When a president prepares a nation for war, politicians have an obligation to take sides.

Most Democrats with presidential aspirations have done so: Howard Dean hates the idea of using force -- at least now. Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards generally have supported the administration's position.

But then come the fence jockeys, who want to cover their derrieres in case war takes place or doesn't, succeeds or doesn't, ends quickly or doesn't. The most obvious fence rider is Senator John Kerry, a Silver Star recipient in the Vietnam War.

The Kerry line is that congress should have given the president authority to wage war, but he shouldn't use it without first making nice with, say, the French. This isn't a position; it's a posture -- presented for the sake of appearances, rather than for advancing debate about war and peace.

It qualifies the senator as the fourth Dixie Chick. You may recall the recent tergiversation of Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, who kissed up to a London audience by declaring she was ashamed to be a Texan, like the president. Stunned by a swift and brutal rebuff by country music fans, she now apologizes, but not without claiming her outburst was motivated by love for children and other vulnerable life forms.

Sorry, Natalie; Sorry, Senator Kerry: You can't have it both ways.

The time has come for all of us to show our cards -- and take responsibility for what our views might imply.

As for me, I think the president is doing the right thing.