- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

For those few souls who needed further confirmation of John Kerry’s propensity for flip-flopping on matters of life and death that confront a commander in chief, he provided an exquisite example the other day. At a West Virginia meeting with veterans, Mr. Kerry offered a typically convoluted response to the straightforward — and indisputable — charge that he had voted last year against the $87 billion supplemental appropriation to fund the current military operations of nearly 150,000 American soldiers on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I actually did vote for [the president’s] $87 billion before I voted against it,” Mr. Kerry said, trying, as always, to have it both ways. But this time he went too far.

Mr. Kerry was referring to an Oct. 2 vote on an amendment, sponsored by Joe Biden, that would have reduced income-tax cuts for the top 1 percent of earners to finance the $87 billion supplemental. Seven Democrats joined 50 Republicans to defeat the amendment.

Less than three weeks before the Senate voted against the Biden amendment, Mr. Kerry appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Asked “If that amendment does not pass, will you vote against the $87 billion?” Mr. Kerry replied: “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.” After criticizing the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, Mr. Kerry added this seemingly unqualified declaration: “But I don’t think anyone in Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to defend themselves. We’re not going to cut and run and not do the job.”

But that is precisely what Mr. Kerry did. He cut and ran. On Oct. 17, two weeks after the Biden amendment was defeated, Mr. Kerry effectively renounced the position that he had endorsed on “Face the Nation.” He was one of only 12 senators to vote against final passage of the Senate’s version of the $87 billion Iraq-Afghanistan funding bill.

Judged by the very standards Mr. Kerry promulgated in September, his Oct. 17 flip-flop represented an “irresponsible” vote that would, had it prevailed, “abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running.”

Why did he do it? Mr. Kerry’s eventual decision to “not give our troops the ability to defend themselves” was a crass political maneuver. Specifically, it represented a desperate attempt to salvage his then-sinking presidential bid, which had been decimated throughout the summer and early fall by Howard Dean, who had been flaying Mr. Kerry and Sen. John Edwards for their 2002 war-authorization votes.

Zogby polls conducted in Iowa and New Hampshire within a week of the Oct. 17 Senate vote revealed that Mr. Kerry trailed Mr. Dean badly in both states. On Oct. 14, Mr. Edwards announced that he would be voting against the funds to finance military operations. Two days later, Mr. Kerry declared on his Web site that he, too, would vote against the funding. Thus, on a matter literally dealing with life and death, Mr. Kerry chose political self-preservation over the needs of U.S. soldiers in wartime. According to the standards he outlined only a month earlier, he effectively voted to “abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running.” Mr. Kerry was right in September. Such a decision truly was “irresponsible,” and no amount of dissembling will change that fact.

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