John Kerry tstifying before Congress in 1971.

Listening to the candidates attempt to one-up each other in their opposition to the Iraq War last night, I found myself hoping that Messrs. Williams and Russert would take a break from their smackdown-goading and ask the whole pack a pretty simple question: What would you say to an 18-year-old who's thinking about enlisting in the Army? During a Presidential debate in 2004, Jim Lehrer asked John Kerry, "After you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, 'How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?' Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?" Kerry's answer began, "No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put--that I'm offering.I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that." (Emphasis mine.) I don't think any of the '08 candidates--or even Kerry, three years later--would answer that question the way Kerry did at the time. But what would the candidates say? Is there an answer that would work politically in the primary and would also serve them well in the general election, or as Commander-in-Chief? I'd love to have heard it.

--Ben Wasserstein