Tonight is another opportunity to go out and get an early jump on the weekend. But this Thursday is different than most other Thursdays. As you probably know living on this politically charged campus, tonight is the first presidential debate.
I will no doubt be watching. I have a feeling though, I’ll be at least a little disappointed. Rather than hearing Kerry and Bush say what is expected, I’d prefer the candidates to go ad lib, and say what they really think. I bet it would go something like this:
Moderator: Good evening America. Welcome to the first of three televised presidential debates. I’m sure the candidates would like to have more, but then America would miss the great intellectual masterpiece that is ‘Joey.’ On with the debate. Mr. Bush, you have won the coin toss and elected to defer. Mr. Kerry, you’re up first.
Kerry: Thank you. Back in 2002 this administration put my party in a politically untenable situation. We were given two choices: First, we could support President Bush in his foolhardy voyage into the Iraqi desert, despite our grave misgivings about the wisdom of doing so. Or, we could have taken a principled stand against this erroneous course of action, and have been eaten alive at the polls.
Don’t think the second option would have led to that result? Ask former Georgia Senator Max Cleland. This Vietnam veteran and triple amputee’s consequence for supporting a different version of the Homeland Security Bill than President Bush was being voted out of office as his Republican opponent slammed him for being “unpatriotic.” The fallout for my party would have been much worse had we not gone along with this war. By remaining in office, at least we had the chance to show Bush the error of his ways.
Reluctantly, we took the first option. All along the way, we pressed this President to use the power we gave him wisely in vain. Alas, he did not. But that is the past. We should be discussing the future and my exit strategy for Iraq.
My fellow Americans, I don’t have one. Neither does my opponent. For the foreseeable future, the only thing that will hold the country together is the presence of American troops. If they pull out now, the Iraqi army is in no position to put down the various insurgent groups. Keeping them there not only increases the sacrifice of our brave sons and daughters, but it engenders further anger toward the United States among the Iraqis.
This November, we don’t have the luxury of choosing a president who can lead us out of Iraq. Rather, we have to choose the one who will avoid the next quagmire.
Moderator: Mr. Bush, your response.
Bush: Hello America. I understand that we have not and probably will not find the weapons of mass destruction. Frankly, that doesn’t matter. That isn’t the reason we went to Iraq anyway. But it was a good reason for the world – well, Tony Blair at least, to go along with us.
We invaded Iraq because, well, we had nothing better to do. After we took care of the Taliban, there wasn’t much for our military to do. At the same time, we had to look tough to the terrorists and show them America wouldn’t back down. Iraq seemed the best way to accomplish this goal at the time.
Keep in mind too, that 16 out of 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. By taking Iraq, we could have moved the large number of U.S. forces into Iraq and out of the Gulf. Our stationing of troops near some of Islam’s holiest places is a thorn in the side of many, not just fundamentalist Muslims.
Some of you may remember my tag line for my education proposal four years back, and the phrase, “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you tonight to say this is what we need for Iraq – low expectations. My administration was wrong to portray a post-Saddam Iraq as a democratic paradise. We made the mistake too, of believing in Ahmed Chalabi. He fooled us into thinking once Saddam was out, he and his exiles could swiftly take control of the country. I think we can all agree that it is better having these friendly ex-patriots running Iraq than Saddam. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out like that. Now we realize that you can’t take a country ruled for decades by a cruel and ruthless dictator and turn it into a liberal democracy on a whim. But now, Iraq has the hope of participating in elections this January, and that’s a pretty good start.
Moderator: Thank you Senator Kerry, President Bush. I’m going to cut the debate off there, as I see both of your campaign managers foaming at the mouths. Good night America.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.