September 2, 2004

Who's got the nuance?

The NYT editorial page approves of President Bush's acknowledgement of the complexity in the idea of "winning the war on terror":
President Bush was absolutely right when he said it was impossible to win a war against terrorism - it's like announcing we can win a war against violence. Terrorism can only be minimized and controlled ... The president has been honest about saying we will never be totally safe. ..."

Of course, the editorial is full of criticisms too, but that's not my point here, so I've elided them. The Times and its columnists usually slam Bush for the "lack of nuance" in his thinking. He thinks he knows the right answer and then he doggedly sticks to it. And that's bad. Kerry, on the other hand, has all the nuance and complexity, we're told. He sees all sides. And that's good.

But what is this?
"I absolutely disagree with what he said in that interview in a moment of candor," Mr. Kerry said here at the American Legion's national convention a day after Mr. Bush, before the same audience, retreated from a televised comment in which he said he did not think the United States could win the war on terror.

"With the right policies, this is a war we can win, this is a war we must win, and this is a war we will win," Mr. Kerry said. "The terrorists will lose and we will win, because the future does not belong to fear, it belongs to freedom."

When Kerry sees an opportunity to make some headway against Bush, where's the nuance? He claims to be the one who can get to the "right" answer, he predicts the future, and he predicts victory. Well, the whole "nuance" theme of this election has long seemed phony to me. It's a buzzword thought up to knock down Bush and excuse Kerry's record of taking multiple positions. But Kerry doesn't even seem to want to be Mr. Nuance. So can we please stop saying "nuance"?

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