- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

If there were any questions why John McCain rejected the implicit offer to join John Kerry on a “national unity” ticket and why he has so enthusiastically embraced President Bush’s bid for re-election, Mr. McCain resoundingly answered them in his Monday night speech at the Republican National Convention.

Addressing the prewar rationale for militarily changing the regime in Iraq and the subsequent fact that no weapons of mass destruction have since been found there, Mr. McCain asserted: “Whether or not Saddam possessed the terrible weapons he once had and used, free from international pressure and the threat of military action, he would have acquired them again. My friends, the central security concern of our time is to keep such devastating weapons beyond the reach of terrorists who can’t be dissuaded from using them by the threat of mutual destruction. We couldn’t afford the risk posed by an unconstrained Saddam in these dangerous times.” Unlike the equivocating Democratic nominee, Mr. McCain declared that he “believe as strongly today as ever [that] the mission was necessary, achievable and noble.”

Warning that “this war will become a much bigger thing” if “our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek,” Mr. McCain concluded, “Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war.” In an apparent reference to the politically self-serving votes that Mr. Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, cast last October (during the run-up to the Democratic primaries) opposing the $87 billion appropriation to fund military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. McCain said, “We can’t make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct. This is not just an expression of strength; it is a measure of our wisdom.”

On a related matter, Mr. McCain was asked on Sunday if Mr. Kerry’s activities after the war made him less fit to be commander in chief. That has been a central claim of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose recent TV ad has excoriated Mr. Kerry for his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when Mr. Kerry charged that war crimes, were “committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Mr. McCain replied, “Every American is entitled to protest the policies of their government. That’s a sacred right of ours. Now, whether John Kerry did that appropriately or correctly, I think, is a legitimate debate and discussion.” Indeed, as columnist Cal Thomas recently reported in The Washington Times, Mr. McCain, who spent five and a half years in Vietnam enduring torture as a prisoner of war (POW), charged in the May 14, 1973, issue of U.S. News & World Report that Mr. Kerry’s testimony was “the most effective propaganda [my North Vietnamese captors] had to use against us.” Today, fellow POW Paul Galanti makes this assertion in the current swift boat ad: “John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in the North Vietnamese prison camps took torture to avoid saying.”

Under the current circumstances — and despite their well-publicized differences, some of which date back to the 2000 Republican primaries — there should be little wonder why Mr. McCain, whose presidential-support score is more than 90 percent (2001-2003), has embraced Mr. Bush so enthusiastically.

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