For fallibility

Rick Heller explains why a voter committed to getting rid of Bush might still have some questions about Kerry. In particular, Heller would like to hear Kerry say “I was wrong.” Me too. Surely we don’t need two infallible Presidents in a row.

I agree with Heller that Kerry’s vote against the first Gulf War is the vote that most needs explaining, though I’m not as convinced that it can’t be explained. Most of us who supported that war regret, or at least regretted until recently, not having finished the job back then. But we’re learning now what the Bush I foreign policy team suspected: that conquering Iraq is easier than ruling it.

I’m not as concerned as Heller about Kerry’s vote against the $87 billion. Kerry can reasonably say — has said, though in a way that has allowed Bush to make fun of him — that he had no objection to spending the money, as long as we paid for it out of current taxes rather than charging it to our kids’ credit card. [I know this point was made eloquently on one of the blogs I read, but I can’t remember which one.]

But Heller’s broader point is precisely right. Kerry ought to try having enough respect for the voters’ intelligence to say to them, “I’ve been wrong in the past, and I surely will be wrong in the future. When I find out I was wrong, I change my mind.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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