- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2004

An army of pundits undoubtedly will be analyzing why Democratic nominee John Kerry became the first presidential candidate since 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern to fail to get a bounce in the Gallup Poll among likely voters following a Democratic or Republican national convention.

Here’s a thought. Mr. Kerry early in his remarks implored his audience to “judge me by my record.” Perhaps the 24 million television viewers intended to do just that. But Mr. Kerry made it impossible for them to do so. While he repeatedly referred to his four-month service in Vietnam throughout his 6,100-word speech, Mr. Kerry spent only three sentences (barely 1 percent of the speech) on the accomplishments of his 20-year career in the Senate.

Perhaps most of the likely voters contacted by Gallup drew the logical conclusion that Mr. Kerry had good reason not to be nearly as proud of his two decades (1985-2004) in the Senate as he was of an earlier, briefer, far more inconsequential career. In his speech, Mr. Kerry managed to mention that he “fought for victims’ rights” and “made prosecuting violence against women a priority” (1976-1981) as a prosecutor. But he conveniently — and understandably — neglected to acknowledge that he later served as Massachusetts lieutenant governor (1982-84) under Gov. Michael Dukakis. The 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Gov. Dukakis achieved immortal notoriety for vetoing a bill that would have eliminated weekend-furlough privileges for first-degree murderers (e.g., Willie Horton) and would have thus prevented Horton from terrorizing a Maryland couple and repeatedly raping the woman.

In one of the three sentences in his speech devoted to his Senate career, Mr. Kerry bragged that he “broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget.” But he neglected to mention how he had bitterly complained that a subsequent failing grade he received from a deficit-watchdog group did not take into account his support for a 50-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax.

In one of his multiple references to his four-month tour in Vietnam, he declared that “our band of brothers” still knows “how to fight for our country.” But he neglected to repeat his 1971 photo-op testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he issued a blanket indictment against that same “band of brothers,” charging them with “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia — not isolated incidents — but [war] crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

After spending two decades voting to decimate America’s armed forces, Mr. Kerry audaciously asserted, “I will build a strong military.” In promising to “fight a smarter, more effective war on terror,” he pledged to “deploy every tool in our arsenal.” But that arsenal would be far less formidable if his national-security votes had prevailed.

Mr. Kerry said, “You don’t value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service.” But he failed to explain why he voted in October 2002 to authorize war against Iraq and then voted one year later against an $87 billion funding bill that would have financed military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including providing body armor for the troops. The guess here is that many of the likely voters contacted by Gallup correctly understood that Mr. Kerry had utterly — and unconscionably — politicized his October 2003 vote against the $87 billion funding measure. Compared to Mr. McGovern, whose level of support in the Gallup Poll following the 1972 convention did not change, Mr. Kerry actually suffered a decline of 1 percentage point. It could have been worse — had Mr. Kerry told viewers that he actively campaigned for Mr. McGovern in 1972.

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