Debates are a chance for the candidates to speak without scripts and show what they truly believe. And in the first presidential debate, Sen. John
Kerry (D-Mass.) made a revealing comment. While making a point about the war in Iraq, Kerry said that as president, he would make sure America could pass a "global test" before defending its interests.
Kerry's threshold for action is being able to "prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
Subjecting foreign policy and national security decisions to Kerry's "global test" would have a critical effect not just on America's ability to defend itself, it would dramatically affect the security of one of our most loyal allies, Israel.
A troubling proportion of the global community considers Israel a racist, illegitimate state. Some of the leading diplomats of the European community, who publicly tolerate Israel's existence, in their parlors and their cafes dismiss Israel with scatological terminology.
When international bodies have the opportunity, they ban the presence of Israelis wherever possible -- Israeli athletes, Israeli academics, Israeli scientists, Israeli businessmen and Israeli diplomats can all attest to this.
And this is the community to which Kerry would kowtow on matters of national security and foreign policy?
Kerry predictably has sent his Jewish political allies to vouchsafe for his pro-Israel bona fides. They say his fealty to Israel is nonnegotiable.
But does Kerry have the ability to tell the European community, as President Bush has done repeatedly, that anti-Zionism is a modern and savage form of the ancient evil of anti-Semitism?
Does Kerry have the gumption to personally confront soft allies over anti-Israel, anti-Semitic epithets, as President Bush did to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed? Would Kerry tell his secretary of state, as President Bush did, to abruptly leave an international conference that had become a public lynching of Israel?
Does Kerry have the willingness to tell Arab states that American support for Israel is not a bargaining chip as we seek to win their cooperation in Iraq?
President Bush faced that very same quandary in spring 2002, when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank. Arab nations blamed Israel's actions for their inability to join the coalition then forming to confront Saddam Hussein.
But President Bush didn't budge. The United States has vetoed eight anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. Security Council. With that support, Israel effectively destroyed many of the terrorist cells that had plotted slaughters in buses, cafes and Passover seders in Israel.
By comparison, Kerry, his running mate, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), and their foreign policy advisers have shown that they would rather focus on detente and diplomacy than on protecting their friends. But we know from experience that sometimes saying "no deal" to one's enemies is more effective than saying "I'll compromise."
President Bush understands this, and John Kerry does not.
Jews who are Democrats may not yet grasp this, but clearly, Israel's enemies do. The Jerusalem Post reported last month that the Palestinians likely will wait until after the election to present a U.N. resolution calling for sanctions over Israel's West Bank security barrier "in the hope that if John Kerry wins, the U.S. may not cast a veto."
A telling point: The world knows what it's getting with Bush. But it has different expectations for Kerry.
Fundamentally, John Kerry's foreign policy instinct is to negotiate, to deal and to bargain away strengths. Thus Kerry's 1980s fantasy that unilateral disarmament would defeat the Soviets; the opposite was true. Thus his mistaken belief that the Sandinistas represented the democratic will of the Nicaraguan people; the Nicaraguan people demonstrated the exact opposite.
Thus Kerry's 1990s fantasy that Yasser Arafat was a "model statesman"; he was a master terrorist. Thus his theory that the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 wasn't worth fighting and the second Gulf War wasn't worth funding. Wrong again on both counts.
Ask Israelis whether they believe the removal of Saddam was a mistake -- or that this war, as both Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean say, was "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time."
But Kerry is most egregiously wrong when he says American foreign policy must meet a "global test." America's support for Israel should never be contingent on a permission slip from France, Germany or the United Nations.
Any president who subjects America's alliance with Israel to a "global test" knows exactly what he will get: total failure.
Norm Coleman is a Republican senator from Minnesota.