- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

Questions about Sen. John Kerry’s credibility continue to surface. The most recent stem from Mr. Kerry’s assertion at a Florida fund-raiser that he had been endorsed by foreign leaders.

After making public what he subsequently called private communications, Mr. Kerry invoked a form of leader-candidate confidentiality: “I can’t violate any conversation because no one would share something with me again.”

There is some doubt that Mr. Kerry actually had those conversations, a question raised on these pages last Wednesday. Since the beginning of last year, according to an exhaustive analysis of Mr. Kerry’s travel records by this newspaper on Friday, Mr. Kerry has made no official overseas trips and had only one chance to meet with foreign leaders within the United States. Our Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan determined that Mr. Kerry’s last official visit abroad was in the first part of 2002, when he traveled to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the United Kingdom. Mr. Kerry’s aides declined to discuss which foreign leaders he had met or even to hint at how many were supporting him.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who almost never steps into such disputes as a matter of polity and policy, raised the same questions on Fox News Sunday. He told host Chris Wallace: “I don’t know what foreign leaders Senator Kerry is talking about. It’s an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can’t list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about.”

Instead of changing the subject, Mr. Kerry seems to be trying to change the record. In yesterday’s editions of the New York Times, Mr. Kerry said, “I think the quote … was that I ‘heard from,’ that’s the direct quote. I’ve likewise had meetings. I said I’ve heard from, that was what I believe I said.”

As the New York Times pointed out, however, what Mr. Kerry actually said at the fund-raiser was, “I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ‘you gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy,’ things like that.”

The new things Mr. Kerry has said regarding his conversations with foreign leaders suggest that he is following in the sandy footsteps of other recent executive officeholders from the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were both plagued by problems of trust, a legacy Mr. Kerry should be loath to emulate. Instead of asserting leader-candidate confidentiality or attempting to alter the historical record — something he has also tried to do with his statements on the Vietnam War — Mr. Kerry should simply state for the record which overseas officials support his candidacy. Until that happens, concerns about his credibility will mount.

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