You have to feel a spot of sympathy for someone who looks as French as John Kerry. But he’s sometimes got a mouth like Jacques Chirac, and he leaves a lurid paper trail.
The French-looking senator, who with the other Democratic presidential candidates has been the object of a nationwide search by Interpol detectives assigned to the Missing Persons Bureau, was finally discovered in New Hampshire earlier this week, interrupting the domino games in a park in downtown Lebanon.
He was in a complaining mood, as important senators often are, and complaining specifically about George W. Bush, as Democrats do. Mr. Kerry, surprising some of the folks with his fluent English, repeated the Democratic theme, first set out by his rival Howard Dean, that George W. promised to build an international coalition against Saddam Hussein but instead waged Anglo-Saxon war on Iraq without staunch allies such as France, Chad and Brazil, basing it on intelligence that wasn’t very smart.
“He misled every one of us,” he said. “That’s one reason why I’m running to be president of the United States. I will not let him off the hook throughout this campaign with respect to America’s credibility, and credibility to me, because if he lied, he lied to me personally.”
He repeated the Democratic boilerplate that he’s glad Saddam Hussein is gone; it’s just that he thinks George W. was wrong to make him gone. He promises a congressional investigation and, adjusting the cut of his jib for any snapshooters in the vicinity, vowed, “We will get to the bottom of this.”
Mr. Kerry reminded the folks that he had served in Vietnam — in fact, he reminded them two or three times, no Bill Clinton he — and said that his war service and his membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee made him the “best suited” to question George W.’s credentials as the commander in chief. “I believe I can hold President Bush accountable if they have misled us.”
Since Mr. Kerry was one of the 77 senators who voted to go to war, he calls into question his own smarts. “For the sake of argument,” jibes James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal Online, “let’s say Kerry is right and Bush perpetrated a sham. In a hypothetical general-election matchup, who would you rather choose to deal with hostile foreign leaders: a guy who’s capable of pulling off such an elaborate deception, or the sucker who fell for it?”
Not only that, but Mr. Kerry himself reminds us that he is a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so considering what he was saying about Saddam Hussein, his weapons of mass destruction and the necessity of going to war only a few election cycles ago, who is misleading whom?
Here’s the senator, speaking to the Senate (again in plain English) late in 1997: “It is not possible to overstate the ominous implications for the Middle East if Saddam were to develop and successfully militarize and deploy potent biological weapons. We can all imagine the consequences. Extremely small quantities of several known biological weapons have the capability to exterminate the entire population of cities the size of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. These could be delivered by ballistic missile, but they also could be delivered by much-more-pedestrian means; aerosol applicators on commercial trucks easily could suffice.”
The senator was ready to sock it to him, and didn’t want argument from anybody: “[Saddam Hussein] cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or certainly in this nation.”
And none of that jaw, jaw stuff, either. Talking and resoluting is for wussies. The senator wanted war, war: “In my judgment, the Security Council should authorize a strong U.N. military response that will materially damage, if not totally destroy, as much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, as well as key military command and control nodes. … This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets.”
And if those wussies at the United Nations insisted on being their usual pantywaist selves, a good American president, not someone like Bill Clinton, would know what to do: “While we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, in the final analysis … we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise.”
George W. Bush never said it any better himself. He had the courage, as we all saw, and he took the senator’s advice.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.