Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Ahem. Not to put too fine a point on it, but where the hell is Digby? It's been a month and no sightings, and people in his comments section are getting worried. So am I.

(As for me, I merely remain lacking a monitor, mostly because I'm having trouble deciding on a replacement unit.)

There's been a lot of interesting stories, but none perhaps so interesting as this one, about a "top counterterrorism aide" that has defected to the Kerry campaign.

A top counterterrorism aide to President Bush has signed on as national security adviser for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is mounting a campaign to defeat Mr. Bush, the Washington Post reports.

Rand Beers quit his job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism eight weeks ago. On Monday, in a provocative interview with the Post, the veteran Washington bureaucrat – who served on the National Security Council under four presidents – lashed out at the administration's handling of the war on terrorism and homeland security.

Beers charged the administration "wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure. … The longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."

He said the administration was "underestimating the enemy" and had failed to address the root causes of terrorism. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded," Beers told the newspaper.

Beers criticized the administration's focus on Iraq, which he said came at the expense of domestic security, damaged America's international alliances and could help breed a new generation of terrorists.
Now, he is a registered Democrat, but this is still pretty big news. The biggest weapon that the Republicans have against the Democrats is that they're stronger and more consistent on national security and foreign policy. Many have railed against that from the perspective of the Bush administration's poor handling of both, but the question that Bush backers have always been able to respond with is "why is your guy any better"? Kerry, at least, has an answer- he has an advisor who knows counterterrorism inside and out, and who (at least appears to have) quit the Bush administration on a matter of principle. The very existence of Beers does poke a hole, even if only an infintesimal one, in that line of argument. "Why is your guy any better"? The answer is "because our guy's platform comes from an expert: one who knows terrorism, and knows that your guy is full of it".

The real question, of course, is what that platform is going to be, and I'm planning on watching the Kerry campaign to see what Beers comes up with. His particular critiques highlight one specific attack that intelligent Democrats may want to level at the president: that he doesn't follow through on his promises. He pointed out that Bush has practically abandoned Afghanistan, and that the Taliban are in resurgence there- in direct contradiction to the current Bush campaign rhetoric that Afghanistan is an example of a "mission accomplished". This is important: people already know about Iraq, but don't know about the situation in Afghanistan, other than that Osama isn't caught (but might simply be dead... one of the convenient aspects of bombing-heavy strategies).

Beers also attacked the president's actions on the home front, and this, I think, may be the biggest weakness of the Bush administration in the next election. While he can showcase his foreign adventures, he doesn't really have much at home to trumpet, and there are a lot of broken promises and out-and-out deception when it comes to national security that the Bush administration is having to dodge its way around. I hadn't expected them to actually be so inept as to badly handle the one job that they're supposed to be better at, but as long as they're doing it, Democrats should be hammering away at it. For that, Kerry has just gained a significant ally... and no matter who the Democratic nominee ends up being, Beers' input into the debate will aid in finally formulating a muscular and independent Democratic foreign policy.

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