The most amazing quote of the 2004 campaign
By William Saletan Slate.com
Posted Friday, Oct. 15, 2004, at 6:52 AM PT- Two weeks ago, when President Bush accused John Kerry of subjecting American national security decisions to a "global test," I reviewed Kerry's words and found that Bush had misunderstood them. The test, as Kerry defined it, had two parts. First, it was a test of evidence, not moral opinion. Second, since evidence is a universal standard, Americans were among the people administering the test. In other words, the test was simply the measurement of the president's and vice president's assertions—about weapons of mass destruction, for example, or about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida—against reality. (See Article below)
Bush rejected this test. "The president's job is not to take an international poll," he said at the time. "Our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals." By reserving all decisions for the Oval Office—not for the American public—and by dismissing demands for evidence as an "international poll," Bush was refusing to measure his claims and decisions against the truth. Or so I argued.
I don't have to argue the point anymore, because last night, Bush confirmed it. Here's what he said at a rally in Oregon, according to a White House transcript:
Once again, last night, with a straight face, the senator said—well, shall we say, refined his answer on his proposed global test. That's the test he would administer before defending America. After trying to say it really wasn't a test at all, last night he once again defended his approach, saying, I think it makes sense. (Laughter.) The senator now says we'd have to pass some international truth standard. The truth is we should never turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries. (Applause.)
You heard that right. The president explicitly refuses "to pass some international truth standard." Because evidence is the fundamental test applied in France as well as in the United States, Bush thinks he shouldn't have to back up his claims or decisions with evidence.
He couldn't really be saying that, could he?
Again, let's look at the words to which Bush was responding. In Wednesday's debate, when Bush ridiculed the "global test," Kerry repeated his definition of the test. "I will never turn the security of the United States over to any nation. No nation will ever have a veto over us," said Kerry. "But I think it makes sense—I think most Americans in their guts know—that we ought to pass a sort of truth standard. That's how you gain legitimacy with your own countrypeople, and that's how you gain legitimacy in the world."
This is the second time Kerry has defined the test. Each time, he has made clear that it's a test of evidence, not opinion, and that Americans, "your own countrypeople," are the first people to whom the evidence must be shown.
When Bush replied last night that he refuses to pass this "truth standard," there's really no other way to interpret his position. He's saying that he doesn't have to show you any evidence, because evidence is the sort of thing a Frenchman would ask for.
I know I've been hard on the president lately. I'd like to say something nice about him. I'd like to be "fair and balanced." But my first responsibility as a reporter is to the truth. When one candidate tells half the truth, and the other says the truth doesn't matter, it becomes irresponsible for me or any other journalist not to report that by that standard—the standard of respecting the truth standard—one candidate is head and shoulders above the other.
William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.
The Global Test
It's called reality.
By William Saletan
Posted Monday, Oct. 4, 2004, at 3:49 AM PT
We've just reached the crux of the presidential campaign—the moment in which one candidate, purporting to expose the other's fatal flaw, has instead exposed his own.
Saturday morning, President Bush attacked John Kerry for a comment Kerry made in Thursday night's debate. Here's how Bush described Kerry's remark:
He said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves. That's what he said. Think about this. Sen. Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions. I have a different view. When our country is in danger, the president's job is not to take an international poll. The president's job is to defend America. I'll continue to work every day with our friends and allies for the sake of freedom and peace. But our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals.
This description, which Bush continues to repeat at campaign stops and in television ads, is plainly false. In his first answer of the debate, Kerry said, "I'll never give a veto to any country over our security." But if that isn't what Kerry meant by a "global test," what did he mean? Let's go back and look at Kerry's words.
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test—that passes the global test—where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here we have our own secretary of state who's had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy, in the Cuban missile crisis, sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with [French President Charles] de Gaulle, and in the middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, [the secretary of state] said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And de Gaulle waved them off, and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me." How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?
It's clear from Kerry's first sentence that the "global test" doesn't prevent unilateral action to protect ourselves. But notice what else Kerry says. The test includes convincing "your countrymen" that your reasons are clear and sound. Kerry isn't just talking about satisfying France. He's talking about satisfying Ohio. He's talking about you.
What do you have in common with a Frenchman? Look again at Kerry's words. He says the test is to "prove" that our reasons for attacking were legitimate. In the next sentence, he gives an example of someone failing that test: Colin Powell's February 2003 presentation to the United Nations about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What did Powell apologize for? The inaccuracy of our intelligence. Kerry contrasts this with the trust France once placed in American spy photos.
Proof, intelligence, spy photos. The pattern is obvious. The test isn't moral. It's factual. What you and the Frenchman share is the evidence of your senses. The global test is the measurement of the president's assertions against the real world, the world you and I can see.
This is the test Bush has failed. He has failed to produce evidence for his prewar claims of Iraqi WMD and operational ties to al-Qaida, or for his postwar claims of success against the insurgency. Now he's going further. He's not simply failing the test. He's refusing to take it.
Listen to Bush's words again. "The president's job is not to take an international poll," he says. "Our national security decisions will be made in the Oval Office, not in foreign capitals." Bush doesn't say these decisions belong to the United States. He says they belong to the Oval Office. He frames this as patriotism, boasting that he doesn't care whether he offers evidence sufficient to convince people in France. He shows no awareness or concern that evidence is also necessary to convince people in Ohio. He says it isn't his job to take a "poll," to hear what others think. He needs no validation.
Bush pretends he's just blowing off the French. But his comments show a pattern of blowing off external feedback in general. He shrugs off information that debunks his claims about WMD, arguing that it's more important for a president to understand the overall nature of the world. He defines credibility as agreement with himself. He reinterprets evidence of policy mistakes in postwar Iraq as evidence of success. In Thursday's debate, he dismissed unwelcome reports from that country as too offensive to heed. And according to Sunday's New York Times, he and his aides exaggerated Iraq's nuclear capability, ignoring warnings from "the government's foremost nuclear experts."
Bush claims he has done all this to protect you. But that claim is precisely what's challenged by the evidence he conceals or disregards. What he's protecting you from is the ability to measure his assertions against the world that you and I can see. That's the global test he's mocking. And he expects you to applaud him for it, because he thinks you resent the French so much you'd rather have a president accountable to no one.
William Saletan is Slate's
chief political correspondent and author of Bearing
Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.
Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2107690/