Even the evil Bill Safire cannot see the daylight shine between Bush and Kerry on Iraq.
Four weeks ago, at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.,, Kerry laid out three basic options: (1) "continue to do this largely by ourselves" (would never work); (2) "pull out and hope against hope that the worst won't happen" (worst would happen); or (3) "get the Iraqi people and the world's major powers invested with us in building Iraq's future" (that's it!).Kerry's enthusiasm for some kind of High Commissioner to oversee Iraq is echoed very clearly by his foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke who couldn't help but point out twice on the NewsHour last week that Lakhdar Brahimi is a Muslim (wellll . . .), a Sunni (gasp!), an Algerian (what?!?) and a "U.N. official" (lynch him!).
In his address the other night, President Bush agreed with Kerry's unassailable Option 3 by recounting his own five-step plan:
(1) Turn over sovereignty as promised in a month, the date O.K.'d by Kerry; (2) help establish security (like Kerry, Bush is ready to send over more troops if our generals ask, and they'd better not ask); (3) "rebuilding that nation's infrastructure," echoing Kerry's call for "tangible benefits of reconstruction in the form of jobs, infrastructure and services"; (4) "Next month at the NATO summit in Istanbul," Bush promised to "discuss NATO's role in helping Iraq build and secure its democracy." As Kerry said last month: "He must also convince NATO as an organization that Iraq should be a NATO mission."
Only on the fifth step can we find daylight between the two men's positions. The neomultilateral Bush boasted that "a United Nations team headed by Karina Pirelli is now in Iraq helping form an independent election commission that will oversee an orderly, accurate national election."
But Kerry prefers a "high commissioner . . . charged with overseeing elections . . . highly regarded by the international community." Sorry, Pirelli; step aside, Brahimi; we need a celebrated heavy hitter like Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter to order those so-called sovereign Iraqis around. (Who'd a-thunk it: Bush caving in to the U.N., while Kerry gives Kofi Annan's envoys the back of his hand.)
Aside from this minor divergence of views � which could be rectified the moment Bob Shrum reads this � the speeches of the two candidates show that they see eye to eye not only about staying the course, but about what course to pursue. "If the president will take the needed steps to share the burden," said Kerry, ". . . then I will support him on this issue." And the Bush five-step plan takes those steps.