Christopher Hitchens gets the implication of John Kerry's "firehouse" line from his acceptance speech completely backwards, takes it miles out of context, and stretches it out into an entire column!
First of all, he misses the point of the quote:
To borrow the current sappy language of "making us safer": Who would feel more secure if they knew that we weren't spending any tax dollars on Iraqi firehouses?The point of the Kerry line -- "we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America" -- is the latter part, not the first part. Anyone not thoroughly inebriated (hint hint) knows that Kerry was not advocating the end of reconstruction projects in Iraq, such as firehouse building. He's not saying we should value firehouses in America instead of their counterparts in Baghdad; he's saying we should in addition.
Hitchens' biggest offense is in taking the quote out of context, deliberately I might add. Here's the paragraph which included the firehouse quote:
And the front lines of this battle are not just far away they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting 95 percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.Now I'm not good with tea leaves, palmistry or code-cracking, but I could swear that John Kerry is talking about homeland security. Without providing the actual context, Hitch frames the quote as if Kerry was outlining a Buchananite policy of xenophobic, isolationist spending policies. And then he turns it into some sort of moral crisis for the left. No link to the speech is readily available from his column, of course.
In short, George W Bush's efforts on homeland security have not been as serious as they should be, and John Kerry is calling him on that. No, we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America. We should be opening them in both, and that's John Kerry's point: We need to be serious on both Iraq and homeland security.
Naturally, Instapundit links approvingly.
P.S. Incidentally, the portion of the paragraph from Kerry that concerns me is with the 9/11 Commission. I understand the politics of wanting to appear more receptive to the Commission's reccomendations than Bush is, but "I will immediately implement..." seems a bit over-eager to me. While I'm willing to interpret Kerry's statement as that he will also decide on how he implements those reccomendations, and while a comprehensive implementation would probably be a good short-hand way to describe what a Kerry administration would do, further clarification on this will be in order soon.
On the other hand, if he had made a more ambiguous statement than that one, the usual suspects would have been all over him for it. So in the end, it was worth it to strangle the flip-flop meme.