Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Monday, March 15, 2004

WHO ARE THOSE FOREIGN LEADERS who've privately endorsed Kerry? There's been some chatter in the blogosphere about Kerry's "That's none of your business." response to that question, posed to him by a Bush sympathizer at a town hall meeting recently.

It's perfectly reasonable to ask Kerry that kind of question, and to criticize him when he gives a rude non-response response. You can't offer as a selling-point for your candidacy that you've been privately endorsed by various foreign leaders and then refuse to tell the American people who those leaders are.

The foreign-leader endorsements are part of a larger campaign promise by the Kerry camp - that he'll repair our frayed alliances with Europe and the rest of the world. The secret endorsements are apparently evidence of how Kerry will do that: foreign leaders like him better than Bush, whom they despise, and will be more willing to deal with him (and his mellow multilateralism).

Because the secret endorsements are a substantive claim in defense of a campaign promise, people have a right to some specifics. Are these world leaders the heads of important countries? (No offense to Togo, but President Gnassingbe Eyadema's endorsement shouldn't make-or-break the 2004 election.) Are they the leaders of enemies the United States, like North Korea or Iran? (I doubt they are, by the way.) Are they the leaders of ostensibly allied states that many Americans find incredibly irritating, often for no rational reason? (I'm looking at you, Jacques Chirac.)

These are important details, which when provided will provide the voters a means to evaluate the strength of Kerry's larger promise that he'll repair our frayed alliances. Withholding it would be like proposing to spend $900 billion more on healthcare, cut the deficit in half and only raise taxes by $250 billion, without explaining the source of the other $650 billion. You know, the kind of bush-league bullshit the Kerry Campaign would never dream of pulling.

That said, there are plenty of good reasons Kerry wouldn't want to reveal who those foreign leaders who've privately endorsed him are. It would probably hurt him more than it helps him to be known as the official candidate of Jacques Chirac and the Fifth French Republic. There's also the problem of confirming his claims. Whoever he names, not wanting between 9 months and 5 years of icy relations with the Bush Administration, might deny ever endorsing Kerry, thus making the Senator look like a liar. Also, the endorsement may indeed have been made in confidence, which the Senator, being a decent guy, would not want to violate.

Of course, all of these reasons just underscore how dumb it was for Kerry to go off about how foreign leaders had told him they wanted him to win in the first place. It should've been obvious at the time that these kinds of questions would follow. If he didn't want to answer them, he shouldn't've brought up the topic. Kerry let this particular genie out of it's bottle. He can't complain when it wants to play 20 questions. (Talk about your mixed metaphors!)

By the way (bonus final graph): I can't see how the "foreign leaders endorse Kerry" meme hurts Bush much. Most Americans already have a sense that the Europeans don't care for Bush, just like they didn't care for his ideological predecessor Reagan. I can think of two scenarios in which this hurts Bush. One is if a large number of foreign leaders (and not just European ones or ones that are known to be anti-Bush or anti-US) come out openly against Bush's reelection. I'm taking Russia, India, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, etc. That would wound, but probably not fatally. The other scenario: if the leader who'd secretly endorsed Kerry were Tony Blair. I can't see how that's anything other than a fatal wound to the Bush reelection bid. If Tony the Tiger would rather play ball with J. Forbes Kerry, and is willing to say so publicly, Bush is toast.