- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The media have begun the process of anointing Sen. John Kerry our next president. The stories of his likeness to another John from Massachusetts — Kennedy the president — are now sprouting like daffodils during the spring. The relaxed humor is being talked about, the war experience in Vietnam likened to former President Kennedy in the South Pacific and PT 109. The candidate, we are assured, has gravitas and foreign and domestic experience, and will reach out and be friends to Old Europe. The meanness of the Bush administration will be but a fleeting memory once Mr. Kerry and his liberal boys get a hold on Foggy Bottom and the five-sided puzzle palace once known as the Pentagon. Anyway, that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. There is one very big problem. The story is baloney.

Kennedy was in fact for a strong national defense. He was no friend of communists anywhere. In fact, he campaigned to the right of Vice President Richard Nixon on security issues in the 1960 election, running around worried about a missile and bomber gap with the Soviet Union that did not yet exist. Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, cares about as much for national security as a giraffe. From his first days in Congress, the Massachusetts liberal has been to the very far left of the political spectrum in his national security views.

During the height of the Cold War, Mr. Kerry opposed the entire strategic modernization effort proposed by President Reagan — the Peacekeeper, B-1 and B-2 bombers, the Trident submarine and D-5 missile — even though his Democratic colleagues Sam Nunn, Al Gore, Norman Dicks, Sonny Montgomery and Les Aspin, for example, sided with Mr. Reagan. He supported the nuclear freeze, which would have placed U.S. nuclear forces in permanent obsolescence just as the Soviet strategic nuclear forces were becoming most formidable.

Mr. Kerry opposed the deployment of the INF missiles in Europe that Mr. Reagan successfully achieved. The ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershings based in England, Germany, Holland and Italy turned out to be one of the turning points of the Cold War, and hastened the end of the Soviet empire. Mr. Kerry was not only wrong on this critical issue, but opposed the non-strategic modernization of the defense budget as well. The purchase of additional C-5 airplanes by Mr. Reagan turned out to be critical to rescuing U.S. allies in trouble later in the decade — and Mr. Kerry was opposed to that as well.

Mr. Kerry says he stood up to Mr. Nixon on Vietnam. Well, since Mr. Nixon inherited a war the two previous administrations had no idea how to win or were unwilling to even try, and since Mr. Nixon’s war plan was to how to withdraw American troops, and since Mr. Nixon did in fact withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam quite rapidly, what was it that Mr. Kerry believes he stood up to Mr. Nixon about? Did Mr. Kerry oppose Mr. Nixon on withdrawing forces from Vietnam, or was the senator telling us that what he wanted us to do was surrender?

Mr. Kerry said he opposed Mr. Reagan in Central America. Indeed, Mr. Kerry supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and their war against their own people and against their neighbors. Not once did Mr. Kerry denounce Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega and his communist thug friends, or their sponsors in Cuba and the Soviet Union. Indeed, even after becoming a member of the Senate, Mr. Kerry couldn’t shake his firm belief that communism posed no threat to the United States, as he stated in the early 1970s when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

When Mr. Reagan rescued the wonderful people of El Salvador from the ugly clutches of the FMLN — and their land mines in the coffee plantations, their car bombs, their massacres of elected officials — Mr. Kerry was on the wrong side again, working to stop U.S. assistance to the government of El Salvador. When President Carter proposed sending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the communist government of Nicaragua, Mr. Kerry was not one to raise a protest as his fellow Democrats got in line to sign up and send the dough to Managua. When the Carter administration was busy pushing the Shah of Iran out of power and calling the Ayatollah Khomeini “a saint,” did Mr. Kerry stand up and say this is wrong?

Later in the 1980s, Mr. Kerry sneered at Mr. Reagan’s proposed reductions in nuclear weapons, saying such proposals were for show. When the INF and START treaties eliminated and reduced whole classes of nuclear weapons, Mr. Kerry sneered that Mr. Reagan was still wedded to missile defenses. In the early 1990s, Mr. Kerry jumped and applauded the elimination of missile defense development and the wholesale elimination of hundreds of billions in the defense budgets’ five-year plans, and the procurement holiday on which the Clinton administration embarked.

In short, Mr. Kerry likes to pretend he would make the toughnationalsecurity choicesaspresident. Highly unlikely. He never made the tough choices when he was a senator.

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis and senior defense associate at the National Defense University Foundation.

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