Skip to comments.Patriot Games
Posted on 03/01/2004 4:50:02 PM PST by RWR8189
Why is John Kerry so defensive about his national security record?
HERE'S A DOG that won't hunt: John Kerry's accusation that President Bush's reelection campaign is questioning his patriotism. This elevates a Democratic refrain--if we disagree with Bush on national security, we're called unpatriotic--to a ridiculous new height. In Kerry's case, his record on defense, intelligence, and foreign policy has been criticized by Republican national chairman Ed Gillespie and Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Theirs were conventional attacks by supporters of one candidate on an opponent's record. Neither got much media attention, but the response by Kerry was indeed newsworthy. He wants his votes and positions on national security to be immune to criticism--in effect, off the table in the presidential campaign.
Quite a clever move by Kerry, no? There'd been a question about how he might exploit his service in Vietnam against Bush--other than to contrast it with Bush's non-combat stint in the Texas National Guard. Now we know. Any suggestion he's been weak on national security in his political career, including 19 years in the Senate, is out of bounds, illegitimate, a verboten questioning of his patriotism. Having served in Vietnam, Kerry says, is proof of consistent support for a strong national defense. On this, he "takes a back seat" to no one. If you say otherwise, you're playing dirty politics.
Will Kerry's bid to remove his greatest vulnerability work? It doesn't look like it. The Bush campaign puts its first wave of ads on television this week, and they're positive. That will change soon. Kerry's record will be scrutinized, and not favorably. Bush has already declared the campaign is about two choices, one on the economy, the other on national security. At a fundraiser in Louisville last week, the president said the election on November 2 "is a choice between an America that leads the world with strength and confidence or an America that is uncertain in the face of danger."
Gillespie first attacked Kerry at a Republican National Committee meeting in January. He said Kerry had, among other things, sought to slash the intelligence budget as the terrorist threat increased in the 1990s. Later he criticized Kerry in a conference call with reporters, then again last week at a press conference in which he played TV clips of Kerry. In one, Kerry invoked his "35 years of experience in international security, foreign policy and military affairs. And I think that makes an enormous difference" in the presidential race. Chambliss also went after Kerry in a conference call. His strongest criticism was that Kerry has "a 32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and defense systems."
After the initial attack, Gillespie says, the Kerry campaign dispatched a fundraising letter accusing the Republican chairman of "another desperate attack on the patriotism of John Kerry." Following the criticism by Chambliss, Kerry went further, issuing a statement and sending a letter to Bush. "I'm not going to stand by and let the likes of Saxby Chambliss and the Republican party question my commitment to keeping our nation strong," the Kerry statement said. "We're not going to let them make this about a war 34 years ago." In fact, Chambliss's criticism covered only Kerry's years in politics, not his time in Vietnam. Kerry added: "Republicans like to question the patriotism of Democrats who question their direction of our nation."
In the letter to the president, Kerry insisted Bush and his campaign had "initiated a widespread attack on my service in Vietnam, my decision to speak out to end that war, and my commitment to the defense of the nation. . . . I will not sit back and allow my patriotism to be challenged." Of course neither Bush nor his campaign had criticized Kerry's record in Vietnam or said anything unfavorable about it. On the contrary, Republicans routinely laud his Vietnam service. Kerry also faulted Bush for "campaign attacks against me," though Kerry himself has made sharp criticism of Bush a staple of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Bush campaign says Kerry has run the first 15 negative ads of the 2004 campaign "directly attacking President Bush."
Accusing Republicans of raising doubts about their patriotism has become standard fare for Democrats, especially Kerry. The tactic is designed to tar criticism as extreme and ill-motivated. Kerry prefaced his remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations last November with this comment: "I know what the Bush apologists will say to this--that it is unpatriotic to question, to criticize, and to call for change." Neither before nor afterwards has anyone accused him of being unpatriotic. When Edward Kennedy, the most prominent Kerry backer, said Bush started the war in Iraq for political gain, he brushed aside criticism as an attack on "the patriotism of those who question them." His patriotism, however, had not been questioned.
Throughout his campaign, Kerry has cited former Georgia senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, as a victim of Republican charges of being unpatriotic. He was defeated in 2002 by Chambliss, whom Kerry characterized in the letter to Bush as "a man elected to the U.S. Senate on the back of one of the most despicable campaigns ever conducted." He and other Democrats cite a TV ad criticizing Cleland for voting against a homeland security bill and featuring pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. The ad was harsh, and Democratic senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who backed Cleland and is now supporting Bush's reelection, says it hinted at a lack of patriotism. But Miller says Cleland lost because he was forced by Democratic leaders to vote 11 times against a Homeland Security Department. And Chambliss insisted in the 2002 campaign he was not questioning Cleland's patriotism, only his judgment.
Marc Racicot, the Bush campaign chairman, answered Kerry's letter to Bush and sought to turn the dispute against Kerry. "Your letter claims that supporters of our campaign questioned your service and patriotism," Racicot wrote to Kerry. "In fact, that simply wasn't true." Racicot asked Kerry to halt the "remarkably negative tone" of his campaign. He also cited 11 weapons systems "that are winning the war on terror" and that Kerry voted against. Racicot left the distinct impression we'll be hearing more on this later.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
(ewww. officials are checking the tape replay to see if that shot was below the belt)
The membership would be open to all blacks who have served as cabinet members and they should regularly poll all members on who blacks should vote for.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.