I'm not a big fan of Thomas Friedman. But that's for another time, because he does make a good point in today's column:
John Kerry's most important challenge in this election campaign is to connect up with that gut fear in the American soul and pass a simple threshold test: "Does this man understand that we have real enemies?" Mr. Kerry, wrongly in my view, tried to use his heroic Vietnam War record to pass that test by implication. He did not make the sale.
In the debates, he tried to both criticize the Iraq war and to look voters in the eye and say: I know we have enemies and I will confront them, albeit in a different and wiser manner than George Bush has.
How did that go over? I believe that Mr. Kerry presented himself as an articulate, informed and credible commander in chief - but did he make the sale to the great American center? Not clear. My own free advice to Mr. Kerry is if he is unsure about this, he should drop everything else - health care, deficits and middle-class tax cuts - and focus on this issue. Everything else is secondary.
TNR's Noam Scheiber has made the same point, and I agree too. Unfortunately, the geniuses at the Kerry campaign are in charge. From today's Post:
Kerry adviser Michael McCurry said Wednesday's speech was probably the Massachusetts senator's last on foreign policy before the election.
Focusing on domestic issues, sends an implicit message: "Can we please not talk about national security issues? It's not my strength." That's a message, psychologically speaking, of weakness--exactly the trait many swing voters say they're afraid Kerry holds.