UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt asks: "Did Kerry blunder in denouncing nuclear bunker busters? If so, why? If so, how great the damage to his candidacy?" Hugh would like any bloggers interested to post responses.
1. We'll start with the first question. Was it a blunder? I think so, but it I am unaware of any polling data on this subject. Maybe Kerry has some, and that's the vein of public concern or opposition he is trying to tap. Or maybe he was just feeling his oats in a debate he could sense was going well, and decided to hold forth on nuclear weapons. I have a hunch it was the latter.
2. Why was it a blunder? Because Kerry's newly announced opposition to any further nuclear weapons development shows his true dovish colors. Dovishness has not exactly been carrying the day lately; the entire drift of public opinion over the last 20 years has been in favor of deterrence of all kinds, and everyone pretty much acknowledges the success of Reagan-style "big sticks." As noted earlier, my favorite friendly heckler, Anonymous, takes exception to my argument. Here's why Anonymous is wrong:
3. How great the damage to Kerry's candidacy? I think it might be substantial, but it will not be immediate. Here's why:
*The American people are deeply concerned about nutty foreign dictators (Kim Jong Il, the Iranian Mullocracy) with nukes. Those nut cases need to know that they will not be able to hide in a super-secure location (like a bunker!) if they are ever foolish enough to use nukes against the U.S. or a U.S. ally. That's the thinking behind the bunker buster nuke. In the Cold War they called that a deterrent. This will resonate with Americans.
*In the Cold War, of course, John Kerry was for a nuclear freeze, just like he apparently is now. It will not take much to tie Kerry to that unpopular, unsuccessful, and now-discredited movement. This simply weakens him on the most important issue in this election-- national security. Fortunately Kerry's point of view did not prevail in the 1980's. With a nuclear freeze, the Soviet Union may well have been able to survive.
*Of course, the good Senator was opposed to the Gulf War in 1991 too. Even the French were involved then. In fact, Bush's father had a huge international coalition, including all of Europe, and had explicit U.N. Security Council approval for the war. Kerry still voted against it. What was his excuse then?
*Let's see, Kerry was against the nuclear buildup that beat the Soviets. He was against the Gulf War that threw Saddam out of Kuwait. And now he's against the Iraq War (at least I think he is; it's so hard to tell).
So in John Forbes Kerry's world: (1) the Soviets would probably still be in power, (2) Saddam would still be in power, and (3) Saddam would still be in Kuwait.
The point here is that all this is very revealing about John Kerry's foreign policy "vision." I do not think this helps him win the election in the current national security environment. That's why his anti-nuke rant was a huge blunder, whether it was spontaneous or planned. Will the negative impact be immediate? I think not. There will need to be some pounding on this and similar issues by the President in his stump speeches, by V.P. Cheney, by the Bush campaign generally, by its surrogates, and by conservative bloggers.
So let's all pound away!