On the second day of a two-week drive to establish his credentials on national security, Mr. Kerry also told an audience of veterans that Mr. Bush had shortchanged their health and benefit programs while carefully protecting tax cuts for the wealthy....
Mr. Kerry said it was impossible to predict what the situation in Iraq would be when - if elected - he took office. But he said neither the United States nor its allies could afford a failure in Iraq, and repeated his call for Mr. Bush to engage more countries in the transition.
"I promise you this," he said, "I am going to get the troops home as fast as possible, with honor and the job accomplished in the way it needs to be, and we will bring other people into the process."
One can easily portray Kerry as a man who takes so many different positions in such a confounding mix that no one--no one with any real potential to actually vote for him--ever gets too upset. Yet, obviously, Kerry has a careful balancing act to perform, and he seems sensible about trying to hold on to the middle. For the antiwar side, he seems to be offering only a feeling that he's going to wind things down more quickly and effectively than Bush, but Bush is trying to reach the same goals Kerry is stating. (This is why I'm not deciding between the two candidates until October: I'll see what Bush has actually done between now and then.) Kerry is urging--Toner reports--that we get away from "partisan politics" and "just think common sense about our country, about what it should be doing." I don't argue with that. It's hard for him to get specific about what he would do, since he wouldn't be starting to do anything until over eight months from now. How can he use common sense to figure out what should be done that far in the future when things are changing every day so far out of his control? That's the downside of not being an ideologue.
Ralph Nader is puzzled that the left wing of the Democrats isn't more active pressuring Kerry to move in their direction, as Nagourney reports:
"There are antiwar Democrats who will fume and still vote for Kerry," Mr. Nader said, adding: "I don't think Democrats should give their candidate a pass on the war. If Democrats are so freaked out by Bush that they are, like, 'Do anything you want, John, we'll support you,' well, as I told him in our meeting, he's not going to be left with a mandate." ...
Mr. Nader said he could not understand why unions, antiwar groups and other traditional Democratic constituencies were signing on with Mr. Kerry without insisting they get something in return. And he criticized Mr. Kerry for not making real concessions to the antiwar crowd.
"He's listening to Shrum," said Mr. Nader, referring to Mr. Kerry's senior political adviser, Bob Shrum. "He's listening to all the cautious advisers. They are saying don't cater to these antiwar people, they have nowhere to go. They are going to vote for you. You know the old game."
So Nader really wants something in return for supporting Kerry, but he isn't finding that he has a constituency to deliver over in the deal. He's becoming irrelevant. There seems to be a lot of common sense going around these days.