- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Washington Times editorial of June 15 — “Kerry on Reagan” — reminds us that in almost every campaign appearance, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry tries to turn his heroic four months of killing communist guerrillas in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta into a major political advantage.

Unfortunately for the left-wing Massachusetts senator, this cynical attempt to affix a fig leaf over his record since those brief days of heroism is about to fail.

By raising the subject of Vietnam in such a self-serving way, the man has invited us to look behind that disguise at his “peacenik” and “blame America first” (and wholly anti-Reagan) activities in the intervening 32 years — a vital process set in motion by The Times’ excellent editorial.

As a review of Mr. Kerry’s entire record will amply demonstrate, his career path is not a new one. Another recent pretender to the U.S. presidency — former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern — followed exactly the same pattern: First, a short period of youthful heroism and nonpartisan devotion to duty, followed by a headlong (and lifelong) plunge into reactionary-left partisanship vis-a-vis America’s national security needs.

Whether by mere coincidence or by careful design, war-years biographies of each of these two men have recently appeared — written by media-savvy historians who were themselves closely associated.

First came “The Wild Blue … ” — written in 2001 by the late historian and Professor Steven Ambrose of the University of New Orleans. In appropriately glowing terms it tells of George McGovern’s 35 sorties (the maximum allowed) as a B-24 bomber pilot over Nazi Germany.

Second came the story of John Kerry’s Vietnam War record — two routine years as a Navy deck officer and four months as a Swiftship “skipper” in the Mekong Delta — as told in the 2003 book “Tour of Duty” by historian Doug Brinkley, a protege of Professor Ambrose.

Whatever the merits or demerits of these two highly laudatory books, it can be conceded that both Mr. McGovern and Mr. Kerry did act honorably and even heroically in their late teens and early 20s. But what matters now is a careful analysis of what happened thereafter to transform each of these two young men into such left-wing radicals and “peaceniks.”

It is a trail that led Mr. McGovern to the Democrats’ presidential nomination in early 1972, but dragged him down (with antiwar activist Mr. Kerry campaigning at his side) to a disastrous defeat by Richard Nixon that November — 49 states to only 1, and by a popular vote landslide of 61-38 percent.

The question now is whether the pacifist, internationalist, left-wing trail Sen. Kerry has long been traveling and on which he still treads today will lead this “McGovern-lite” and “Fonda-friendly” candidate to these same depths of repudiation by the American people, as well.

Rather than minutely compare the two men’s Cold War and Vietnam War attitudes toward military, intelligence and foreign policy issues, suffice it to say that following his “early out” from the Navy in 1970, John Kerry joined the George McGovern-Jane Fonda-Ramsey Clark “peace-at-any-price” wing of the Democratic Party — and, in fact, became one of its poster-boy cheerleaders.

John Kerry: Neo-AWOL.

At a time when Mr. Kerry focuses so much attention on his long-ago military record and on false allegations of AWOL in President Bush’s National Guard record of that same period, we might do well to examine the “Kerry AWOL” record in the 32 years following his four months of heroically killing communists in South Vietnam.

In Mr. Kerry’s case, the acronym does not mean “Absent Without Leave” — an infraction of which young jet fighter pilot George W. Bush was apparently innocent. Instead, it means “Always Weak on Liberty” — an infraction of which the longtime “peacenik” and pro-actively McGovernite and harshly anti-Reagan Mr. Kerry was and is enormously guilty.

Examples of this “weak-on-liberty” trait — which Margaret Thatcher might have called “wobbly” — are as numerous as they are deadly serious:

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on liberty for Vietnam, which he once tried to save from communism.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on liberty for the many post-Vietnam “dominoes” which fell to communism.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the 1983 liberation of Grenada from Soviet/Cuban colonial status.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the 1990 liberation of Nicaragua from its “Stalinista” (as Ronald Reagan called it) dictatorship.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the 1980s Reagan military buildup and “rollback” of the Evil Empire.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the Reagan-Bush early-1990s “induced collapse” of the Soviet Union.

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the 44 years of Fidel Castro’s “Socialism or Death” tyranny in Cuba;

• Mr. Kerry AWOL on the 1991 liberation of the people of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein;

• Mr. Kerry AWOL, ex post facto, on the 2003-04 liberation and democratization of Iraq.

Since President Bush’s military records as a jet fighter pilot indicate honorableservice, ratedgood-to-excellent by commanding officers, what matters now is the man’s outstanding record during the three decades since then regarding defense and national security affairs — particularly in his last three years as commander in chief.

In that same context, it is downright frightening to review John Kerry’s lockstep-Left, clearly McGovernite record on defense, intelligence and foreign policy. We once called such a record “soft on communism.” But in this supposedly post-communism era, the “neo-AWOL” label probably must suffice.


Mr. Guirard is a former chief of staff to Democratic U.S. Sens. Allen Ellender and Russell Long of Louisiana.

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