- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

WhatdoesSen.John Kerry stand for? This is now the political parlor game of the presidential election season suddenly upon us. Of course, what doesn’t John Kerry stand for?

There may be something purely comic in the anecdote about the Kerry constituent who in 1991 received two letters from the Massachusetts senator, nine days apart, the first opposing the Gulf War, the second supporting it. But this anecdote is as good a metaphor as any for Mr. Kerry’s stands on significant issues. In January, for example, he was castigating President Bush for his “exaggeration” of the terrorist threat — a point on which Sen. John Edwards, his erstwhile rival, saw fit to take him to task. In February, Mr. Kerry was still castigating Mr. Bush — but this time for having mustered an inadequate response to the same terrorist threat. “I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the war on terror,” Mr. Kerry said. “I believe he’s done too little.”

More amazing are the policy shifts that follow not a month or days, but a jot of punctuation. Last fall, Mr. Kerry explained his decision to oppose the president’s plan to fund the post-liberation reconstruction of Iraq: “I voted against that $87 billion in Washington yesterday,” Mr. Kerry said. “But let me make it clear, I am for winning the war in Iraq.” Translation: I don’t want to support the stabilization and rebuilding of Iraq, but I want to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

Sometimes Mr. Kerry’s position depends on who’s listening. An Arab-American audience in Michigan last fall heard all about how Israel’s security is just “another barrier to peace.” As Mr. Kerry put it, “I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the Green Line — cutting deep into Palestinian areas. We don’t need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis’ security over the long term, increase the hardships to Palestinian people and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.”

In the run-up to Super Tuesday — which included a primary in notably Jewish New York — Mr. Kerry spoke out of a different side of his mouth. “Israel’s security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense,” he said. “No nation can stand by while its children are blown up at pizza parlors and on buses. While President Bush is rightly discussing with Israel the exact route of the fence to minimize the hardship it causes innocent Palestinians, Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens. The fence only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel.”

Mr. Kerry would go on to tell the New York Daily News that the old “barrier to peace” routine was “a not very artfully drawn paragraph” that reflected “the rush of the campaign.” Rush of the campaign, sure — from one political audience to another.

One belief John Kerry has held consistently is multilateralism. (No wonder the only mention of “war” in his Super Tuesday speech concerned a “pledge to rejoin the community of nations” to achieve “final victory in the war on terror.”) To Mr. Kerry, alliances not blessed by the United Nations — such as the one that liberated 25 million Iraqis from Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship — don’t rate, while unilateralism is burn-at-the-stake heresy.

Or is it? Having heard Mr. Kerry’s critique of the Bush administration’s Haiti actions, the Daily News also reported that he said “a Kerry administration would have given the rebels a 48-hour ultimatum to come up with a peaceful agreement — ‘otherwise,’ Mr. Kerry said, ‘we’re coming in.’ ”

Otherwise, we’re coming in? “I would intervene with the international community, and absent an international force, I’d do it unilaterally,” Mr. Kerry explained. Maybe it’s that old rush of the campaign again. Or maybe Mr. Kerry reserves the right to act unilaterally in all cases outside America’s strategic interests. Meanwhile, in real life, the United Nations has since voted unanimously to send a multinational peacekeeping force to Haiti, while French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has described Jean Bertrand Aristide’s departure as being “the result of perfect coordination” between Washington and Paris.

C’est la guerre. “When I first led veterans to the Mall here in Washington to stop the Vietnam War … it was a time when millions of Americans could not trust or believe what their leaders were telling them,” Mr. Kerry said on Super Tuesday. “Now, today, many Americans are once again wondering if they can trust and believe the leadership of our country.”

Senator Flip-Flop is one to talk.

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