- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 10, 2004

Having missed 89 percent of Senate votes this year and having failed to cast a single vote since March 25, Sen. John Kerry suddenly — and with great fanfare — showed up in late June to vote on behalf of veterans’ health care. The vote attracting Mr. Kerry to Washington was delayed, although he remained at the Capitol long enough to cast another of his countless votes against missile defense. Attributing the delay in the health-care vote to scheduling conflicts, the Republican Senate leadership effectively denied Mr. Kerry the photo-op he was seeking. Indeed, it seems that Mr. Kerry has spent more than three decades repeatedly showing up at the Capitol seeking military-related photo-ops in an effort to jump-start his political career.

Before returning to the campaign trail, Mr. Kerry declared: “What I’m telling our veterans is that when you come home, your country will take care of you because you took care of us.” Coming from Mr. Kerry, this statement elicits two observations about events that happen to span his political career. The first relates to Mr. Kerry’s views of veterans upon his return from Vietnam more than 30 years ago. The second relates to his treatment of U.S. armed forces serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry first attempted to jump-started his political career in 1971 by staging one of the biggest photo-ops in Senate history. That incident also involved veterans. But there was a big difference. Instead of embracing Vietnam combat veterans during his dramatic April 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry issued a blanket indictment against them. He charged those veterans with “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia — not isolated incidents — but [war] crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Mr. Kerry used his testimony to launch a bid for the U.S. House in 1972. But even the coattails of George McGovern, whose only state victory in the presidential campaign that year was Massachusetts, were inadequate to the task of electing his fellow war protester.

Regarding the present, it is a shame Mr. Kerry apparently doesn’t care about the troops in the field as much as he claims to care about them once they become veterans. Mr. Kerry successfully ran for the Senate in 1984 promising to cancel the Apache helicopter, which has played an indispensable role on the front lines of the war against terrorism in Iraq. And, unlike his late June photo-op gambit on veterans’ health care, he refused to adjust his campaign schedule in early June to return to the Senate in order to vote for the $25 billion in emergency funding bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry’s no-show for the $25 billion spending measure contrasts sharply with the role he played on the previous Iraq-Afghanistan emergency spending measure last October. On Sept. 14, five weeks before the Senate vote, Mr. Kerry was asked about the $87 billion supplemental appropriation that would have funded military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and, incidentally, increased spending for veterans’ health care by $1.3 billion. “I don’t think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That’s irresponsible,” Mr. Kerry asserted, adding, “I don’t think anyone in Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to defend themselves.”

But that is precisely what Mr. Kerry did several weeks later. By the time the vote was held Oct. 17, Mr. Kerry’s presidential campaign was on life-support; the front-running Howard Dean was relentlessly pounding him for his 2002 vote to authorize the war against Iraq. Indeed, two Zogby polls conducted within a week of the Oct. 17 vote showed Mr. Kerry trailing Mr. Dean 21-9 in Iowa and 40-17 in New Hampshire. After asserting in September that a “nay” vote would be “irresponsible” and tantamount to “cutting and running,” Mr. Kerry interrupted his presidential campaign and returned to the Senate with great fanfare in order to vote against the $87 billion military-funding and reconstruction bill, which won bipartisan approval in a 87-12 vote.

That was one of the final votes Mr. Kerry cast last year; but it was typical of the votes that helped to establish him, according to an authoritative analysis by the National Journal, as the most liberal member of the Senate for the entire year. Far more disturbing than the reality that Democrats will be nominating the most liberal member of their Senate caucus as their presidential candidate (McGovern redux?) is the fact that Mr. Kerry was willing to sacrifice the well-being of the troops in harm’s way in order to once again jump-start his political career.

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