Observations on the world today.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Nuance Bad - Subtlety Confusing - Me Vote Bush 

Kerry's Flip-Flopping on Russia
IN REACTION to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement this week of plans to curtail democratic institutions in Russia and assert increased political control over the country from Moscow, Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry criticized President Bush for having "taken his eye off the ball--ignoring America's interest in seeing democracy advance in Russia," and promised that, under his administration, "The fate of freedom and democracy in Russia will once again be priorities of American foreign policy."

Fair enough--but for the fact that Kerry told the Washington Post in May that, as president, he "would play down the promotion of democracy in dealing with . . . Russia." Instead, the Senator pledged to focus "on other objectives . . . more central to the United States' security." He also rejected the idea--put forward last January by then-rival, now-running mate John Edwards--that Russia's membership in the G-8 should be linked to democratic reforms.

It seems that whatever the issue--be it Iraq, the war on terror, or now Russia--Senator Kerry has a hard time knowing his own mind.
In their zeal to paint Kerry as a flip-flopper, the right often misses the subtleties of foreign policy. This is a perfect example of such a time.

First point, the article attributes a quote to Kerry which was not a Kerry quote.
"would play down the promotion of democracy in dealing with . . . Russia."
Here is what the WaPo article actually said:
Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.
Now, the elipses are not the problem. The problem is that the person who said this is the author of the article, not Senator Kerry.

Second, it is not a contradiction therefore it is not a flip-flop. The premise is; since Kerry was saying that he would play down developing democracy as a leading goal - that when he now says the fate of democracy in Russia will be a leading goal of American democracy in his administration - this is a flip-flop. This is complicated to explain but really pretty obvious. Pay attention, right-wingers. Read slowly.

In the Post article, Kerry did not say that democracy would not be a leading goal in his administration. Rather he said that he would play it down as a leading goal. At least, that's how the author of the article characterizes what he said. Diplomatically speaking, Bush has had an overt objective of establishing democracy in Iraq, and it has been rebuffed. Contrariwise, we have had a covert objective of building democracy in China for years, and the seed has gradually taken hold. See the value of playing down your leading goals?

As for Kerry's position that that Russia's membership in the G-8 should not be linked to democratic reforms; that would be an overt expression of our objective - which Kerry opposes.


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