, Bush and Kerry both propose to fight terror primarily with law enforcement and intelligence-gathering. If you're looking for a president who will take on terrorism by launching more Iraq-style invasions, you don't have a candidate in this race.

To say that the war against Islamic fundamentalism is not a war in the traditional sense of being a series of battles between armed forces is not to deny that it's a war in the metaphorical sense. It is a war in that it's a challenge to our way of life and quite possibly the survival of millions of Americans, which mandates, in response, an enormous marshaling of national resources. When Bush declares, "Some are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all," he is exploiting the confusion between the literal and the metaphorical. In acknowledging the distinction, and opening himself up to Bush's demagoguery, Kerry demonstrates his political tin ear. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.

Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at the New Republic and author of The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.