April 8, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE is as disappointed as I am with the Kennedy Vietnam remarks, and as unpersuaded by efforts to convince people that Kennedy meant something else. But he also has a worthwhile cautionary observation:

Now, Kennedy is making himself the issue, giving Administration supporters an easy target, and distracting us from what ought to be a serious debate about WTF do we do now.

Kennedy is closely associated with the Kerry campaign, since he picked John up and carried him on his back through Iowa and New Hampshire. And Kerry has not spoken clearly on this subject. So we drift towards a phony debate about the wrong questions – Dems whining that their patriotism is being attacked, Reps looking for signs of defeatism, and the serious questions sidestepped.

This is right. Of course, in the short run what we do is wait and hope that our troops in Iraq will do as good a job as they’ve done in the past. It’s beyond discussion, and out of our hands. But longer term we need to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. That’s especially important internally within the Administration, and it’s important that they don’t let the fact that many external critics are partisan and opportunistic cause them to ignore bad news or fail to take steps to solve problems. The Administration has been attacked, often inconsistently and unfairly, so often that a “bunker mentality” is a natural result. But you need to be more open to useful criticism, as opposed to the kind that comes from Ted Kennedy, during a war. The key is being able to distinguish the two.

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