Charles Krauthammer: Kerry Is Running Like Nixon in '68

Roundup: Media's Take

Charles Krauthammer, in th WSJ (Oct. , 2004):

[C]haracter is destiny. Mr. Kerry fell back to talking about the current war in the only way he knows -- in terms of Vietnam. He does not say"Vietnam" explicitly. But this new aggressive Iraq stance has one unmistakable theme: Wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. Vietnam -- not as crime or glory, but as terrible strategic mistake.

But where does Mr. Kerry go from there? He now gets an exceedingly rare historical second chance: Vietnam II, getting it right this time. What then is he offering as a solution? He will begin withdrawing troops by next summer and get us out by the end of his first term.

But this makes no sense. Why wait four years? If it is a quagmire, then one has to ask the question that John Kerry asked Congress in 1971, the most memorable line he has ever uttered:"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

If Mr. Kerry had not had such tortured history on Vietnam and on Iraq, he might have run as a straightforward antiwar candidate and simply said: We are getting out.

Instead, Mr. Kerry is offering to magically get allies to replace us while accelerating Iraqification. (Does he imagine the administration is operating at anything less than breakneck speed to transfer the burden from American soldiers to Iraqis?) In 1968, Richard Nixon ran and won on a similar platform -- Vietnamization -- and got us out of Vietnam almost precisely by the end of his first presidential term.

Nixon, remember, was vilified by Mr. Kerry and his antiwar colleagues for prolonging the suffering and dying in Vietnam for four unnecessary years. Yet here is Mr. Kerry, after 30 years of torturous re-examination of Vietnam, coming full circle and running as Nixon 1968: Mysterious plan, Iraqification, out in four years. A novelist could not have written this tale. It would be too implausible.

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