Kerry: Obama has better foreign policy judgment
Published: Thursday, October 23, 2008
Updated: Thursday, October 23, 2008 06:10
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) roundly praised Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's ability to handle global problems and questioned the direction in which Sen. John McCain would lead the country, during a Cohen Auditorium speech last night.
Kerry garnered energetic applause as he discussed the changing nature of the country's national security concerns and contrasted the two presidential candidates' capabilities to address them in the inaugural lecture of the Fletcher Political Forum.
Although he described both men as "honorable" and referred to McCain as a friend, Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, maintained that Obama has the leadership qualities necessary at this challenging juncture in history. "We have to send him to the White House," Kerry said.
In the question-and-answer section that followed, however, senior Stephanie Brown told Kerry that with "all due respect," she had come to hear the senator talk about foreign policy, not to attend an "Obama rally."
Kerry, who endorsed Obama in January, countered that the speech was not a rally but an articulation of how he viewed the election. An Obama administration represents "the world I want to be working in," he said.
Kerry, up for reelection himself on Nov. 4, did not address his own campaign in his prepared remarks aside from acknowledging that a Fletcher alum is on his campaign staff. "So if I don't win, I'm blaming you," he said to all the students in attendance.
He focused instead on Obama and McCain, zeroing in on foreign policy at a point when virtually all public discourse about the presidential election seems to revolve around the economy. Kerry cautioned the audience that although "things look pretty good" for Obama in the polls, "no overconfidence … is allowed."
In 2004, many exit polls reported on the night of the election that Kerry had beaten President George W. Bush.
"You are looking at the shortest administration in history," Kerry said jokingly.
He praised Tufts for being "one of the best places in America to prepare for leadership." He compared the global leadership that the university fosters to the qualities he sees in Obama.
Kerry also advised that as students look ahead, they should not forget to glance back as well. Exactly 46 years ago yesterday, then-President John Kennedy addressed the country about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although some were calling at the time for military strikes against Cuba, Kerry said that if Kennedy had taken their advice, it could have led to World War III.
Instead, Kennedy spent "13 agonizing days" considering the situation and ultimately avoided a potential nuclear strike. Kerry believes it is this type of "patient, pragmatic, steeling and wise" leadership that the country needs today.
"We face a complex and urgent set of challenges," he said. "The very definition of national security is being rewritten." This new definition includes problems that stretch beyond borders, such as terrorism, AIDS and global warming.
Kerry argued that at this point in time, the United States faces the greatest need to act but possesses the least power to do so.
"Never before in our lifetime has our position in the world — militarily, diplomatically and morally — been so compromised," he said. He mentioned several issues that need confronting, including the global financial crisis, the proliferation of terrorist organizations in the Middle East and the genocide in Sudan.
While Kerry said that, especially around this time of year, he tries not to dwell on do-overs, "It is more than important that our country begin a new chapter in foreign policy.
"The American people have a real decision," Kerry said. "Both candidates put America first," but their visions for the country differ greatly.
Kerry said McCain's envisions a unilateral approach that would involve "defense of judgments that have proven to be mistakes," a reference to the Bush administration's foreign policy.
Obama's vision, he said, is broader and involves a greater understanding of all global issues.
"Both candidates have promised change. [But] change is more than words," he said. "It's not an exaggeration to say we know what a John McCain administration would look like," Kerry said. If "you strip away the lip service to change," McCain's record of voting in favor of Bush's policies 95 percent of the time remains, Kerry said.
Kerry stressed that in order to fight terrorism and cut carbon emissions, it is important to reach out to other world leaders.
The senator said McCain "won't even say if he will talk to the prime minister of Spain."
Obama, however, understands the importance of reclaiming our "moral authority." This involves shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and "making it clear that the United States of America does not torture — not now, not ever," Kerry said.
Drawing on his own military experience, Kerry, a decorated war veteran, reminded the audience that the rules in the Geneva Convention were put in place in large part "to protect soldiers."
Kerry also had harsh words for the Bush administration. "The last eight years have taught us that ideology is not enough to govern," he said. "Judgment is paramount."
He discussed several specific global problems that pose a threat to national security, the most significant of which he believes is our dependence on foreign oil. He called on the United States to break the "Gordian Knot of fossil fuels."