Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk are airing in their campaigns to fill Roland Burris' Senate seat. Simple-minded, mendacious, nerve-racking.
Nothing so bad, mind you, as the Senate race in Delaware, where the main issue appears to be whether one of the candidates was a witch.
But voters make their choices on such nasty and superfluous issues, according to the wise counsel of political strategizers. Voters ignore more serious issues like, umm, foreign affairs. So, in an effort to prove that the strategists are idiots, I'll start off with … foreign affairs.
My reference is the candidates' debate before the Tribune editorial board (which can be viewed at chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/) in which Kirk whaled on Giannoulias. Kirk was insightful, thoughtful and informed. Giannoulias merely repeated the banalities of the Democratic coloring book.
As a Navy intelligence officer, Kirk explained the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with the nuance and detail that they deserve. His analysis of what it will take to win (and how to define a win) was historically based, realistic and thorough.
Giannoulias' attempt to portray Kirk as the architect of the Iraq war badly backfired because it revealed Kirk's reservoir of knowledge. Kirk correctly reminded us that the suspicion that Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction wasn't the only reason for the war. It was in America's interests to create in the middle of the Middle Eastern hotbed a working democracy that would help stabilize the region. On that score, we've come a long way.
No ads and few commentators have examined these important differences. But when it comes to advising and consenting to the president's foreign policy, I'd much rather have Kirk in the Senate than Giannoulias.
To Dennis, from Eric:
Certainly Kirk wasn't alone in being insufficiently skeptical of the deeply flawed intelligence reports that got us into the mess in Iraq. The imminent threat from Hussein's hidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction — along with sunny predictions of a quick and relatively painless victory from those beating the war drums — sealed the deal for many of us who wouldn't otherwise have been inclined to spill American blood and spend American treasure, both in horrifying quantities, to spread democracy.
But when I'm duped, I write a few columns for which I later have to apologize. When Kirk, winner of the " Nobel Prize for Naval Intelligence" or whatever honor he's claiming today, gets duped along with others who have votes in Congress, thousands die.
His comment on this?
"I'm not going to look backward," he said at the debate. "I'm going to look forward."
I guess that means we can't ask him why someone so allegedly insightful on military matters opposed the troop surge in Iraq that war-backers now consider such a success.
And what does Kirk say he sees looking forward? Victory many years down the road if we can just "ally our objectives with the major local power brokers of Afghanistan" which we can do "as long as our political goals are exactly aligned with what tribal and linguistic leaders want."
State Treasurer Giannoulias also spun a lot of verbiage about central Asian stakeholders and integrated approaches and the necessity of political power sharing among the Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks. But, bottom line, he wants the U.S. the heck outta that finger-trap 14th century hellhole of a nation much faster than Kirk does, which is good enough for me.
To Eric, from Dennis:
You're right. We should have let Saddam Hussein hang around. Let him and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad engage in a nuclear arms race and then maybe they'd wipe each other out. Maybe kill another half million combatants and civilians with weapons of mass destruction, like they did in their 1980 to 1988 war. Sounds a bit like laissez-faire foreign policy to me, but then I'm an old John F. Kennedy Democrat who agreed when he said: "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."