George W. Bush botched a war.
So who owes the apology?
That's what Harold Ford, Jr., should've asked while campaigning with his pal Bill Clinton for Bill Frist's senate seat. Instead, Ford joined the chorus calling for Kerry to apologize.
That inoculated Ford from media foolishness that elevated the importance of a mangled punch line above a war that's killed more than 655,000 people while mangling many, many more, according to the British medical journal Lancet.
It's a war that's created more terrorists, not fewer, according to our own National Intelligence Estimate, and virtually destroyed Iraq.
That's what Democrats and the media should focus on. Kerry botched a bad joke about a war. Bush botched the actual war.
By splitting over Kerry's remarks, Democrats are missing an opportunity to do what they could've done in 2004--mount a solid front against the mishandling of our security, and demand accountability from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice.
This election should be a referendum on failed policies. It should be about, say, our foreign debt, greater under Bush than that accumulated by all previous 42 presidents combined.
It should be about the destruction of a dozen international treaties that lent stability to the world for sixty years.
It should be a repudiation of putting foxes in charge of regulating hens.
About warnings ignored prior to 9/11.
About our fallen reputation.
About those 800 signing statements Bush attached to laws passed by Congress-signaling his belief that he's above such laws.
It should be about corporate and congressional scandals by Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Enron and more.
The shrinking middle class.
Failure to protect ports and borders.
Failure to manage leftover Soviet nukes, or do anything meaningful about genocide in Darfur.
Failure to become less energy-dependent.
It should be about the use of congressional "ear-marks" to pack home the pork.
It should be about the New Orleans debacle.
Or the deal to supply India with fuel that undermines the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
It should be about Korean and Iranian ambitions.
It should be about Social Security and Medicare.
By far, however, the following three issues should carry the most weight when voting.
1. The war in Iraq. When was the last time you heard Bush say, "Stay the course?" That dropped slogan should be damning in and of itself. How does he drop "Stay the course" without acknowledging he botched the war? Still, Bush has made it clear he won't bring the troops home as long as he's president. This war's already lasted longer than our involvement in World War I, and nearly as long as our involvement in WWII. Is that what you signed on for when you supported the invasion of Iraq?
2. Global warming. Yeah, some still deny it. Their simplistic catchphrase is, "It's cyclical." But the smartest, most prestigious, most attuned and independent scientists and politicians say there's more to it. The National Academy of Sciences, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Science Foundation and other independent groups issued statements testifying to the reality of global warming and carbon emissions as an important cause. Science magazine surveyed 928 studies conducted and reviewed by scientists. None disputed global warming and its human fingerprint. Six former Environmental Protection Agency directors all agree, as do the leading presidential candidates, more than 100 signers of the Kyoto Accords and 104 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who signed a petition calling for action to halt global warming. Ford has a commonsense take on the issue. He notes that science is reliable. Cell phones work, rockets work, the earth is round, men landed on the moon, and science tells us the earth's temperature is rising, in part because of us. Ford's opponent, Bob Corker, won't acknowledge that. Our earth's fate could hang in the balance.
3. Human rights and constitutional law. Anyone willing to consider the evidence must see that Bush's pro-torture and detainment policies have backfired obscenely and done incredible harm. Newsweek, the New York Times, the New Yorker and many others have documented how our government packed off a psychotic man named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to be tortured into lying that Saddam Hussein taught al-Qaida how to use weapons of mass destruction. The CIA blindfolded al-Libi, duct-taped his hands, loaded him onto an airplane, told him they planned to rape his mother while he was away, then flew him off to Egypt where he lied under torture. Colin Powell unwittingly repeated those lies to the United Nations in February 2003, when justifying the approaching invasion of Iraq.
How can you read these lines without acknowledging their consequences? Either they're lies-and I can prove to any reasonable person they're not--or our leaders have led us to a place far darker than any botched joke. If you're as disgusted as I am about the use of lies to turn us into torturers, subvert our Constitution and endanger our world, then vote accordingly.