Too-careful politicians think the best defense is giving no offense. To avoid offending any voters,
John Kerry has come down foursquare on both sides of three social issues.
1. He says he opposes the death penalty - except for terrorists.
To a principled minority that believes government must never take a human life, this Kerry straddle is untenable. It makes no sense to hold that society has no right to execute a rapist-murderer whose DNA proves guilt, nor a confessed serial killer or genocidal dictator - but if the killer's motive is to terrify, then execution is in order.
2. Kerry has long identified himself with a woman's right to choose abortion, but recently revealed to a supporter that he believed "life begins at conception."
People who are resolutely pro-choice believe that life begins at birth, and that a woman has a right to abort what is taking place in her own body any time during a pregnancy. People who are resolutely pro-life believe that life begins at conception and that aborting that embryo or fetus is akin to murder.
3. He says he is against same-sex marriage, on one hand, and against a constitutional amendment to ban it, on the other. His position: leave it to the states to battle out.
Contrariwise, these Kerry straddles are troubling in one who aspires to trustworthy leadership. I won't be watching his acceptance speech tomorrow for war stories, Clintonian crowd appeal or sudden, soaring eloquence. An end to the straddling would help.